tweet this Content by Twitter, Facebook; Reddit or other Networks, thanks!
LAS VEGAS — Avalanche coach Jared Bednar usually doesn’t point fingers at his players.
But he threw darts at his top guys Friday night after the Vegas Golden Knights got the result they deserved by scoring two goals within 45 seconds late in the third period at T-Mobile Arena.
The Knights outplayed the Avalanche for much of Game 3 of their second-round playoff series and got two late goals from Jonathan Marchessault and Max Pacioretty to defeat Colorado 3-2 and close their series deficit to 2-1.
“I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think that’s the competitiveness we need to beat the team that tied us for first in the league,” Bednar said.
The Avs, who dominated Game 1 and squeaked out a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 2 despite being outshot 31-12 in the final 40 minutes of regulation, were outshot 42-20 on Friday while in a position to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. Game 4 is here on Sunday.
“For five periods straight now they’ve been far more competitive than we have and to dissect the game any further than that is a waste of time,” Bednar said. “I look at that game and I look at us going in the offensive and watch their guys close it down. I look at them coming into our offensive zone and we don’t close anybody down. If we won the race they came out with the puck and 50% of the time or more they won the race they came out with the puck.”
Goalie Philipp Grubauer was Colorado’s best player. Again. And on Friday that wasn’t enough.
Marchessault, from behind the goal line, used a bank shot off Grubauer to tie it 2-2 with 5:18 left in regulation. And with 4:33 remaining, Pacioretty’s redirection off a blast from the point from former Avalanche defenseman Nick Holden gave Vegas the winner.
Avs captain and first-line left wing Gabe Landeskog failed to produce a shot and was minus-1, along with center and alternate captain Nathan MacKinnon, who was pointless. Bednar pointed to his top players as the problem.
“Go ahead and check the numbers on our top guys tonight and see what they did compared to their top guys. It’s not close,” he said. “The hardest working player we have right now is Philipp Grubauer.”
Grubauer, who made a breakaway save on Pacioretty late in the second period to keep it 1-1 through 40 minutes, fell to 6-1 in these playoffs. Grubauer had won 10 consecutive playoff games dating to last season.
The Avs were looking to become just the third team in the last 30 years to begin the playoffs 7-0, and just the 12th team overall. The 1994 Rangers and 2008 Penguins both began 7-0 and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Right winger Mikko Rantanen, the Game 2 hero with the overtime goal, gave the Avs a 2-1 lead early in the third period. On the power play, Rantanen crushed a slap shot past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, extending his playoff points streak to 17 games dating to last year.
“We got some jump in our legs and we were creating some chances for a 3-1 lead (but) we knew they were going to come in the last 10 minutes and that’s what they did,” Rantanen said. “Just a couple mistakes we made it’s going to cost you against a good team like Vegas. There’s no moment where you can fall asleep. Grubi played amazing again but you can’t rely on him making 50 saves every night.”
The Avalanche started slow and was outshot 15-3 in the first period, surviving two Vegas power plays to keep it 0-0. But the Avs were in a slump, having been outshot by the Knights 47-17 from the second period of Game 2.
They also came out slow in the second period and Vegas took a 1-0 lead 4:38 into it. Forward William Karlsson was a crease-front presence and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo put a shot on net that led to a rebound in front. Karlsson kicked the puck to his backhand and slid it in behind Grubauer.
Colorado tied it less than two minutes later, getting a goal from the fourth line at 6:07. Winger Kiefer Sherwood, who was making his debut in the series and replacing rookie Sampo Ranta, led a 3-on-2 rush and dished it to his left to center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who used a hard low slap shot to create a rebound off Fleury’s leg pad. And from the right wing, Carl Soderberg banged it home to quiet the crowd.
Soderberg also made his debut in the series, replacing rookie Alex Newhook as the Avs chose to put a veteran winger with Bellemare and scratching the two rookies who played college hockey in March.
Footnotes. Avs forward Brandon Saad saw his career-high five-game goal streak end. It was the third-longest in club playoff history behind Joe Sakic (seven in 1996) and Claude Lemieux (seven in 1997). … Vegas fourth-line winger Ryan Reaves served the second game of his two-game suspension for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct against Avs defenseman Ryan Graves in Game 1. Reaves’ actions were in retaliation from Graves’ hit on winger Mattias Janmark, who suffered an upper-body injury and has not played since. … Avalanche depth forward Jayson Megna and Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb remain the only players on the NHL’s COVID protocol absence list.