Avalanche Lean on Stars to Reclaim Control of Series
SEATTLE (AP) — It’s taken only three games for Nathan MacKinnon to declare this the toughest first-round series of his career.
Colorado’s star made it look pretty easy with his two goals in Game 3 as the Avalanche reclaimed control of their opening playoff series.
“This is definitely the hardest first round I’ve been in,” MacKinnon said. “I think sometimes the last few years we’ve been a top seed and we’ve not gotten easy teams by any means, but I think this Seattle team is a 100-point team and they’re really good, and we’re gonna have to continue to do our best to beat them.”
MacKinnon was the best offensive player on the ice in Game 3 as the Avalanche beat Seattle 6-4 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Monday night and a victory by Colorado would give it a chance to wrap up the series at home on Wednesday.
But MacKinnon wasn’t the only Colorado star to show up in a big way in Game 3. Cale Makar had a goal and an assist, and Mikko Rantanen had three points, including the tiebreaking goal early in the third period and an empty-net goal in the final minutes to clinch the victory.
“For us, everybody wants to elevate their games and want to play their roles the right way and help each other out,” Makar said.
The big game from Colorado’s three stars came as uncertainty surfaced about Valeri Nichushkin and when he may play again in this series. Nichushkin is away from the team for personal reasons, Colorado coach Jared Bednar announced after Saturday’s victory.
Nichushkin was tied for fourth on Colorado’s roster with 17 goals in the regular season and his goal in the second period of Game 2 pulled the Avalanche even after Seattle jumped to a 2-0 lead in the opening period.
Bednar said Sunday there is no timeline for when Nichushkin may return. His absence is just another obstacle for the Avs to deal with in a season filled with them.
“We’ve had to rely on our top guys even more and they’ve done an amazing job,” Bednar said.
MacKinnon’s two-goal performance gave him 10 career playoff games with multiple goals, and just the second player in Avalanche/Nordiques history to reach that benchmark.
It also re-established order in the series. Seattle was the better team through Game 1 and the first period of Game 2. But in the past four periods, the defending champs have been the clear better squad in part because of the trio of MacKinnon, Makar and Rantanen stepping forward.
Slowing them down has to be a priority for Seattle if it wants to send the series back to Denver at 2-2.
“There’s always gonna be swings in momentum. Sometimes you just gotta play (defense),” Seattle forward Jared McCann said. “I know it’s boring. Not everybody wants to hear that, but especially when you’re out against guys like MacKinnon and Makar, guys who can fly up the ice, so you got to stay in front of them. You gotta just get chips on them. Make it hard for them to get in the zone. I feel like we can do a better job of that.”