DENVER — After coughing up a 2-0 lead at home in the third period, Colorado avalanche are on the verge of elimination.
Vegas captain Mark Stone scored 10 seconds into overtime from Game 5 on Tuesday, and the Golden Knights took a 3-2 win to take a 3-2 series lead. The Golden Knights can close the series on Thursday with a Game 6 win at home.
Historically, the winner of Game 5 wins 78.8% of the time when a best-of-seven series equals two games apiece.
“We don’t have much time to do much except bounce back,” Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “We have to go to Vegas to play hockey, it’s that simple.”
It was an inconsistent run for Avs, who won the Presidents’ Trophy, with coach Jared Bednar calling out the team’s commitment after Game 3.
“We were cooking in Game 1, we got off to a great start in Game 2 and then it got tough,” said Bednar. “Vegas started playing their game. It’s not the regular season. It’s not the” [St. Louis] Blues, for that matter. It’s Vegas. Our game had to be ramped up to a point where you have to win against Vegas. We weren’t there.”
Bednar was much happier with the team’s performance in Game 4, despite a 5-1 defeat. And on Tuesday, Bednar was once again satisfied with his team’s efforts.
“I’d say I loved the way we played. I loved it,” said Bednar. “We are the aggressors, we were on our guard, we played to win the hockey game, we played to our identity. Even in the third period I had no problem with it. Except for the turnover. I didn’t think we had a lot of turnover tonight , but we had three that I know led to goals against.”
Trailing 2-0 entering the third, the Golden Knights got on the board when Alex Tuch scored 1:03 in the period, taking advantage of a Andre Burakovsky revenue. Jonathan Marchessault scored just three minutes later, taking advantage of a foul pass by Avs in their own attack zone.
Vegas has been a tough place to play for visiting teams, especially now that the Knights have welcomed their full capacity of over 18,000 fans. The Avs split the regular season series in Vegas, but lost Games 3 and 4 of this series for a full house.
Bednar’s message to his team en route to the hostile environment: “Do it again and eliminate some of those plays.”
“I told them this is exactly how to play to win against Vegas,” Bednar said. “And you have to do it again.”
As of Tuesday, the Avalanche hadn’t lost a home game since March 27, a 13-game winning streak that spanned the regular season and the playoffs.
Bednar made some significant changes to his lineup in Game 5. Following his top line from Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen offensively she dried up – they scored six goals together in the first two games of the series, then only one in the next two – the coach mixed things up.
Brandon Saad replaced Landeskog on the top line and the new combination immediately paid off, with Saad scoring with 0.8 seconds remaining in the first period to give the Avs a 1-0 lead. At 5-to-5, the new topline had a 3-1 lead in high-risk opportunities and 66 expected goals for percentage.
“I don’t care if it’s at home or on the road, and I don’t know if our boys do either,” Bednar said. “There’s no reason we can’t get the job done in Vegas.”