Look folks, we all know happens when you make a Faustian pact. We wanted to see the Leafs embarrassed in round one and as a consequence we face the very real possibility of Montreal advancing to the third round of the postseason. Considering how bad Winnipeg made Ottawa look at times during the season and if they don’t even have Dylan DeMelo on the ice for me to cheer for anyway then I’ll graciously reap as I have sown. Colorado (or Vegas) will grind the winner of this series into dust either way so just look at it as free hockey.
Credit where it’s due as Montreal effectively shut down the Jets’ primary weapons in Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers at five-on-five in this one. Winnipeg naturally had to compensate not only for the abcence of DeMelo but also Mark Scheifele after his boneheaded hit after the whistle in game one rendered a suspension. The Jets’ MVP Connor Hellebuyck played about as well as you can expect, allowing just one goal to a shorthanded Tyler Toffoli. Carey Price, while not overly taxed, earned himself a 30-save shutout coming through when needed. When I said look at this series as free hockey, I didn’t say anything about entertaining hockey, okay. It should only stand to reason that the division that provided all the goals and no defence during the regular season should culminate in this series that promises at least two more games of excruciatingly boring match-ups like we saw on Friday. Stats here.
We saw the Knights twist the plot in this one using home ice to get the match-ups they wanted as they outshot the mighty Avalanche 43-20 to keep the series interesting. Philipp Grubauer played exceptionally to keep this game within reach for Colorado right up until the waning minutes. Both teams kept it pretty tight in the first period as Grubauer and company successfully killed off a couple of Knights powerplays. That being said, by the end of the frame, the Knights had built up a head of steam they would carry over into the second.
William Karlsson scored first early in the second frame on a nice patient play, getting the puck from the blade of his skate to the blade of his stick in tight to tuck the puck in behind Grubauer who, again, played admirably throughout the night. Carl Soderberg answered right back for the Avs as a largely untested Marc-Andre Fleury coughed up a nice juicy rebound on a clapper from P.E. Bellemare that Soderberg pounced on. While the Knights continued to carry the play though the second and into the third, the Avs took the lead early in the final period with Mikko Rantanen beating Fleury on the powerplay. Despite dominating the shots, Vegas looked like they were headed towards an 0-3 hole in the series until Jonathan Marchessault made a 1000 IQ play banking one in off Grubauer’s back from below the goal-line as the Avs netminder had wandered away from his post. Shortly thereafter, Max Pacioretty managed to sneak in behind the Colorado defence to deflect a Nick Holden point shot past Grubauer before he could even get set on the play. Vegas held on to the lead and they now have a chance to even up the series on home ice. Stats here.