After taking care of business at home and earning a 2-0 series lead, the Colorado Avalanche travelled west to the desert in continuation of the second round series against the Vegas Golden Knights. Although the same recipe of bend don’t break and rely on a Mikko Rantanen power play goal at the end almost worked again it was Vegas who scored two late third period goals and took away the 3-2 victory to put the series at 2-1 for Colorado.
All the whining Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer did worked and Vegas received two first period power plays, although they did not cash in on either. They still ended the period with the momentum and advantage in shots on goal 14-3 but it was still tied on the scoreboard.
The pressure finally got to the Avalanche and they gave up the game’s first goal to William Karlsson at 4:38 into the second period on some terrible defensive coverage.
After a horrendous first period in which the new look fourth line had zero percent Corsi For and expected goals percentage it was Carl Soderberg who was the hero. He deposited a rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury less than 90 seconds after the Karlsson goal.
The second period was more even with Vegas holding only a 10-9 shot advantage and no scoring for either team. When a Mikko Rantanen scored on a power play at 5:04 into the third period it felt like the Avalanche were going to escape with another one.
Unfortunately that would not be the case this night as Vegas got the equalizer from Jonathan Marchessault at 14:42 on a bank pass off of Philipp Grubauer and then less than a minute later Max Pacioretty scored the go ahead goal on a tip play. The Avalanche pulled Grubauer and got a couple looks in the final minute but succumbed to their futility in a 3-2 final in Vegas’ favor.
Nathan MacKinnon might want to show up in this series. The eight goals he scored in blowouts was a nice statistic to have but in the last two games against Vegas he’s been held off the scoresheet and the top line, namely Mikko Rantanen, have only produced on the power play. Clearly it’s been tight checking against all the top players but this is where they are supposed to shine and be the difference makers.
Enough is enough, it’s time to put Bowen Byram back in the lineup. He has been practicing with the main team for three weeks and been cleared to play for nearly that long. He’s obviously just a rookie who hasn’t played in over two months and is not a savior by any means but he’s had success against this team as the Avalanche’s record with Byram in the lineup against Vegas was 3-1 including the two games in which he played over 23 and 25 minutes. Some puck poise and mobility would be welcome on the back end not to mention his talent and defensive ability. Conor Timmins would be an easy replacement who played right under eight minutes in this contest, including just one 26 second shift in the third period, with a 13% Corsi For and 1% expected goal percentage. The loss was certainly not on Timmins but the excuse of lineup consistency is off the table now.
It’s is a series now. Colorado still holds the 2-1 advantage still but they need to get real about what is and is not working. Vegas is a disciplined team who has scouted the Avalanche with the understanding of the passes and plays they prefer to make. The Golden Knights’ issue is finishing despite generating a lot of shots on goal, which consisted of 43 in this contest, but if given enough opportunities they will break the dam as evidenced by the outcome of this game. Now it is on the Avalanche to make adjustments as they have been outshot, outposessed and outchanced in two straight games. The message of just trying harder will lead to the series turning against the Avalanche in short order.
Game 4 back in Vegas on Sunday, June 6th at 6:30pm MT on NBCSN.