The Colorado Avalanche sought to carry the momentum forward from their dominant win over the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as they hosted Game 2 in Denver on Thursday night. In a hard-hitting physical contest featuring 102 total hits in the first three periods, 60 minutes wasn’t enough to decide the game.
The teams skated to a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation, sending the game into overtime. It was Colorado defenseman and Norris Trophy contender Cale Makar who broke the tie with a wrist shot through traffic, finally beating Predators netminder Connor Ingram, who had put on a goaltending clinic through the entire game. For Makar, who finished the season with 28 goals, leading all NHL defensemen, it was his second goal in two games and his eighth career playoff goal in just 36 playoff games.
While Colorado had fewer hits, blocked shots, and won only 44 percent of their faceoffs, they outplayed the Predators throughout the entire contest, outshooting them 51 to 26, and dominating the time of possession.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Connor Ingram Stands on His Head
Before we get to any commentary on the solid performance from the Avalanche, the stellar play of Ingram has to be acknowledged first.
With Predators’ All-Star goaltender Juuse Saros injured and backup netminder David Rittich having been lit up in the first game of the series, allowing five goals on 13 shots, head coach John Hynes leaned on Ingram, a 25-year-old rookie, to start his first-ever NHL postseason game. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native was more than equal to the task.
Ingram stopped 41 of 42 shots in regulation and another eight in overtime for a total of 49 saves on 51 shots. Added to the 30 of 32 shots he stopped in relief of Rittich in Game 1, Ingram has now saved 79 of 83 shots, for a save percentage of .952 in the series.
If the Predators are going to have any chance of playing their way back into the series, they’re going to need Ingram to maintain his elite level of play. It’s a tall order, but so far, the young goalie has given every indication he’s ready for the challenge.
Avalanche Penalty Kill Sharp
The Avalanche killed off four Nashville power plays, including a five-on-three for 1:52 at the start of the third period. Their penalty killers were stalwarts on the blue line, disrupting the Predators’ attempts to gain the offensive zone. They ended up managing only two shots-on-goal (SOG) in their eight combined minutes with the extra skater, which equaled the number of SOG taken by the Avalanche while shorthanded.
The Avalanche killed three of four penalties in Game 1, and are now seven for eight on the penalty kill in the series. The team was 15th in the league in the regular season, killing 79.7 percent of its penalties.
MacKinnon a Man on a Mission
Just 5:25 into the contest, Nathan MacKinnon took the puck at center ice and skated down the left side to beat Ingram with a nifty wrister. It was his third goal and fourth point in the first two games. He has had 14 SOG in the first two contests and is playing with a level of intensity that has set the tone for the rest of the team.
MacKinnon now has 1.41 points per game in his playoff career, which is third-best in the history of the NHL, trailing only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Though, he has made it clear that individual records are not his goal.
“I’m going into my ninth year next year and I haven’t won sh–,” the veteran center said after the team’s second-round exit from the playoffs last season. The 26-year-old native of Halifax, Nova Scotia has made it clear his only goal is a Stanley Cup, and that he wants to win with this team. His contract expires at the end of the 2023 season, making this postseason incredibly important for both him and the Avalanche.
Up Next for the Avalanche
The Avalanche carries a 2-0 series lead into Game 3, as the action shifts to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Saturday afternoon (May 7).
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Hockey dad, beer league hockey captain, rabid Avalanche fan. Author of five novels for young adults, including The Scar Boys, Life in a Fishbowl, and Hard Wired. Lives in Littleton, Colorado with two middle school-age kids, one awesome wife, and three pets. Voted least likely to break 100 on a golf course.