After a tremendous playoff-opening game, the Colorado Avalanche had to get back to work for their second meeting with the Nashville Predators. This one was predictably much tighter and the Avalanche needed overtime to grab the 2-1 win and now 2-0 series lead over Nashville.
This game felt more competitive early on with some tighter checking and a few big hits from each team. But just like the first game Nathan MacKinnon got the Avalanche on the board first at 5:25 on the team’s first shot on goal.
Unfortunately, the rest of the period did not unfold like the previous game as the Predators tied the score at 15:19 from Yakov Trenton who converted his own rush chance on Darcy Kuemper. The game was tied 1-1 at the end of 20 minutes.
The second period was defined by the Avalanche dominating on the shot counter 21-5 thanks to three fruitless power plays. With seconds left in the frame, it appeared Val Nichushkin had scored after Artturi Lehkonen was shoved on top of Nashville goaltender Connor Ingram but it was ruled no goal. Jared Bednar felt lucky and rolled the dice on a challenge but was unsuccessful. It was a Hail Mary type attempt and he probably went for it because the period was almost over and Nashville’s power-play would carry over. The score was still knotted at 1-1 after 40 minutes of play.
What Bednar wasn’t anticipating, however, was that Nichushkin would take a high sticking penalty immediately into that early third-period penalty kill which gave Nashville a lengthy 5-on-3. The Avalanche stood tall, killed it off, and went back on the attack. Despite a 13-4 third period shot advantage plus a late power play of their own, the Avalanche could not solve Ingram and it was on to overtime.
The Avalanche kept the pressure on and finally got rewarded on their 51st shot on goal as Cale Makar picked up a rebound and buried the puck past Ingram for the game-winning goal at 8:31 in overtime. It was a highly competitive game but the Avalanche kept working to push momentum in their direction and get a bounce their way in this 2-1 final and now 2-0 series lead.
Cale Makar was the hero getting the game-winning goal in a very dramatic fashion but his entire game was tremendous this evening. He led the team with 12 shots on goal and had another 11 blocked. It wasn’t all on the offensive end as Makar was a key factor in killing all three Avalanche penalties and created several shorthanded chances. There will be bigger games in his future but this one showed just how much he can elevate his own game and the team when it’s most important.
It was an impressive full team effort as the Avalanche stuck with their game even when the bounces weren’t going their way. The story of this game could have been special teams but both penalty kills did well and mitigated what were huge opportunities for each team. Moving forward, the Avalanche can’t have too many nights where they don’t score on the power play, especially late third period ones which certainly determine the outcome of the game.
There is a lot of pressure on the higher seed to take care of business at home before heading on the road for the next two games. Along with Carolina, the Avalanche are the only ones to do so. It is important to have these two wins in the bag if any adversity pops up on the road in what will hopefully become a short series.
A trip to Nashville is due for a matinee Game 3 at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 7th on TNT.