“Two down, two to go.”
The Colorado Avalanche are now have a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven First Round series of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Seattle Kraken after defeating Seattle 6-4 in Game 3 of on Saturday night at Climate Pledge Arena.
For the Avalanche, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each scored twice, while Cale Makar also scored. J.T. Compher added a shorthanded strike. Artturi Lehkonen each handed out two assists. In net, Alexandar Georgiev turned aside 25 of the 29 shots he faced.
Jaden Schwartz scored twice for the Kraken, including once on the power play, while Jamie Oleksiak and Matty Beniers also found the back of the net. In between the pipes, former Avalanche netminder Philipp Grubauer made 28 saves on 33 shots.
When the series was tied 1-1, the Avalanche showed resilience and urgency in Game 3 to come out with a 6-4 win and take a 2-1 series lead. Despite facing even more changes to the lineup due to injuries, which resulted in changes in the makeup of the lineup, and some adversity early on, Colorado continued to elevate their play the further into the game to complete yet another comeback win. Their effort was backed by strong performances from the entirety of the team but was spearheaded by MacKinnon, Makar, and Rantanen.
“MacKinnon was the difference maker that we’ve come to expect,” Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar said.”In big games, in must-win games, in critical games, in the regular season, or in playoffs. He played with great speed, competitiveness, he was physical. When he got the puck, he was really tough to check.”
Quote Credit: Sasha Kandrach / ColoradoAvalanche.com
Colorado got off to another slow start in Game 3, dropping a 1-0 deficit early on. The Kraken were fired up in front of their home crowd as they took the ice for the first-ever playoff game in the organization’s two-year history.
Seattle nearly scored in the opening few minutes as Colorado failed to clear their zone, and the Kraken countered on an odd-man rush. Ben Meyers took a slashing penalty at 2:30 to try and prevent Seattle forward Jared McCann from scoring.
The Avalanche came up with a clutch penalty kill. Still, the Kraken continued to push – while holding a 7-1 shot in edge through seven minutes, and eventually capitalized at 6:08 with an even-strength goal. After failing to clear their zone again, Seattle hemmed Colorado in their zone. As the puck was sent out to the point, Justin Schultz fired a shot on the net. At the net front, Schwartz redirected the shot from the air past Georgiev’s far pad.
The Avalanche received a power play at 12:49 and couldn’t convert – despite Artturi Lehkonen generating a nice look off a one-timer from the slot – but began to pick up their game and press the Kraken.
Colorado then was assessed with its second penalty of the game at 15:46 of the first period as Samuel Girard was called for goaltender interference. On Seattle’s power play, Lehkonen chipped the puck free in the defensive zone, where Cale Makar picked it up. The defenseman carried it up ice for a two-on-one rush with Compher at his right. Makar sent a feed to Compher, who toe-dragged across the crease and tucked it past Grubauer to even the score 1-1.
Tied at 1-1, the Avalanche were awarded a power play at 18:49, as McCann was called for tripping, but the power play was short-lived as Makar was called for tripping just 10 seconds later.
With 1:01 left in the first period and played at four-on-four, Mikko Rantanen sprung MacKinnon for a breakaway. The centerman jetted up ice and beat Grubauer with a quick wrist shot under his glove side to give Colorado a 2-1 lead at 19:15.
Colorado picked up where they left off in the second period as they quickly netted another strike to take a 3-1 lead. Off an offensive zone faceoff win by Alex Newhook, the puck dropped back to Makar. The blueliner unleashed a blistering shot on net that sailed past Grubauer at 4:33.
The Avalanche continued to put forth a dominant effort – where they went on to outshoot the Kraken 15-8 in the frame – but Seattle stifled the momentum with two quick strikes in the span of 19 seconds in the latter half of the period to tie the score 3-3 heading into the final period of play.
The Kraken first trimmed their deficit down 3-2 after killing off a penalty. After chasing down the puck in the offensive zone, Seattle hemmed Colorado in their own zone as they failed to clear the puck. Yanni Gourde snapped the puck to the top of the right faceoff circle to Oleksiak. From there, the defenseman took the puck from his forehand to backhand, skated into the slot, and roofed a backhander past Georgiev’s shoulder at 12:51.
As the crowd at Climate Pledge Arena erupted, Seattle almost immediately tied the game up 3-3. Just 19 seconds later, the Kraken forechecked the Avalanche. From behind the net, McCann collected possession of the puck and tapped it to Berniers. The rookie corralled the puck with his skate and then sent a shot past Georgie at 13:10 for the equalizer.
With the score tied, Colorado came out with an overpowering effort in the third period as they scored twice on three shots to up their lead to 5-3.
The Avalanche first scored on a quick transition play. Devon Toews carried the puck from the defensive zone all the way into the left circle in the offensive zone, where he snapped a feed into the slot. Rantanen whipped the one-timer past Grubauer to give Colorado a 4-3 lead.
Just a minute and a half later, Evan Rodrigues sent a pass from behind the net to Bowen Byram in the right faceoff circle. The defenseman played the puck to MacKinnon near Seattle’s bench. With the puck on his stick, the centerman took Ryan Donato one-on-one, stickhandled, and skates past him into the right circle, where MacKinnon sniped a wrist shot over Grubauer’s right shoulder to give the Avalanche a 5-3 lead.
Down two goals, and after failing to convert on a power play at 7:52, Kraken Head Coach Dave Hakstol pulled Grubauer with over three minutes left in the period. Rantanen collected a pass from Lehkonen and fired the puck into Seattle’s empty net at 17:64 to further Colorado’s lead to 6-3.
MacKinnon was sent to the box at 19:16, and the Kraken managed to notch the first power-play goal of the series as they mirrored their first goal. At the net front, Schwartz redirected a shot – for his second goal of the game – from Schultz at 19:20 to trim the final score down 6-4, which would remain until the final horn.
The First Round series between Colorado and Seattle continues in Seattle with Game 4 on Monday night. The puck drops between the Avalanche and Kraken at 8:00 p.m. MT.