Avalanche sweeps Nashville out of playoffs with third-period rally – The Denver Post
NASHVILLE — A month ago, Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said playing the Western Conference-leading Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs would be “an eight-day loss.”
He was almost right. Top-seeded Colorado needed just seven days to sweep the Nashville Predators.
The Avs, who never trailed in the first three games against the Preds, fell behind in Game 4 on Monday but showed they hadn’t lost the art of the comeback in third period.
Colorado roared at Bridgestone Arena to defeat Nashville 5-3 and sweep the series to advance to the second round for the fourth straight year.
Defenseman Devon Toews, wing Valeri Nichushkin and center Nathan MacKinnon (empty net) scored in the final 11:05 of the third period to pin Nashville with its first-ever series sweep and fourth consecutive first-round outing.
“They had a good game tonight and I felt like we didn’t have a good one,” MacKinnon said. “But it will eventually happen. We found a way. This is the key; you can’t always win when you do your best. You have to find ways when you’re not and tonight was one of those cases.
“We just know with all the skills and talent we have that we were going to get one one way or another. Lots of good looks. And we finally got some, so that was good.
Colorado, who will face winner Minnesota Wild-St. Louis Blues series, has earned a little rest. The Wild and Blues are tied 2-2 going into Game 5 of this series on Tuesday. The earliest the Avs could start the second round would be Saturday.
“We’ve got guys that bumped into each other, we need a rest,” MacKinnon said. “So it will be good to take a few days off, to heal. We will take advantage of it. »
Nichushkin gave the Avs a 4-3 lead with 7:58 left in the third period. He did the easy part. Star defender Cale Makar slid past a defender against the left wall and delivered a backdoor pass to Nichushkin, who beat rookie goaltender Connor Ingram. MacKinnon added an empty-netter with 55.9 seconds left.
Makar finished with a goal and two assists and now leads all NHL players with 10 playoff points. He is the first defenseman since Paul Coffey in 1989 to reach nine points in the first four playoff games.
“You appreciate it – take advantage of it quickly,” Makar said of sweeping a first-round streak for the second year in a row. “We even touched on that in the room: it’s just the first step. So you enjoy it a bit, but then you move on.
“Obviously we don’t know who our opponent is yet. But it’s going to be a familiar team. So for us, it’s already at this next stage. We are where we want to be but we have to make sure we can stay tight through this little break we have.
Nashville took its first series lead at 3:58 of the third period when star winger Filip Forsberg scored his first playoff goal to cap a tic-tac-toe game with Mattias Ekholm and Matt Duchene. But Colorado, trailing 3-2, responded five minutes later when Toews beat Ingram with a wrist shot from the left circle.
The Avs got a solid game from goaltender Pavel Francouz, who made his first playoff start. He replaced Darcy Kuemper, who was stung in the face through his mask and left early in Game 3. Kuemper had swollen around his right eye too much to see the puck, and Justus Annunen, called up to the AHL, served as a backup for Francouz.
Colorado’s first two goals came from winger Andre Burakovsky and Makar to establish a 1-0, 2-1 lead. Burakovsky’s shot from the left circle snuck through the net behind Ingram. Replays proved it was a goal after the first save about 45 seconds later. It was the first point in Burakovsky’s series.
Makar scored his fourth goal and eighth point of the playoffs at 1:33 p.m. with a wrist shot from inside the blue line. But the Avs have yet to build on the one-goal lead.
Winger Yakov Trenin scored both of Nashville’s goals in forging 1-1 and 2-2 draws. The latter came at the end of the second period on a bad line change from Colorado. Nichushkin failed to get the puck behind the Preds defense as the Avs changed and Nashville came the other way with numbers. Francouz made the first save on Colton Sissons but Trenin grabbed the rebound and hit the goalie.
A poor defensive effort led to Nashville’s first goal to tie the game 1-1 with 1:01 remaining in the first period. Avalanche forward Nico Sturm had the puck on his stick in the corner, but he sniffed part of it and Sissons got the ball. Sissons made a short pass to Trenin, who beat Francouz inside the far post.
“We had really good focus throughout the series,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “Pretty good consistency. It was our toughest game for sure. We made a few mistakes which they capitalized on but again good resilience from our group to hold on in the third half. We we improved a bit after our run down, got back to making plays and using our skating, and managed to get a road win in a tough building against a good team.
“An overall positive experience for our guys.”
Footnotes. Besides the goalie change, the Avs used the same formation in Games 1 and 2. Forwards Alex Newhook and Andrew Cogliano and defensemen Jack Johnson, Kurtis MacDermid and Ryan Murray were again eliminated. … If Kuemper’s swelling goes down, Annunen could be sent back to the Colorado Eagles for their AHL second-round series against Reigning Ontario. Game 1 of the five-game series is Wednesday at Loveland. … The Avs will return to Denver on Tuesday.