Say what you want about the Nashville Predators, but they’re certainly gracious hosts.
The Predators were content to give the Colorado Avalanche plenty of chances with the man advantage on Saturday, and the visiting Avs took advantage. They scored four power-play goals on the way to a 7-3 victory over Nashville in Game 3 of their first-round series. The win gives them a dominating 3-0 lead in the series. Here are three takeaways from the win:
Captain Comes Through
Gabriel Landeskog missed the final 23 games of the regular season after undergoing knee surgery, but he hasn’t taken long to get back to normal. The Avalanche captain scored two goals and an assist to lead his team’s offensive onslaught. Both of his goals came in the second period, and he also assisted on Devon Toews’ goal midway through the third.
Both of Landeskog’s goals came at vital points for the Avalanche. His first tally came on the power-play, putting the Avalanche ahead after the Predators had tied the game at two. When Roman Josi tied things up again at three less than two minutes later, Landeskog needed just 1:08 to give Colorado the lead again with his third goal of the series. The Avalanche never looked back.
Landeskog was pursuing a career year before getting sidelined with the injury. Despite playing in just 51 games, he scored 30 goals and added 29 assists. His career-high for goals was 34 set in 2018-19. His 59 points were tied for his fourth-most in a season. If he hadn’t missed the last 23 games of the regular season, he had an outside chance to eclipse his career-high in points of 75, also set in 2018-19.
Kuemper Leaves With Injury
Colorado is on the cusp of winning their first-round series against Nashville, holding a 3-0 series lead. However, they did suffer a major loss on Saturday. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper was injured in a fluke play late in the first period. Pavel Francouz replaced him and finished the game, and Kuemper’s status for the rest of the series is up in the air.
In the final minute of the third period, Ryan Johansen’s stick inexplicably slotted right between the bars on Kuemper’s face mask. The goaltender immediately grasped at the stick, trying to dislodge it. Once it was free, he flung his mask and clutched at his face. Francouz came in and made an enormous stop with a second to go in the period, foiling a three-on-one rush by the Predators.
If Francouz has to replace Kuemper long-term, the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup chances might be in jeopardy. He was serviceable in the regular season, playing 21 games while sporting a 2.55 goals-against average (GAA) and .916 save percentage (SV%) on the way to 15 wins. He gave up two goals on Saturday but was brutal in his last playoff appearance back in 2020. He replaced Philipp Grubauer in the second round and was shelled by the Dallas Stars, losing three of four games while giving up 15 goals.
Avalanche Power Play Packs Punch
Nobody scored more power-play goals than the Avalanche during the regular season. For whatever reason, the Predators wanted to see it for themselves during this first-round series. Four different players scored power-play goals on Saturday, as the Avs went 4-for-5 with the extra skater. Artturi Lehkonen got the power-play party started with a tip-in to start the scoring – his second goal of the playoffs.
Nathan MacKinnon, Landeskog and Nazem Kadri followed suit with power-play goals of their own – including an awful Nashville turnover that led to Kadri’s tally – setting up the victory. Entering Saturday’s contest, the Edmonton Oilers were the only team to connect for more than four power-play goals in the entire playoffs. Colorado managed four in the first two periods of Game 3. They wasted little time doing it too, as they needed a total of just 2:52 of time with the man advantage to rack up the four goals. Through the first three games, the Avalanche have had a whopping 14 power-play chances, and have turned those into six power-play goals.
Colorado hadn’t scored that many power-play goals in a game since Jan. 15, 2021 – the second game of the COVID-shortened schedule last season – when they peppered the St. Louis Blues for five. Entering the postseason, they were only 1-for-26 with the man advantage over the regular season’s final seven games. That trend was erased in Game 1, where they scored a pair of power-play goals on the way to a 7-2 victory. The Avalanche will look to close out the series on Tuesday, with Game 4 still in Nashville.
Lifelong storyteller and experienced hockey reporter that has covered everything from major juniors to the NHL. Worked for various newspapers across Minnesota and North Dakota, and now covering the Colorado Avalanche for THW.