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The Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights meet for Game 3 of their second-round playoff series on Friday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Three keys for Colorado, which leads 2-0:
1. Weather the storm. T-Mobile Arena — aka The Fortress — is one of the NHL’s wildest venues, and it will be at full capacity Friday for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. The arena sits just off the Strip and has 17,367 seats for hockey, but standing-room-only tickets can bring capacity up to around 18,000. Fans vaccinated for the coronavirus are not required to wear masks. The Avs have not played before a crowd this large on the road in more than a year and they’ll have to quickly get used to it in order to not chase the game from a deficit. An early lead will be important — particularly to allow goalie Philipp Grubauer to settle in.
2. Get the top line going. In Game 2, center Nathan MacKinnon and wingers Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen were held pointless with “just” nine shots in regulation. They got it done in overtime, with Rantanen burying a wrist shot off a circle-to-circle pass from MacKinnon, but they weren’t nearly as dominating as accustomed. In Game 1, they combined for five goals, eight points and 14 shots. With these guys scoring, this team is awful tough to beat. They each have at least 10 points in the playoffs, making it the first line with that many points through six games in a playoff year since Ottawa in 2006 (Martin Havlat, Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza). MacKinnon has team-highs in goals (eight) and points (13), making him the first player with those numbers through the first six games of a postseason since Edmonton teammates Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier in 1983.
3. Tighten up on turnovers. The Avs turned pucks over eight times in Game 2, opposed to just three for Vegas, which is a big reason the Golden Knights controlled play for large stretches. Colorado is a typically excellent team in all three zones and it leads all playoff teams in goals-per-game (5.00) and goals-against average (1.67). The Avs need to get back to that, and it begins with fluid play up ice and not turning pucks over in the middle to feed Vegas’ dangerous transition game. A heavy forecheck was also missing in Game 2, preventing the Avs from spending enough time in the offensive zone and creating second and third chances on goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.