Faced with an unfamiliar situation the Colorado Avalanche headed into their final road match at the home of the Seattle Kraken in a true must win game. After five long games of playing without a lead the defending champions finally showed what they are capable of and won the game 4-1 sending the now tied series to a decisive seventh game at Ball Arena.
It was crucial to get on the board first and the Avalanche did just that despite wasting their first power play when Bowen Byram fired the puck over Philipp Grubauer’s shoulder for his first career playoff goal. And then a Seattle challenge for offside took the goal away when it was determined Evan Rodrigues didn’t have possession of the puck as it was in his feet when he crossed the blue line or something.
To make matters worse Seattle then scored the first goal of the game which counted when Vince Dunn unloaded a slap shot from the left circle as he was left uncovered at 15:48. Soon after the Avalanche would take a penalty just compounding their problems as per usual.
But the first period would not end with something going Colorado’s way as Mikko Rantanen jumped on a loose puck with the net wide open and tied the game 20 seconds left in the frame. After all the adversity a 1-1 tie is exactly what was needed to allow the team to breathe a little.
The second period was a more even affair but the Avalanche started taking control only allowing Seattle four shots despite the teams trading power plays. Andrew Cogliano was viciously boarded by Jordan Eberle and only a two minute minor was called. He was able to return to the game so that’s probably not an indicator of a forthcoming suspension.
Despite not scoring on that power play, or any others, it was finally tertiary scoring which showed up to save the day and ended up being the game winning goal. Erik Johnson, who had not scored a goal the entire season, had a shot tipped by a Kraken player and gave the Avalanche the lead at 7:21.
The period was not over before Mr. Magic himself showed up on the scoresheet. Artturi Lehkonen of course at 16:57 added to that crucial lead and the Avalanche were up heading into the final 20 minutes of play.
A familiar lock-down type of effort showed up for the third period as the Avalanche smothered the Kraken and didn’t much danger especially at 5-on-5. Lehkonen was rewarded with another goal, this time into the empty net and the final 4-1 score in Colorado’s favor.
If the Avalanche want to advance in this series let alone the postseason they need to get the power play figured out. Yes, the unit finished sixth in the NHL in the regular season and they’ve had a few decent scoring chances in this series but it will flat out cost this team if it continues to falter. The only Colorado postseason goal scored with the man advantage was from Rantanen at the last second on the second unit.
For those counting at home the power play is now at 1/17 or 5.8% rate (it’s zero percent if the shorthanded goal they gave up is factored in) and that’s in addition to going 0/6 against Seattle’s 21st ranked penalty kill in the regular season. Sure over 82 games the power play likely would normalize to their standard expected 25% conversion rate but they have one game and need at least one goal from it or else there is no tomorrow. Lack of creativity and urgency have been recurring issues for a team that still boasts elite talent in the top unit.
The good news is that playing with a lead does make a big difference as the Avalanche were able to dictate play and showed that they are still a tough opponent despite the depleted lineup. With their season on the line again hopefully this win gives the defending champs a boost of confidence that they can repeat repeat this performance in front of their home crowd and earn a date with the Dallas Stars in the second round.
Game 7 to win this first round series against Seattle with puck drop Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. MT on TNT.