SAN JOSE, Calif. — Erik Karlsson took the puck behind his own net and went on the type of end-to-end rush that has made him one of the NHL’s most dynamic defencemen.
Even though Karlsson’s rush didn’t lead to a goal and came in San Jose’s 4-3 loss in Game 2 to Colorado, it encouraged the Sharks that Karlsson appears to be healthy once again.
“It’s like a fine wine getting better and better every game,” defensive partner Brenden Dillon said Monday. “We know how good of a player he is and how much he impacts a game. It’s been fun to play with him.”
Despite being hampered earlier in the playoffs by a groin injury that sidelined him for 27 of 32 games in the second half of the season, Karlsson is tied for the league lead with 10 assists this post-season thanks to his vision and passing ability.
His skating and defence will be needed when the series shifts to Colorado for Game 3 on Tuesday night (10 p.m. EDT, NBCSN) after the teams split the first two games.
Avalanche Top Line Is a Handful
The Avalanche took control in Game 2 when coach Jared Bednar made a change in the second period to reunite Mikko Rantanen on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog.
The trio helped create two goals in the second period that gave Colorado a 2-1 lead and helped lead to the win.
“The line did our job and our job is getting the team going offensively,” Landeskog said. “Some nights you have it, some nights you don’t. But playoff time you got to try and find it every night and I thought we got deep and were able to get rewarded for a lot of our hard work.”
The boost from the top three scorers could be expected for the Avalanche. But they also got a big lift from a pair of 20-year-old defencemen as Cale Makar teamed with Samuel Girard.
Makar, the Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s top player, has played just five NHL games since finishing up at the Frozen Four for UMass. Girard has a bit more experience with 150 regular-season games the past two seasons.
Game 2 was their first time playing with each other as Makar moved into the lineup when Girard got hurt last round. They look extremely comfortable in their role.
“Yes, we are 20. We just have to play our game,” Girard said. “I know that Cale is able to play here. I know I’m able to. We just need to play our game. We need to bring some offence and make sure we play good offensively as well.”
Boston Bruins @ Columbus Blue Jackets
Series tied 1-1 (7 p.m. EDT, NBCSN)
The book on Sergei Bobrovsky was that the former two-time Vezina Trophy winner was great in the regular season but couldn’t rise to the occasion in the playoffs.
Through six playoff games this season, “Bob” is rewriting the book.
After an erratic regular season that saw coach John Tortorella call him out at one low point, the Russian goalie has been spectacular. He kept the Blue Jackets in Saturday night’s game long enough for Matt Duchene to finally win it in the second OT, 3-2.
Saturday’s game almost went the other direction in the first overtime when a puck lobbed into the Blue Jackets’ zone took a funny bounce to the right and headed for the open net. Bobrovsky reacted, lunged and gloved it just in time.
“It’s crazy, but it’s part of the game,” he said.
Bobrovsky was unreliable in opening round playoff losses to Washington (2018) and Pittsburgh (2017).
Bobrovsky Playing at a “Different Level”
This time he’s 5-1 in six playoff games, carrying a .930 save percentage and 2.01 goals-against average. Those numbers rank third and second, respectively, among playoff goalies.
Tortorella said Bobrovsky is performing at a “different level” in these playoffs.
“Bob’s been fantastic, as far as the amount of playoff games we’ve played right now,” Tortorella said Monday. He’s been terrific.”
Meanwhile, Boston is enjoying a two-day break between games for the first time since the playoffs started April 11.
“We’ve been going every other day now for a while now, it gives us a second to catch our breath, regroup and focus on some things we want to do better in the series moving forward,” defenceman Torey Krug said. “I’m sure the guys are really appreciating the time off.”
AP Sports Writers Pat Graham in Denver and Mitch Stacy in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report
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Josh Dubow, The Associated Press