Looking to follow up on their dominant 50 shot effort in Game 1, the Colorado Avalanche hosted the St. Louis Blues for the second game of the series in front of a rowdy crowd at Ball Arena. While the shots were even at 35 each in Game 2 and there was more scoring overall the same result occurred and the Avalanche took a 2-0 lead in this series after a 6-3 victory.
As if an 8:45 pm local time puck drop wasn’t late enough, NBC was late switching over from the concluded Carolina Hurricanes win and missed the first goal of the game. Avalanche fans were pleased to see their team on the board when they eventually got to the game, however, as Joonas Donskoi tipped a Ryan Graves point shot 35 seconds into the contest. The play was started with a huge hit by Gabe Landeskog on Ryan O’Reilly behind the net.
It took until the 18:05 mark of the period for the next goal of the game when the Avalanche quickly converted on the first power play of the game. Nathan MacKinnon had been a bit quiet up to that point but he perfectly placed a shot through a Blues defender and through a screen to give the Avalanche a 2-0 lead after the first frame. The home team also had a 19-6 lead in shots and a solid 61% of the shot attempt share but the game was likely played a little too wide open for Jared Bednar’s liking.
The game’s third goal was a hybrid of the first two. At 3:14 Donskoi tipped a MacKinnon shot on the power play to put the Avalanche ahead 3-0. The Avalanche couldn’t get out of the period with that lead intact unfortunately as they gave one back to Sammy Blais at 16:17 and took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
All the third period needed was smart and efficient play but Nazem Kadri received a match penalty for checking Justin Faulk in the head. It did not look intentional but rather could be described as reckless as these penalties typically go especially with Kadri looking to ignite any sort of spark to get his game going.
Nazem Kadri gets a match penalty for an illegal check to the head of Justin Faulk pic.twitter.com/EsYoLK1rYN— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) May 20, 2021
The Avalanche killed off most of the ensuing five minute major penalty but let the Blues back into the game when Brayden Schenn beat the defenders back up the ice on a rush at 10:07 and put the game in doubt now with the Avalanche clinging to a 3-2 lead. A game in which the Avalanche had full control became rather needlessly messy.
The final score does not reflect that this contest was a one goal game with five minutes left to go. But the better team finally showed up again when Nathan MacKinnon fired a shot from the blue line and snuck through a whole sea of traffic at 15:25. The Avalanche could breathe easy again.
Immediately after earning that two goal cushion and breathing room the Avalanche coughed it back up and allowed Mike Hoffman to score on the rush just 15 seconds later. Philipp Grubauer has stood tall thus far in the series but he saw that shot all the way and probably would like another chance at it.
One last ditch effort by the Blues occurred when they pulled Jordan Binnington for the extra attacker but Brandon Saad made quick work of that situation when he deposited a loose puck into the empty net just seconds later at 17:51. Mikko Rantanen set up MacKinnon for the second empty net goal and a hat trick with 12 seconds left in the game to arrive at the 6-3 final score for the Avalanche.
Nazem Kadri might hear from the Department of Player Safety after his match penalty. He was the lowest player in terms of Crosi For output at just above 40% and an expected goals share even lower than that. The truth is Kadri hasn’t been playing well for some time and hasn’t really been part of the second line in reality. Him getting engaged physically is the key to getting back on track, which has been seen far too little this season. Unfortunately he has a reputation for playoff suspensions and is thought of as a player who lives on the edge but the truth is there hadn’t been much bite to his game all season.
Despite the hat trick and four point effort tonight it still feels like Nathan MacKinnon has more to give. Though not from a production standpoint since seven points in two games is absurd output and continues MacKinnon’s well over point per game playoff average. He still gets visibly frustrated and is turning the puck over more than he needs to but as long as the puck is going in the net then he’s helping the Avalanche. Deeper in the playoffs with better defense and tighter checking that frustration may become more of a factor, however.
The Avalanche entered the playoffs healthy and as a result are sitting NHL players on the sideline, in particular Carl Soderberg and Bowen Byram. Considering Bednar does not like to change a winning lineup it may take a while to see either player inserted, though a Kadri suspension might change the complexion of the forward core, but what a luxury to have such players as options at their disposal. Byram in particular could help make a difference down the line in a long playoff run so hopefully he gets his chance back in the lineup soon.
Game 3 in St. Louis at 7:30pm MT on Friday night. The game will be broadcast nationally on USA network.