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Avalanche vs. Vegas Golden Knights Game 6: Three keys for Colorado

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LAS VEGAS — The Avalanche visits the Vegas Golden Knights for Game 6 of their second-round series on Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena (7 p.m. MT, NBCSN).

Three keys for Colorado, which trails 3-2:

Play your game. The Avs returned to their identity in Game 5’s 3-2 overtime loss, and if it weren’t for two third-period turnovers that led directly to Vegas goals, overtime would not have been required and Colorado would have the 3-2 series lead. Turnovers aside, the Avs were sharp in all areas — zone exits, flow through the middle of the ice and significant possession time in the offensive zone. And they would have drawn more penalties if the officials called a tighter game. The Avs were just as physical as the Knights, who play a heavy game, and they won a significant amount of puck battles. If Colorado can again play to its fast-paced, in-your-face identity — and limit turnovers — Game 7 could happen.

Release MacKinnon and Co. Nathan MacKinnon has the ability to win games on his own. But the Avs have lost three straight partly because their star center hasn’t been himself. In Games 3, 4 and 5, MacKinnon is pointless with just nine shots. He often produces nine shots in a game. But he’s not the only frustrated offensive weapon on this team. Winger Andre Burakovsky, still goal-less in the postseason, has no shots in the last two games and just four in the series. And winger Gabe Landeskog has not produced a shot in regulation in the last three games. Vegas is a fabulous defensive team that has frustrated most of the Avs’ top players. If that continues Thursday, the chances of a Game 7 are slim.

Get shots through. Vegas blocked 26 shots in Game 5, compared to 11 for the Avalanche. That supports which team had more puck possession in the offensive zone. But the Avs need to capitalize on an advantage like that — just like the Knights did in Games 3 and 4 — and get pucks on net to force goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to make the save or get redirections from teammates. Avalanche defensemen have to be more aware of what’s going to be blocked — or dump it in the corner or carom it off the end boards and make Vegas’ defensemen work. Vegas’ game-winning goal Tuesday came off Ryan Graves’ two consecutive blocked shots — the latter from defenseman Alex Pietrangelo — and it fed the Knights’ strong transition game with Mark Stone winning a foot race with Graves and scoring on the breakaway.

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