Game Two wasn’t the prettiest game the Avs have ever played, but they somehow found a way to win the game in the final minutes. Although it takes a while, Colorado has proven to not give up shooting on Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who has been outstanding in the series. In game Three, the Avalanche had to find a way to stay ahead of the Yotes, who will unquestionably be bringing everything they’ve got to stay alive in the series. They haven’t generated much offensively, but have done a pretty good job keeping the games close until the third period.
With a couple of players listed as gametime decisions for Game Three, the Avalanche had some choices to make as far as the forward group, but they also made a change in net. Making his Stanley Cup Playoff debut was Pavel Francouz, who played well in the qualifying round. Joonas Donskoi returned to the lineup, while Vlad Namestnikov was sidelined for concussion protocol after a collision with Nathan MacKinnon in game two.
Similarly to game two, it looked like the Coyotes wanted to come out strong and try to skate with the Avs. Just three minutes into the game, the Avs were sent to the penalty kill on a Tyson Jost high-sticking minor. Colorado killed it off after allowing just one shot to the Coyotes, making them 0/7 on the powerplay in the series. A few minutes later, in the Avs zone, Nazem Kadri turned the puck over to Arizona and Clayton Keller fed Derek Stepan in the slot for the game’s first goal, beating Francouz who appeared to not have his stick. It was the first time in the series that the Coyotes have led.
Great setup, great goal. 🚨 pic.twitter.com/9BpZ20r7Fh
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) August 15, 2020
Later in the period, the Avs went to the powerplay on a Carl Soderberg goaltender interference minor. Colorado was moving the puck really well and getting great chances, but Kuemper stopped them all. The period ended with the Avs leading the Yotes 20-12 in shots, and there was a little skirmish after the horn sounded. In the middle of it all was Matt Calvert.
The first ten minutes of the second period weren’t as exciting as the last ten minutes, but there were some highlights. MacKinnon took a hooking minor. It was his second penalty of the game, which is uncharacteristic for the Avalanche. The Coyotes didn’t convert and, after two periods, each team was 0/3 on the powerplay. Just after the Avs third powerplay that was awarded following an Oliver Ekman-Larsson tripping call, Andre Burakovsky finally found the back of the net on a deflected puck past Kuemper that tied the game at one.
It took 30 shots for the Avalanche to beat Darcy Kuemper.
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 15, 2020
Another story was the play of Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson. He has been great in the NHL bubble so far making great plays but today he made two big blocks and stayed in the game.
Erik Johnson with a Superman shift.
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 15, 2020
And with just 34 seconds left in the second period, the Coyotes’ Conor Garland found Brad Richardson in the left circle who fired a wrist shot that beat Francouz, giving the Yotes a 2-1 lead going in to the third period. Arizona had just four shots that period compared to Colorado’s 16. The story continued to be the play of Coyotes goaltender Kuemper, who didn’t give up many second-chance opportunities.
The Avalanche had the Coyotes under siege in the third period, firing shot after shot at Kuemper and the Arizona defense. The Avs defenseman were very active, jumping into rushes and into deep into the offensive zone to keep pucks in. But the Coyotes were committed to holding onto their 2-1 lead. They got big shot blocks from Lawson Crouse, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Stepan, trying to keep as many pucks away from Kuemper as possible.
In the final minutes, the Avs kept the pressure up, but it wasn’t enough. With the Colorado goalie pulled, Taylor Hall scored an empty net goal to make the score 3-1. The Avs pulled the goalie again and this time scored on a Mikko Rantanen shot that got redirected. But, with under a minute left, the Coyotes’ Crouse scored their second empty-net goal of the period, icing the game at 4-2. Kuemper stopped 49 of 51 shots and helped carry Arizona to their first win of the series.
The Avalanche and Coyotes meet again on Monday at 3:30 MT on NBCSN. It’s very possible that head coach Jared Bednar goes back to goaltender Philipp Grubauer, but the story is really the Avs running into a hot goaltender. If they want to beat Kuemper, they’ll have to keep pucks low and get traffic in front of the net. Like the Columbus Blue Jackets, this Coyotes team is committed to team defense and they don’t need much of a lead to win the game. The Avs have shown they can beat Kuemper, it’s just going to have to come in a grittier way than they’re used to.