The Colorado Avalanche evened up the First Round series against the Seattle Kraken with a 3-2 Game 2 victory in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday night at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado.
The Colorado Avalanche got back to their “swagger” as they executed a resilient second half of the game in a statement 3-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken in Game 2 of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday night at Ball Arena. The best-of-seven series is now tied 1-1.
The Avalanche rallied from a 2-0 deficit with three unanswered goals to even the series up 1-1. Devon Toews put the biscuit in the basket for the game-winner, while Artturi Lehkonen and Valeri Nichushkin also netted goals. In net, Alexandar Georgiev turned aside 27 of the 29 shots he faced as he earned his first-career playoff win.
Justin Schultz scored at even strength for the Kraken, while Brandon Tanev added a shorthanded strike. In between the pipes, former Avalanche netminder Philipp Grubauer made 38 saves on 41 shots.
After suffering an uncharacteristic effort in Game 1 and ultimately losing by the score of 3-1, where the Kraken smothered the Avalanche forecheck and along the walls. The team entered Game 2, noting that they would be better.
But it wasn’t immediate.
Despite preaching the importance of taking on Game 2 with more energy and urgency, the Avalanche fell into a 2-0 hole after the first period looking very flat while skating, which Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar called “terrible” and the team’s “worst period of the series.” The Kraken continued their theme of drawing a quick strike in the opening minute of play in the period and added a shorthanded goal a little over the midway mark of the first period.
Seattle produced the game’s first score at 2:40 off a quick transition play. From the Kraken defensive zone, Yanni Gourde sent a pass along the boards up ice for Eeli Tolvanen, who carried the puck into the offensive zone. From inside the circle, Tolvanen snapped a backhanded pass into the slot, where Schultz skated onto it and fired it past Georgiev.
After killing off a Josh Manson roughing penalty, the Avalanche received their first power play of the night. After occupying some offensive zone time, Colorado’s power play took an unfortunate turn as the Kraken cleared the puck. Gourde showcased his speed and chased the puck down, and won the wall battle as Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar pressured him in the corner. Gourde then sent the puck into the slot, where Tanev picked it up and then fired his shot over Georgiev’s glove side to double the Kraken’s lead.
The Avalanche had another power play opportunity initially but did not convert.
Despite falling into a 2-0 deficit, Colorado flipped a switch in the second period – scoring two goals in 48 seconds. The team, as Bowen Byram noted, “got their swagger back” as they elevated their game and asserted themselves as the aggressors with their electric, high-flying offense and tenacious checking. Shift after shift, they came in waves at Seattle and, in doing so, tied the score up 2-2 and outshot the Kraken 16-12. they were backed up by some exceptional goaltending from Georgiev.
“We played tight in the first period,” Bednar said. “No one wanted the puck, no one wanted to skate with it in the pocket… That was a message in the first intermission that we had to build our swagger back, shift by shift, and that we have to get more assertive and more engaged competitively. I think Seattle held the competitive advantage for the first four periods of the series, and I felt like we had another level that we needed to get to that they were already at. In the second period, you could see we started free ourselves up a little bit. Now, you get guys fighting through checks and being more assertive and more engaged. We really started to see what our team could do once we scored the first goal. Then we played, and it was still hard-fought for the next 40 minutes.”
Quote Credit: Sasha Kandrach / ColoradoAvalanche.com
As the Avalanche chipped away in the second period, they controlled the puck and pulse of the play as the period ensued, and as they pressed shift after shift, their pressure broke with two lethal strikes. Byram sent a feed to Makar, who skated the blueline and fired one of his signature bombs on net. In the slot, Lehkonen redirected the point shot past Grubauer to trim Colorado’s deficit down 2-1.
The atmosphere at Ball Arena immediately erupted.
As the puck dropped at center ice, the Avalanche came in yet another wave. From the defensive zone, Toews sent a sharp feed off the wall and into the offensive zone, where it met the stick of Evan Rodrigues. The winger split Seattle’s defense as he sent a pass between them in the slot to Nichushkin. At the net front, the winger toe-dragged and slipped a backhander past Grubauer for the equalizer.
A few minutes later, Rodrigues had a chance in-tight but struck the crossbar. The Avalanche continued to smother Seattle, but at 14:50, their momentum was stalled as MacKinnon was sent to the box for high-sticking. Colorado’s penalty kill came through with an incredible effort to hold off the Kraken’s power play, including some huge saves from Georgiev and a block from Erik Johnson as the penalty was nearing the end.
The intensity between teams continued to boil over as the period wore on. With two minutes left in the period and after a Seattle chance, Makar and Tanev were both sent to the box for roughing, as Makar’s helmet was ripped off. The period concluded with four-on-four hockey. Georgiev made a highlight-reel save to keep the score 2-2 headed into the final 20 minutes of play.
The Kraken had countered with a 3-on-1 rush, and as they passed it to Jordan Eberle at the backdoor, Georgiev made an extraordinary pad save to hold him off to end the second period.
The third period featured end-to-end action as both teams tightly checked and exchanged multiple scoring chances, but the 2-2 stalemate resumed as both netminders were dialed in.
Colorado finally broke through as the team scored off an offensive zone faceoff win late in the period. MacKinnon won the draw in the left circle, and the puck popped out to Samuel Girard at the blue line, where he sent a pass between the circles into the slot for Lehkonen. The winger turned and fired a one-timer at Grubauer, but the ex-Av netminder came up with the pad stop. The rebound kicked out to the right to where Toews was. He snatched the puck and wired a low shot to the far side of Grubauer to give Colorado a 3-2 lead and the team’s first lead of the series.
The Avalanche held on in the final few minutes – despite another sequence of four-on-four hockey, but Colorado held off the Kraken and evened the series 1-1.
“That’s something that we’re trying to build towards,” Byram said of playing their game. “We finally broke through there and got some confidence and started playing with some swagger… I don’t know many teams that can beat us [when we play like that]. We just had to go out there and prove it, and we did that. Now, it’s just about putting our best foot forward on Saturday night [in Game 3].”
Quote Credit: Sasha Kandrach / ColoradoAvalanche.com