Looking for their second consecutive first-round sweep, the Colorado Avalanche faced off against the Nashville Predators for Game 4. While there were a few tense moments the better team prevailed and the Avalanche made quick work of Nashville in a 5-3 win earning said first-round sweep.
This contest got off to an eventful start when Andre Burakovsky shot the puck through the top of the net but it took an entire minute of gameplay to get a whistle and check that it was indeed a good goal. The Avalanche set the tone for another quick lead just two minutes into the game.
Both teams traded unsuccessful power plays in a fairly workman-like first frame but the Avalanche could just not get out of the period with the lead despite building up a 13-6 shot advantage. A lost face-off and a turnover led to Yakov Trenin getting a puck in the net for Nashville with just a minute left in the first period. The score was knotted 1-1 after 20 minutes of play.
The second period went much like the first except with no power plays. The Avalanche started chipping away until Cale Makar completely dominated a shift and absolutely hammered a puck from up top and into the net at 13:33 to take a 2-1 lead.
Unfortunately, the Avalanche couldn’t hold the lead yet again and gave up another goal to Trenin at 16:49 before the period would expire. The score was 2-2 at the end of 40 minutes,
The third period set up as a next-goal-wins type of feel and Nashville got exactly what they needed with Filip Forsberg scoring his first point of the series on a goal at 3:58. The Predators had been taking advantage of loose coverage after line changes all game and it resulted in their first lead of the game and series with the score 3-2 in their favor.
What felt like a game finally breaking Nashville’s way was shortly erased when Devon Toews scored on another long-range shot to tie the game at 8:55. Nashville went on the power play just a few seconds later but came up short and now momentum was in Colorado’s favor. It didn’t take long before Makar took the game into his hands again and feathered a perfect cross-ice pass to Val Nichushkin to take the 4-3 lead at 12:02.
After a couple of excellent clock-killing shifts, Nashville pulled Connor Ingram from the net and the Avalanche drew their final power play. Nathan MacKinnon scored the empty-net goal and the Avalanche took the game by a 5-3 score and a 4-0 series sweep. First challenge is complete and now a week to rest up and prepare for the second round.
Physicality had been a primary running narrative through this series but when Nashville had their backs to the wall none of it was found in this game. The Avalanche led in hits and there were hardly any post-whistle scrums. Once again it was proven that goals and not intimidation win hockey games.
The MVP of this series should go to Cale Makar who once again completely took over the game and willed his team to victory. If that Game 2 performance wasn’t enough, it was evident in this game where Makar was a key component of two go-ahead goals including the game-winner. The way he can elevate his game to another level when it matters most is why he is an extra special player.
“Cale Makar just might be the best player in the league right now.” — Nathan MacKinnon postgame interview on ESPN pic.twitter.com/ONnEMOWb6a— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) May 10, 2022
Bowen Byram quietly had a very good game in the still limited role paired with Erik Johnson. He led the team in Corsi with 66.7% and was high in all categories including an 81.6% expected goals. Byram earned his first postseason point with an assist on Burakovsky’s goal and was also third on the team with five hits. It has been good for him to experience what the playoffs are about and has a big moment or two in his bag of tricks.
The Avalanche await the victor of the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild series to determine their second-round opponent. Let’s hope and pray for seven games and multiple overtimes.