The Colorado Avalanche was coming off a big shootout win over Tampa Bay. The Vegas Golden Knights came in limping on a 4-game losing streak.Embed from Getty Images
The Colorado Avalanche did nothing to show they were supposed to be the better and healthier roster in the first period. The Las Vegas Golden Knights came out with the energy and desperation you would expect from a contender in the throes of a losing streak. The Knights also had an injury list that looked like this. That’s a lot os size, scoring, and just plain nastiness.
So hence why I was so optimistic in my preview of this game. The Avalanche came out flat looking like the jet lag hadn’t worn off yet. They were lethargic all over the ice and Darcy Kuemper allowed to early goals to Chandler Stephenson (3rd at 2:00). Then a short-handed goal to Reilly Smith, his first, at the 9:37 mark. That’s right, not only did they go 0-2 on the power-play, they allowed the Knights to score on the Avs advantage.Embed from Getty Images
Darcy and the defense were able to stiffen from there, though the Golden Knights won the scoring and physicality battles in the first period, taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
The 3rd period started with the Avalanche coming out hot. The physical play hit a level I haven’t seen from this team yet this year. You had Kadri de-skating Knights in the corner. Logan O’Connor was decapitating players in the neutral zone and taking on all comers that the Knights could throw at them. You even had folk-hero Jack Johnson getting a 10 minute major for a questionable hit on Keegan Kolesar mid-ice. Which lead to him giving Nicolas Roy a 2-piece and a biscuit. That foray lead to this ruling and penalties assessed:
This boiled down to two minutes of 4-on-4, and three minutes of Vegas with the advantage. This turned into a godsend for the Avalanche skill players that couldn’t seem to find a crack in the Vegas defense despite the uptick in physical play swinging the pendulum of momentum in their direction and had Ball Arena rocking. Cale Makar would send them into a frenzy at the 19:23 mark with his first goal of the season, assisted by Nathan MacKinnon (5) and Bo Byram (4).
After being outshot and outhit in the first period, Colorado flipped the script in the second. Taking a 16-11 lead in hits, and getting to 19-18 in SOGs. They also brought it close in blocks at 13-12. The Colorado penalty kill showed some grit also as they kept the Knights scoreless on the advantage through 2 frames, and Darcy looked like the steady vet Sakic traded for.Embed from Getty Images
Many will consternate about Jack Johnson’s hit being across the line. That would imply it was dirty, I don’t believe it was dirty, and was just what this team needed at the time. It sparked them to bring it to within one goal. Yes it left them short handed on defense. But it wasn’t the reason they lost, it was the reason they got back in it. Unfortunately they just ran into Robin Lehner on a night he was all the way on. Kuemper had a winning stat line with a .929 save% stoning 26 of 28 shots. Lehner was just better stopping 26-27 for a .963 save%.
The Golden Knights had never lost 5 in a row. Lehner ensured he was not going to be a footnote in that history. The Avalanche were able to continue their energy through the third. Just too bad for them, Vegas matched it, and were able to hold on for a 3-1 win that concluded with Colorado giving up their third empty-net goal by Kolesar.Embed from Getty Images
It was great to see this Avalanche team stand up to the bully, too bad they still took the L. The old bugaboo of a poor power-play reared it’s ugly head for Colorado, but they also held Vegas scoreless on the advantage. Vegas has still not scored a single power-play goal this season. But they still stole a win on the road.
Up next they have a St. Louis Blues squad that already has a dominate win against the Avalanche this season. The Avalanche were not playing with this level of precision and physicality then, which should lead to a much better showing by the home squad.
@ St. Louis Blues Thursday, October 28 @ 6:00 PM MST
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