Avalanche Outlast Golden Knights to Take 2-0 Series Lead

The offensive superstars were quiet for the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, but Philipp Grubauer gave them a chance. Given extra time, they didn’t disappoint.

Mikko Rantanen scored a power-play goal early in overtime to keep Colorado unbeaten in the playoffs with a 3-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday. The Avalanche now have six playoff wins in six tries, and lead the second-round series 2-0 as it heads to Las Vegas. Colorado is the third team to win their first six games in a postseason. The other two teams – the New York Rangers in 1994 and Dallas Stars in 1999 – both went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Here are three takeaways from Colorado’s thrilling Game 2 win:

Grubauer Keeps Colorado Unbeaten in Postseason

Grubauer – a Vezina Trophy finalist for the first time in his career – stepped up to help the Avalanche secure the victory. After two goals in the first period helped the Avs to a 2-1 lead, the Golden Knights stepped up the offense. Grubauer stopped 38 shots through regulation, including 30 over the final two periods. He finished with 39 saves.

Grubauer’s best surge came after Vegas’ Alex Pietrangelo drew a penalty to give the Golden Knights a power play with 3:21 to go in the third. Grubauer made three saves during the kill – and another right after the penalty expired – to keep the game tied. He also got help from the post on his blocker side, which denied Reilly Smith. It was the third post Smith hit in the game, all on Grubauer’s right side. The Golden Knights hit the post five times in regulation.

Colorado Avalanche Philipp Grubauer
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Grubauer is 6-0 in this postseason, but this one wasn’t like the others. He was the beneficiary of an offensive explosion from his teammates through his first five starts. Colorado won its first five games of the postseason in impressive fashion, outscoring opponents 27-8 along the way. It showed it can win the close games, too.

The Avalanche won the first game of this series 7-1, but that was an outlier. Colorado won the regular-season series, but just barely. The Avs were 4-3-1 over the Golden Knights – and the final victory over them helped clinch the Presidents’ Trophy. Even the goals were razor-thin between the two teams, with Vegas outscoring Colorado 18-17 in the regular-season series.

Saad Delivering for Avalanche

The Avalanche traded for Brandon Saad before the season to bring in scoring depth and add some playoff experience to the room. He’s delivering exactly what Colorado wanted in his first postseason with the team.

Saad opened the scoring on Wednesday, finding the net for the fifth straight playoff game. The goal came just 3:39 into the first period. It wasn’t the mightiest of shots, but Saad got just enough to fool Vegas netminder Marc-Andre Fleury through the five-hole.

Brandon Saad Colorado Avalanche
Brandon Saad, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

Saad’s longest goal-scoring streak of the regular season was three games – but that streak came late. Those goals came in three of the final four games of the campaign, and the streak was snapped on the last game of the regular season. Saad didn’t score in the opening game of the first round against the St. Louis Blues, but he’s lit the lamp in every game since.

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He won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks, in 2013 and 2015. The Avalanche traded defenseman Nikita Zadorov to Chicago for Saad in the offseason, and he didn’t disappoint in his first season in Colorado. Saad finished with 15 goals this season, which was sixth on the team.

Knights Dodge Early Penalty Trouble

Vegas looked like they were taking a peculiar strategy into the first period on Wednesday, giving the Avalanche four power plays through the first 20 minutes.

Part of the rash of penalties in the first period came from the Golden Knights simply trying to keep up with the blistering start by Colorado. The penalty kill was actually very good for Vegas, as the Golden Knights blocked seven shots and allowed just one power-play goal on the four tries.

Tyson Jost Colorado Avalanche
Tyson Jost, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

That power-play tally came from Tyson Jost, and gave Colorado a 2-1 lead with just under three minutes to play in the opening period. It was Jost’s first power-play goal of the season. The play was set up on a great pass by Samuel Girard, who assisted on both of Colorado’s first-period goals.

Jost has been a pleasant offensive force for the Avalanche in the playoffs. He has a point in four of the six games, including a pair of goals. He scored just seven goals in the regular season, but four of them came over the last six games – including two in the season finale against the Los Angeles Kings.

Jost’s boost in scoring is something Colorado will need as the series moves forward. The Avs’ powerhouse line of MacKinnon, Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog combined for seven points in Game 1, but were held without a point on Wednesday – until MacKinnon assisted on Rantanen’s game-winner. The Golden Knights and Avalanche head to Las Vegas for the next two games of the series. Game 3 is set for Friday, with Game 4 coming up on Saturday.

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