Consider the script fully flipped. The team that thoroughly outplayed the other was unable to put pucks in the net and lost. Sound like Game 7 of last year’s playoff series between the Colorado Avalanche and Seattle Kraken? Nope - that was tonight, as Colorado couldn’t shake a sluggish start but strung together enough quality plays to win a hard-fought road game 4-1.
The game started with a new look top line, as Coach Jared Bednar flipped Valeri Nichushkin up to the top line in the spot Jonathan Drouin occupied through two games. Seattle put the first shot on net, but the real first shot fired came when Logan O’Connor challenged Jordan Eberle to a fight as retribution for Eberle’s hit from behind that broke Andrew Cogliano’s neck last spring.
SOMEONE HAD TO ANSWER THE BELL FOR THE HIT ON COGLIANO -- AND IT'S LOGAN O'CONNOR!@ConorMcGahey's call of tonight's fight will have you ready to run through a wall@Avalanche #GoAvsGo #SEAKraken @SeattleKraken pic.twitter.com/YCXuNmxLxg— 92.5 FM - Denver's Altitude Sports Radio (@AltitudeSR) October 18, 2023
O’Connor got the better of the bout, but Seattle got the better of first-period play as other than a beautiful glove save by Philipp Grubauer on a Fredrik Olofsson one-timer from the high slot the Kraken mounted a seemingly endless onslaught of scoring chances.
Jaden Schwartz found himself all alone in front of Georgiev but couldn’t beat him. Kailer Yamamoto nearly buried a bad-angle shot from the goal line. Andre Burakovsky barely missed a wrister on a two-on-one high over the net.
Then Ty Kartye hit the crossbar from the slot and the rebound found its way over to Yamamoto on the reload for another goal-line attempt, and this one hit the crossbar, the far post, and then the back of the net for a Kraken 1-0 lead.
Ping! Kartye hits the post but chaos in front and Yamamoto with the impossible angle buries it for a— Davy Jones' Locker Room (@DavyJonesLR) October 18, 2023
By the Spokane native! Welcome home, Yamamoto!
To make matters worse, Ross Colton tripped down Brian Dumoulin shortly after as the period was about to expire, leaving the Avs down both a man and a goal heading into the period break.
The PK started the period shaky but was lucky with a failed clear by Cogliano that was fumbled out of the zone by Vince Dunn. After Seattle reentered the zone, the Avs killers kept everything outside until a Schwartz shot was blocked neatly by Olofsson.
Back at even strength, Colorado regained their mojo a bit as Cale Makar led a charge and put a puck on the net that Ross Colton nearly jammed home from the net side.
Bednar flipped Drouin and Nichushkin back, and it paid off quickly as Big Val tore down the right wing wall and across the middle for a shot that was blocked right to Artturi Lehkonen, who buried a quick shot past a sprawling Grubauer to tie it at one.
Sam Girard then sprung Colton for a breakaway, which was disrupted by a Justin Shultz slash that looked penalty-shot worthy but was called a two-minute minor. The ensuing powerplay was ugly, as neither unit was able to even set up effectively.
Josh Manson decided to give Seattle a chance at a powerplay of their own, as he dove through Yanni Gourde’s legs at a puck Jack Johnson was about to make a play on. Pretty inexplicable play, but it didn’t bite Colorado as Georgiev denied Eberle point blank, then Eeli Tolvanen from the slot, and then Schwartz on a netside tip play.
Just after the PK expired, Mikko Rantanen darted through the neutral zone but Nathan MacKinnon and Gourde collided and Nate got called for interference. The ensuing Kraken powerplay was far more eventful, and it was all Logan O’Connor.
LOC first stole a puck clean and cleared it into the bench, which hit assistant coach Dave Lowry on the back of the head and drew blood. He had to go to the room for repairs.
Then after a couple of blocks from Manson and Olofsson, Devon Toews stole a puck behind the net and freed it up for Makar to clear. O’Connor outraced Vince Dunn to the Kraken zone and scooped the puck cleanly to his forehand as he cut to the slot and tucked it neatly over Grubauer's glove for a shorthanded tally! 2-1 Colorado.
After the rest of the kill and a few effective shifts from the middle six, the top line set up a cycle that Jamie Oleksiak decided to end by tackling Rantanen to the ground, sending Colorado to the man advantage where they accomplished a lot of nothing.
Colorado spent most of the period shorthanded or struggling to generate shots, but came out ahead with a shorthanded goal. Strong PK work and great play from Georgiev kept Seattle at just one goal despite multiple quality chances.
In a continued theme for the night, the third period also turned to special teams quickly as Cogliano hooked Kartye through the middle of the ice reaching with his stick in the midsection even though there were three Avs back to defend. And in another theme for the night, the PK was extremely strong - though it would have given up a goal had McCann not fully whiffed a one-time dish from Matty Beniers at the dot.
Seattle controlled the majority of play from there, trying to claw their way back into the game but couldn’t generate quality chances. On the other end, Andrew Cogliano won a wall battle and freed up a puck for Girard, who wheeled to the top of the circle and delivered a one-time dish of his own that Rantanen crushed into the back of the net! 3-1 boys in burgundy!
Colorado then condensed their game into a defensive shell and thwarted Seattle’s attack by mucking up the neutral zone and preventing zone entries. Attempting to do that, Bo Byram interfered with McCann, but McCann kicked his legs out on his way down so they both hit the ice and then went directly to jail with matching minors.
Given an offensive zone draw four on four with just three and a half minutes left, Kraken coach Dave Hakstol pulled the goalie and it did not work — Nichushkin stole a puck from Burakovsky at the point and buried it from the neutral zone for the final tally. 4-1 Avalanche.
Kartye nearly netted a garbage time tally on a nast behind the net pass from behind the net but he hesitated just a split second and that gave Georgiev enough time to push to the back post and make a toe save. That play really summed up the game - Seattle put themselves in a position to win with their play, but Colorado took advantage of their foibles to make plays of their own and get the W.
- I still believe in the Jonathan Drouin experiment, but Bednar showed some impatience in demoting him to start the game. Drouin skated under ten minutes at even strength, though his underlying metrics were the best among Avalanche forwards.
- Manson and Johnson scare me as a pair because they both have a penchant for bizarre decisions - and we saw some of that tonight - but they were strong overall at even strength. Caleb Jones may be coming, but JJ is playing just well enough to keep his job.
- Mikko Rantanen rocks. He scored his only shot of the game.
- Alexandar! GEORGIEV! Player of the game every game so far this season.
The Avalanche finally play their home opener Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks. Puck drop is another late one at 8:30 p.m. MT on ESPN.