The Colorado Avalanche took a two game lead in their best of seven series against the Arizona Coyotes yesterday with a hard fought 3-2 win. The Coyotes were fighting not to go down 3-0 in the series and the Avalanche were looking to put a stranglehold on the series by going up 3-0. The Avalanche had an important lineup change in that Pavel Francouz was the starter instead of Phillipp Grubauer. Joonas Donskoi also drew back in for the Avs with Vladislav Namestnikov out with an injury. How did game three play out? Let’s jump right in.
The game started off really back and forth but the Coyotes seemed to have a little more jump in their step. After an early power-play that didn’t result in much, the Coyotes kept pushing and at 6:29 of the first period, they finally struck and got their first lead of the entire series. Clayton Keller would take the puck behind the net and send a sweet pass to Derek Stepan who one-timed it past Francouz for a 1-0 Coyotes lead. The Coyotes, sporting their Kachina jerseys today, took advantage and capitalized on a mistake from the Avalanche and if they have any hope of truly coming back in this series they need to capitalize on the chances they have. Darcy Kuemper continued to be rock solid in net and was good in the first when the Avalanche had their pushes.
The teams would continue to trade chances as the first period went on, including multiple power-plays but both Francouz and Kuemper were extremely solid. Kuemper would finish the first period with 20 saves! The Avalanche seemed to really control the play towards the end of the period but Kuemper was a brick wall.
The story of the second period was for sure the goaltenders with both Francouz and Kuemper making key stops for their team. Both teams continued to trade chances throughout the period and despite power-play chances on both sides, it seems no one could break either goaltender. Nathan MacKinnon was an engine throughout the game amd even though he took two penalties (a bit out of character or the Lady Byng nominee) he made sure to make his presence felt whenever he was on ice. Derek Stepan also, besides scoring in the first, looked like a different player this game and its clear that the break really benefited him.
On their 31st shot of the game, the Avalanche would finally break though on an Andre Burkovsky wrister as their power-play expired. It seems Darcy Kuemper was human after all this game and the goal seemed to jolt the Avalanche as they really controlled play for the next few minutes after the goal. The second period continued to feature some nice chances from both teams but it would be the Coyotes who would break through again. Conor Garland, who is one of the most underrated players in the NHL, would make his mark on the series again by sending a slick cross-ice feed to Brad Richardson who ripped a shot past Pavel Francouz to make it 2-1 late in the second period. Despite taking 36 shots, the Avalanche were down going into the third and they would need to solve Kuemper fast to pull out a win.
The Avalanche would dominate the third period. They basically camped out and lived in the Coyotes zone and were just unforgiving in their onslaught. They were taking shots from all locations and just throwing absolutely everything they could at the net. Their best players looked like their best players but Kuemper just seemed like he would not be buckling again. At the 13 minute mark of the period, Kuemper was at 45 saves for the game and climbing. He was doing all he could to steal a game for the Coyotes and get them back into the series. Kuemper was looking like prime Patrick Roy in this game and the Avs just could not figure out how to beat him.
With just 1:20 remaining in the third period, Taylor Hall would take advantage of a Cale Makar mis-play and fire the puck into an empty net to give the Coyotes a 3-1 lead. Just a few seconds later, Mikko Rantanen would fire the puck at the net from an odd angle and it would bounce off Gabriel Landeskog and past Kuemper to cut the deficit to 3-2. The Avalanche had an extremely powerful push after their goal but it wouldn’t be enough and the Coyotes would nail the empty net for a second time with a goal from Lawson Crouse to seal a 4-2 win.
The Coyotes cut the series deficit to 2-1 and everyone on that team better be buying Darcy Kuemper dinner or a really awesome gift for everything he did for the team. Kuemper finished the day with 49 saves. Game three is scheduled for Monday at 5:30 pm EST.
Three stars of the game:
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