Sometimes the better team doesn’t win and that’s exactly what happened Tuesday night at Ball Arena. After two abysmal games in Vegas, the Colorado Avalanche came alive at home in Game 5 but weren’t able to close the deal as a 2-0 third period lead vanished and the team eventually dropped a 3-2 decision in overtime.
The Avalanche were the better team, unfortunately that doesn’t always result in a win. The loss puts the team down in the series and forces a must-win Game 6 on the road Thursday night.
Coach Jared Bednar decided to go with a different look for this game. He inserted Alex Newhook and Logan O’Connor into the lineup while also moving Brandon Saad up to the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. That moved Gabriel Landeskog down to the second unit that spent most of the first period playing against the Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty line.
The lineup changes seemed to be paying off early as Newhook created a scoring chance on his first shift while the re-vamped top-6 allowed the MacKinnon line to get a little more space and put on more pressure than we had seen through the last few games.
After a few minutes of play, the Avalanche were building momentum with a great shift from the top line but it was all killed after Mikko Rantanen took a really bad penalty when he knocked Flurey’s stick away. It’s the type of dumb play you absolutely can’t make in the playoffs and lucky for Rantanen, his teammates were able to kill off the penalty to keep the game tied.
After the penalty expired, Vegas seemed to have picked up a step and the ice started to tilt a little. Grubauer made some big saves and held the fort long enough for play to even out for the rest of the period.
Just as it looked like the teams would head to the intermission tied, wily veteran Brandon Saad threw a puck on net -after clanging up at the clock - and beat Fleury with 0.8 seconds left int he period to give the Avalanche a one goal lead. It’s Saad’s seventh goal in his last eight games and he was now scored the opener in Game 2, Game 4 and Game 5. It’s a goal the Golden Knights netminder would absolutely love to have back.
Nathan MacKinnon came out of the intermission looking like a man on a mission. He was able to create scoring chances on each of his first three shifts of the period. Unfortunately, no goals came as play settled into a pretty even flow over the first half of the period.
The best scoring chance in the first ten minutes of the second came from Tyson Jost broke in with speed but was absolutely robbed by Fleury as he slid across the crease.
As the period went on, the Avalanche began to put on more and more pressure - including a great scoring chance from Newhook that would have extended the lead if not for a great defensive play by Reilly Smith.
Newhook and the rest of the fourth line continued to dominate every shift they were on the ice and if finally paid off as the rookie got his first assist of the season when Joonas Donskoi found the back of the net to extend the lead to 2-0 near the end of the second period.
Newhook was dangerous on every shift through the first two periods and deserves to stay in the lineup for the rest of the playoffs.
The final 20 minutes didn’t start off the way the Avs would hope as a terrible defensive zone giveaway from Andre Burakovsky led to an Alex Tuch goal only a minute into the third. The goal cut the lead in half and seemed to give the Golden Knights a lot of confidence.
Only three minutes later, Vegas was able to tie the game up. Once again it was the Vegas misfits that was able to make the Avs pay as Jonathan Marchessault finished off a nice passing play for his sixth goal of the series.
The Avalanche were on their heels for the first half of the period but then a Vegas penalty helped to change momentum. The powerplay didn’t produce a goal but the Avalanche looked to gain an extra step for the last ten minutes of regulation. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to find the winning goal as the score remained 2-2 as the game would head to overtime to see who could take a 3-2 lead in the series.
The Avs almost ended the game very early in overtime as JT Compher had a great scoring chance only 10 seconds in. Unfortunately, Fleury came up with a big save and less than three minutes later it was all over.
Mark Stone was able to get away from Ryan Graves at the defensive blue line leading to a breakaway on Grubauer that he wasn’t going to miss. Stone put the puck top shelf to give the Golden Knights a 3-2 win in Game 5 and a 3-2 lead in the series.
The Avalanche will now head to Vegas for Game 6 Thursday night with their season on the line.