Vegas puts on a show in series clincher

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The Colorado Avalanche absolutely dominated the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1, cruising to a 7-1 victory. Even among those who thought Colorado would win this series, few thought it would be this series. And it wasn’t.

While no one would question that star power and depth that the Avalanche feature, Vegas is just as talented a team and the Golden Knights showed that they were capable of playing at their level in Game 2. They lost that contest, but took the Avalanche to overtime. From there Vegas completely turned the tide, winning the final four games of the series, including a 6-3 victory in Game 6 last night.

A big part of Vegas’ comeback was Marc-Andre Fleury. He was given Game 1 off, but played in each of the five final contests and allowed just 11 goals over that span. Against an Avalanche team that was headlined by Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen that’s quite the accomplishment.

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Speaking of the big three, MacKinnon went from scoring eight goals in Colorado’s first five playoff games, to no goals in their final five. Landeskog had four goals and 11 points in the first five games and then no goals and two assists in the last five contests. Only Rantanen managed to stay fairly effective, with three goals and four points in the Avalanche’s last five games.

Forcing those three players to perform like mere mortals was a big part of Vegas’ comeback. Even still, the Avalanche didn’t fully collapse. They only lost Game 3 by a single goal, and they took Game 5 to overtime. Even in Game 6, the Avalanche scored the first goal and later tied the game at 2-2 and 3-3 before ultimately falling to Vegas.

All the same, this is a tough pill for the Avalanche to swallow. They’ve had such a great team in recent years, but they’ve still fallen in the second round in three straight seasons. The core remains young, but there will be some reflection now about if there is some extra ingredient that the Avalanche need to take the next step and if so, how they get there.

Complicating matters is the fact that Gabriel Landeskog and Philipp Grubauer are set to become unrestricted free agents while Cale Makar can become a restricted free agent. While it’s entirely feasible for the Avalanche to retain all three, especially Makar given that he’s only an RFA, all three of them will command significant raises, which will in turn make it hard for the Avalanche to maintain the level of depth they’ve enjoyed in recent years. So putting forth a team in 2021-22 that’s as good as this season’s version will be a challenge, let alone one that’s even better.

It will be interesting to see how the Avalanche deal with that, but in the meantime the Vegas Golden Knights will face the Montreal Canadiens in the semifinals.

VEGAS 6 COLORADO 3 (Golden Knights win series 4-2)

As noted above, the Avalanche got on the board first. Devon Toews scored just 23 seconds into the contest. It was his first goal and sixth point in 10 playoff games.

Andre Burakovsky and Mikko Rantanen accounted for the Avalanche’s other two markers. Like Toews, Burakovsky was also scoring his first goal of the 2021 playoffs.

Philipp Grubauer stopped 17 of 22 Golden Knights shots. He allowed two goals on just six shots in the second period, which got in the way of the Avalanche’s comeback attempts.

Alex Pietrangelo scored the game-winning goal and registered an assist. He has a goal and eight points in 13 playoff contests.

Max Pacioretty also had a goal and an assist for Vegas. He’s up to four goals and eight points in seven postseason games.

Vegas’ other four goals were scored by William Carrier, Keegan Kolesar, William Karlsson, and Nick Holden. Of them, Karlsson has done the best in the 2021 playoffs with four goals and 11 points in 13 games.

Marc-Andre Fleury saved 30 of 33 shots last night. He has an 8-4 record, 1.91 GAA, and .923 save percentage in 12 postseason starts.