After a thrilling game two between the Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights that ended in an overtime goal by Mikko Rantanen Wednesday night, the 2021 NHL playoff second round series made its way to Las Vegas for game three.
The game was played in front of a full-capacity T-Mobile Center, adding even more electricity to the series. Knights forward Ryan Reaves and Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri were both ruled out with suspensions. Alternately, Colorado Head Coach Jared Bednar made a couple of lineup changes before the game by taking out rookies Alex Newhook and Sampo Ranta and replacing them with Kiefer Sherwood and Carl Soderberg.
Right off the bat, it felt like Vegas was on a mission. The Knights were forechecking and putting constant pressure on the Avs. In the first couple of minutes, the goaltenders at each end took shots at opposing forwards with their sticks—showing how tense and physical the series had become. The Avalanche somehow got out of the period tied at 0-0, despite minor penalties to Gabriel Landeskog and Patrik Nemeth and being outshot 15-3.
The scoring opened in the second period when Vegas’ Alex Pietrangelo fired a shot from the point and William Karlsson buried a Philipp Grubauer rebound. But just a minute later, Colorado got the equalizer from the 4th line—with Carl Soderberg scoring off of a juicy rebound from a Pierre-Edoaurd Bellemare snapshot. The period ended after the Knights killed off a delay of game penalty called on Shea Theodore.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) June 5, 2021
With the game tied heading into the final period of regulation, it was a shock that the Avs were still in the game. They were either going to steal a game in Vegas—or Phillipp Grubauer’s near-perfect night was going to be spoiled. And Colorado caught a break when Nicolas Roy was called for hooking, putting the Avs on the power play. With Colorado’s first PP unit out, players fought for control along the boards in the Knights zone—until the puck trickled out to an open Mikko Rantanen, who blasted the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury, giving the Avs a 2-1 lead.
WHAT. A. BLAST. Mikko Rantanen, sheesh! 🤯 #StanleyCup
NHL x @massmutual
— NHL (@NHL) June 5, 2021
But the game was far from over. The Avs tried to keep the puck deep in Vegas’ end, but the Knights were mounting desperate pressure. With six minutes left in the game, Jonathan Marchessault tied the game by banking the puck of Grubauer from behind the net. Then less than a minute later, Max Pacioretty redirected in the go-ahead goal, giving Vegas a much-needed win on home ice.
The Avs and Knights play game four this Sunday in what should be another great battle between a couple of the best teams in the NHL. It’s just a shame that the series is happening so soon in the playoffs. With Vegas handing Colorado their first loss of the playoffs, that means that the series will go at leastf five games. So, at minimum, action will return to Ball Arena Tuesday for game five.