1. Second-line success
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar kept his third line together … but made them his second line, and kept his second line together … but made them his third line. Get all that? Elevated to a bigger role were center Tyson Jost and wingers Brandon Saad and Valeri Nichushkin and moving down a peg were center J.T. Compher and wingers Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi. It paid first-period dividends. Saad made it 1-0 only 3:39 into the game when his fanned shot went through the five-hole of Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Nichushkin drew a penalty later in the first and on the Avs’ third power play opportunity, Jost scored on a one-timer from the high slot. Bednar was looking for more balanced scoring and he got it.
2. Power-play hiccups
The Avalanche power play entered Game 2 clicking at an NHL-high 47.1% in the playoffs. Obviously, no team — except maybe the high-flying Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s — can sustain that pace, but the Avs squandered a chance to blow the game open in the first period. The Avs scored on even strength to make it 1-0, but then went 1 of 4 on the power play the rest of the period as the Knights were called for holding (twice), slashing and delay of game. Credit the Knights with a between-games adjustment, something St. Louis tinkered with in Round 1. The Knights pushed one of their forwards into the Avs zone to prevent the drop pass to center Nathan MacKinnon. That forced somebody else, usually defenseman Cale Makar, to find an alternative zone entry. In overtime, though, the power play came through on Mikko Rantanen’s goal for the 3-2 win.
3. Grubauer stands out
The Avalanche’s “A” game disappeared in the second period and returned for only a few surges of the third period. Goalie Philipp Grubauer needed to stand tall and he did. He stopped 15 of 16 shots in the second period, the only goal scored by the Knights’ Reilly Smith on a defensive mix-up/break-down. To begin the third, Vegas controlled the play, recording the first seven shots on goal and hitting the post twice. After an Avs power play, Grubauer kept it a 2-2 game when out-of-the-penalty-box Knights winger Alex Tuch was stopped on a breakaway. In the final three minutes, Grubauer stopped four shots on a Vegas power play to force overtime (16 saves in the third period).
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