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It’s always fun to be a part of history, and that was exactly what we had on Saturday night in Seattle.
With the series tied 1-1, Game 3 of Round 1 between the Colorado Avalanche and Seattle Kraken marked the first-ever home playoff game for the Kraken, and one of these teams was going to walk out with a lead.
The city was fired up, and there was palpable electricity in the building.
Before the puck was even dropped, the Avs were dealt a double dose of bad news as both Darren Helm and Valeri Nichushkin were ruled out. An already uphill battle got infinitely steeper as the Avs were attempting to steal one on the road.
That meant that there was zero margin for error for the Avs.
From the opening shift, this building was going crazy. Seattle is a great sports town, and their fans showed up for this one.
I thought the Avs had a good first couple of shifts. Good zone time, good puck movement, smart plays. It was exactly what you wanted out of the first 60 seconds.
Unfortunately for the Avalanche, momentum began to shift when Ben Meyers took a (necessary) penalty at the 2:05 mark.
Seattle didn’t score on the power play, but it allowed them to establish the zone, and spend a few minutes with the puck on their sticks.
About two minutes after the penalty expired, a failed clearing attempt by the Avalanche led to a shot from the point, and it was Jaden Schwartz in front who tipped one past Alexandar Georgiev.
The place went nuts, and Seattle really started to roll.
The Kraken controlled the next few minutes, with the Avs struggling to get possession for full shifts at a time.
A power play for the Avs helped them get back on track in terms of momentum, but they weren’t able to capitalize, and Seattle goaltender Philipp Grubauer started to settle in.
Coincidentally, it was a penalty to Sam Girard for interference that would turn the tide for the Avs.
The kill had just gotten underway when Cale Makar and JT Compher got sprung on a 2-on-2 out high in the zone. That 2-on-2 turned into a 2-on-1 when Daniel Sprong blew a tire in the neutral zone.
Makar put the puck into an area that Compher could skate into, Compher beat his man and put a beautiful move on Grubauer before depositing the puck into a mostly open net. A shorthanded goal from depth, just what the Avs needed that in the worst type of way.
The goal came with just under four minutes to play in the opening period, and it went a long way in helping the Avs stifle some of the energy in the building.
Colorado got through the rest of the kill, then Devon Toews drew a penalty to flip the script and send the Avs to the man advantage in the dying minutes. That power play was short-lived, as Makar tripped Brandon Tanev while battling for a loose puck in the neutral zone.
4-on-4 with just over a minute to go, and it felt like we were heading towards a deadlocked game at the intermission. Then Nathan MacKinnon entered the chat.
A loose puck at the Avs’ blue line was chipped into open space by MacKinnon, and he outraced everybody to spring himself on a breakaway. The Avs’ superstar blew the puck by Grubauer, and just like that all the electricity left the building.
Really, it ended up being a great road period for the Avs. They did everything they needed to, AND they had the lead.
They carried that momentum forward to start the second period. It was all Avs early on, the play on the ice looked the way I think a lot of people expected this series to go before it started. The Avalanche dominated play and the Kraken doing everything they could to just keep up.
Approaching the five-minute mark, Alex Newhook won a face-off clean straight back and Cale Makar got a running start into what ended up being an absolute bomb of a shot. The puck blew by Grubauer before he could even react.
The Avs had a two-goal lead, and it felt like they were in control.
Through the halfway mark of the middle frame, it had been one of their best periods of the series so far, and it all came unraveled in 19 seconds.
The Avs fell asleep at the wheel for exactly two shifts, and they gave up goals on both of them. It began with a giveaway behind the net by Georgiev, and it sent the Avs into a scramble trying to lock down the zone. Seattle defenseman Jamie Oleksiak took advantage and made a nice move into the middle of the ice before zipping a backhander high over Georgiev’s glove.
On the ensuing face-off, it was another dump-in, and a messy exchange behind the net that led to Matty Beniers getting a pass out front and punching it home. The crowd exploded, and in the blink of an eye, we had a tie game.
The Avs were able to push back after that, but the damage had been done.
The second period came to a close without incident, and the question for me was… how are they going to respond? Seattle has the momentum, the crowd was very much into it, and they had just handed the Kraken a reason to believe.
They came out in the third and responded exactly how you expected the reigning Stanley Cup champions to respond. They brushed off the fact that they gave up a two-goal lead, they brushed off the hostile energy from the crowd and just took care of business, led by their superstars.
We’ve talked throughout this whole series about the fact that Seattle has the depth advantage, but Colorado no question has the advantage at the top of the lineup. The Kraken has done a good job through two games of keeping those star players for the Avs relatively quiet, but they just couldn’t contain them tonight.
Mikko Rantanen kicked things off three minutes into the 3rd period by burying a one-timer off a Devon Toews pass right in the slot. Mikko had been having a tough night, I’ll be honest. He was sloppy with the puck on his stick, and made just an atrocious defensive read on the Kraken’s second goal. This is what we’ve come to expect from Ranatanen though.
He’s such an ultra-talented player that he can go 40 minutes without really doing much, and at the flip of a switch can score a goal and turn his game up, and the game in general all the way around.
So Mikko started it, the Nathan MacKinnon slammed the door shut on this game 90 seconds later.
I know it sounds kind of silly to say that they put the game away so early in the third, but the goal that MacKinnon scored was so high-end, so elite, that you could tell that even the Seattle fans in the stands knew that the team just didn’t have an answer for it.
It was a dominant shift, capped off by a show-stopping individual effort by MacKinnon.
That made it 5-3, and thanks for coming.
The rest of the game was textbook by the Avs. Nothing Seattle was generating felt threatening in the slightest, and anything that was maybe close to being an opportunity, Georgiev was there to shut things down.
An empty-netter for Rantanen, and a garbage-time goal by Jaden Schwartz gave us our final of 6-4.
It was a hostile atmosphere, and Seattle came out hot, but the Avs’ veteran leadership took over and put the team on their back.
Jared Bednar said last week that this team was scrappy, and he’s right. It’s not last year’s team, and they aren’t as deep as they were last year, but the heart and drive is still there. That much is obvious.
A day off tomorrow for the team, then back for Game 4 on Monday. The Avalanche took back home ice advantage tonight, now let’s see if they can continue to build on it.