After two great battles, both the Colorado Avalanche and the Edmonton Oilers have finally made it to the Western Conference Finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both teams have had their metal tested in the second round. Making come from behind victories, hanging on in overtime to pull out a critical win and even relying on lesser known players to come up big when they needed it the most have all played a crucial role in forging both clubs into what we saw tonight. While the press has made this about Connor McDavid vs. Nathan MacKinnon, this series will be so much more.
This series marks the first return to the Conference Finals the Avalanche have had since 2002, and the first for Edmonton since 2006. While this is the first return to the Conference Finals for both teams in quite a while, Colorado hasn’t been to the finals or won a cup since 2001, while the Oilers haven’t won the cup since 1990. The Avalanche are the only NHL team
As the series opened in Denver, one concern is that the Avalanche have lost the last two home games, one of which was in overtime.
With just under 15 minutes left in the first, the Avalanche gave up the first goal to Kane of Edmonton to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead. Kane has scored in all 3 series. But it was too soon for Edmonton to celebrate, as 36 seconds later J.T. Compher makes use of his hot stick and sinks one in the net to tie the game 1-1.
As play continued in the first period, it was becoming clear that both teams were playing extremely fast and could score quickly. With 4:50 left in the first period, the top lines were facing off post commercial break. After a long pass deep into neutral territory, Nathan MacKinnon was able to take control of the puck between two defenders and slip one underneath the leg pads of Edmonton’s goalie Mike Smith to take the lead 2-1.
With 22 seconds left in the first period, Oilers Zach Hyman was able to get a second goal past Kuemper to tie it up 2-2. 9 seconds later, Colorado Defenseman Cale Makar took advantage of an offensive opportunity and sunk a goal past Smith to give the Avalanche a 3-2 lead. However, there was some controversy about whether an Avalanche player was offside when the Avs had possession in the offensive zone. After a thorough review, it was determined there was no offsides and the Avalanche went to the tunnel up 3-2.
As the 2nd period started, the Avalanche were on an immediate power play due to the failed challenge of Edmonton. Just 32 seconds into the 2nd period, Colorado took full advantage and Mr. Nazem Kadri himself was able to get his 6th goal this post season, extending the Avalanche lead 4-2.
As if this game wasn’t fast paced enough, the Oilers were able to answer back just 2:30 later on a goal from McLeod, cutting the deficit to 4-3.
Colorado was not having any of it. Just 1:30 after the McLeod goal, Miko Rantanen was able to get one to ricochet off the stick of Smith and into the net. Colorado was back up by 2 goals, leading 5-3. With just 5 minutes into the 2nd period, there had been 5 goals scored. This averages to one goal per minute in the 2nd period alone!
With 13:40 left in the 2nd period, J.T. Compher was able to torch his second goal of the night off an assist from Cale Makar, putting the Avalanche up 6-3.
At that point, Edmonton was desperate to change the momentum and give the Avalanche a different look. The decision was made to pull Mike Smith from the net and replace him with Mikko Koskinen. Due to an equipment issue, Colorado was also forced to remove Darcy Kuemper. Fortunately for Colorado, Pavel Francouz had some recent ice time in the first series when Kuemper was forced to sit due to an injury from being hit in the eye with a stick.
With 3:40 left in the 2nd period, Andrew Cogliano ends the 10 minutes without a goal, and puts one behind Koskinen for his 2nd of the post season, increasing the Avalanche lead 7-3.
Unfortunately for Colorado, it was announced after their 7th goal that starting goalie Darcy Kuemper was out with an upper body injury and his return was doubtful. Immediately following that announcement, McDavid was able to cut back into Colorado’s lead on an assist from Leon Draisaitl, the score being 7-4.
With such a big lead, Colorado could not let up due to the immediate scoring ability that Edmonton possessed. Derek Ryan showed them why by getting one past Francouz to make it a 7-5 game to kick off the scoring in the 3rd period.
With just under 9 minutes left, and down by two goals, the Oilers went on the power play after a holding call on Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. This couldn’t come soon enough as Edmonton was doing their best to fight their way back into this game.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was able to take full advantage of the power play, thanks to an assist from McDavid and Draisaitl, and sent one over the glove of Francouz to make this a one goal game. Score was 7-6 Colorado.
With 2 minutes left in regulation, Edmonton pulled Koskinen to gain a one man advantage and try to tie this game up 7-7.
With just 21 seconds left on the clock, captain Gabriel Landeskog was able to steal a pass in the neutral zone and sink it into the empty net, giving Colorado an 8-6 lead. This game was full of suspense and goals. The Avalanche outshot the Oilers 47-37 on the night, and this game is tied 2nd all-time in most goals scored in a conference final game with a total of 14.
As part of the dominant performance, the Avalanche had 6 players on the roster with multiple points in the game, while Edmonton had 4 players with multiple points. After this thrilling game, it is clear that this series is going to be one to watch and will keep you on the edge of your seat. Game 2 will be Thursday night on TNT at 8PM EST. where the Avalanche will try to go back-to-back at home and Edmonton will try to head home with the series tied 1-1.