After a barn burner in Game 1, both the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers were searching for some tighter defense in the second meeting of this series. Unfortunately, the Avalanche lost Darcy Kuemper to a mysterious upper-body injury and would need to lean on Pavel Francouz. In a 24 save shutout, Francouz gave the Avalanche the confidence to earn a 4-0 victory and 2-0 series lead against the Oilers.
The first period unfolded how the Avalanche wanted but they could not convert on three power-play attempts including a lengthy 5-on-3. Although the boys in burgundy were playing well the feeling of a missed opportunity hung in the air because it was certain Edmonton would get the chance to take this game on their own power plays later in the game. The score was knotted at zeroes after the first frame.
Momentum was up for grabs at the start of the second period and the Avalanche took control scoring three goals in quick succession starting at 3:58 on just three shots on goal in just over two minutes. First, Artturi Lehkonen tipped a Nazem Kadri shot to get the home team on the board. Before the Oilers knew what hit them Josh Manson blasted a puck past Mike Smith for the second score. Mikko Rantanen put the puck in the net in consecutive games for the team’s third goal. The period was not without drama however as the Avalanche had to kill two Oilers power plays to keep the score at 3-0 after 40 minutes of play.
The third period was exactly how the Avalanche wanted to play. Mature, workman-like, just running the clock, and giving the Oilers nothing. Frustrations started to boil over and Edmonton began to take their shots along the boards and not on the ice. After Cale Makar got elbowed in the face, the Avalanche finally converted on the power play for their fourth goal of the evening on a pass from Makar to Nathan MacKinnon at 15:20. That was the statement that needed to be made that cheap shots won’t go unpunished as the unit had a palpable sense of urgency. The final few minutes unfolded with more nonsense and the Avalanche ended with another 5-on-3 but chose to basically run out the clock for a 4-0 final score.
First of all, many apologies are owed to Pavel Francouz for all the doubts. When the team needed him to be rock solid he gave a perfect performance saving all 24 shots he faced. While he didn’t see a ton of action and virtually nothing in the third period, Francouz was aggressive early on, controlled his rebounds, and gave a calming presence in net. Not bad as a prelude to his 32nd birthday tomorrow. While the Avalanche need both of their netminders to be healthy in a strong tandem to get to their ultimate goal, Francouz proved that he’s capable of giving the team a chance to win with him in net.
It was an encouraging bounce-back effort for Josh Manson. Not only was the goal nice but he made several smart defensive plays including one big block on the Oilers' power play. Nicolas Aube-Kubel was back in the lineup for a presumed Andre Burakovsky injury and he provided a nice physical element except for one dumb penalty at the end of the second period. The penalties have been mostly eradicated from his game, however, but each one is more costly this time of year.
Another strong performance tonight from Bowen Byram who has quietly ascended to the role of number three defenseman in the wake of Samuel Girard’s injury. Byram’s 18:24 time on ice at even strength was just 21 seconds behind Devon Toews’ for the team lead. He is also starting to get under the skin of the opponent as Zack Kassian ripped his helmet off when Byram was hit into the bench at one point. It’s been fun watching him become a bigger and more important part of this Stanley Cup run.
Bo Byram's ice time has risen from 18:52 to 19:25 in Games 5-6 vs STL, to 20:09 in Game 1 vs. Oilers to postseason-high 21:09 tonight.#Avs rookie D turns 21 on June 13.— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) June 3, 2022
The series shifts to Edmonton for the first in a pair of games at Rogers Place starting at 6 p.m. MT on Saturday, June 4 on TNT.