The Colorado Avalanche was relentless with its game plan in its Round 1 series opener against the Arizona Coyotes and skated to a 3-0 victory to take Game 1 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.
Meeting a stingy, defensive team like the Coyotes in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Avs opened the best-of-seven series by being persistent in the offensive zone and limiting Arizona's chances on the other side of the ice.
Despite holding a 28-7 advantage in shots on goal through the first two periods, the score remained knotted at 0-0 before Nazem Kadri broke the tie 13:05 into the third frame.
"It is nothing that we didn't expect to be coming our way, to be honest with you, coming into this series. Arizona is a real tight-checking team, they are always above pucks, they make you work for every inch of ice that you can get," said Colorado head coach Jared Bednar. "It's not easy to get to the net on them and when you do make enough plays and do enough good things to get a good scoring chance ,you run into [goaltender Darcy] Kuemper. That is what we expected. We just wanted to make sure that we were doing enough to make it difficult on Kuemper, that we are getting to the front of the net, making good decisions with the puck and not trying to force things, and I thought our guys did a nice job of it.
"You don't want to give up things on the defensive side of it to press, and I thought our guys stayed disciplined with that. We did a nice job defensively and if they are going to do a good job defensively, so do we, and hopefully we just earn enough chances to get a couple by them and that's what our guys did tonight. Overall, really happy with what we did. We weren't a real dangerous team tonight, but we were able to capitalize on a couple of the chances that we did get."
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar after the Game 1 win
The Avalanche dictated the pace of play for the majority of the contest and ended the outing with 69 shot attempts. Kadri's power-play marker was the start of a 1:23 span that saw Colorado score three times.
J.T. Compher tallied his second goal of the 2020 playoffs 10 seconds after Kadri, and the two combined for the second-fastest two tallies in franchise postseason history. Adam Foote and Adam Deadmarsh hold the record after scoring seven seconds apart in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the Detroit Red Wings on May 23, 1996.
Mikko Rantanen extended the lead to 3-0 shortly after on a rush with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. The three goals in a 1:23 span marks the third-fastest three tallies in the playoffs in franchise history. The other two instances were in Game 4 of the 2001 Conference Quarterfinals (38 seconds) and Game 4 of the 2001 Conference Finals (1:18).
Video: ARI@COL, Gm1: Avalanche erupt for three goals in 3rd
"It is just a momentum builder, I think. We have seen games in the playoffs before--a team dominates and the opposition still be in the game and able to scrape out wins. It was just a matter of time," said Kadri. "Their goaltender played great and gave their team an opportunity to win, but that being said, we just stayed relentless, stayed on the puck and we knew it was going to come sooner or later."
In addition to creating offensive chances, the Avs limited Arizona to 14 shots on net in the outing, once again finding success by trusting in their preparation for the matchup.
"We extensively looked at their team and what they do and what we think can give us success. The majority of it is just sticking with it. They want to play the 0-0, or the 1-0 or the 2-1 game, which is fine, they have had success that way," veteran defenseman Erik Johnson said of his team's game plan against the Coyotes. "They have the ability to put the puck in the net but they are also really good defensively, so I think for us we knew that some of these games would be like that. Low scoring and wait it out and it might take until the last five minutes like you saw tonight… against a team like that you just try to wear them down.
"Our forecheck is really good, really strong. Make their defense make mistakes by hounding them and playing hard and playing fast like our forwards did tonight. I think if we just play with our team pace and our team speed, that is our strength, hopefully that can push us on."
Video: Philipp Grubauer, Erik Johnson and Mikko Rantanen
Although he only faced 14 shots, goaltender Philipp Grubauer stopped all of the rubber that made its way to him in the victory. It was his second postseason shutout after he also posted a clean slate last year in Game 4 of the Round 2 series against the San Jose Sharks on May 2, 2019.
"Those games aren't easy, but the guys did a really good job in front of me to keep those pucks to the outside and let me see every single shot," said Grubauer. "I would rather take those games where you have like 10 shots against than 50 shots against, for sure."
It was also Grubauer's ninth postseason win with Colorado. He moved into sole possession of second place on the Avalanche's all-time playoff wins list behind Patrick Roy (81). Including the club's time in Quebec, Grubauer's nine wins are fourth in franchise annals behind Roy, Mario Gosselin (16) and Dan Bouchard (12).
Grubauer owns a 9-5-1 record with a 2.32 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 15 postseason games with Colorado.
GAME 2 ON FRIDAY
The best-of-seven series continues on Friday in the first half of a back-to-back. It is Colorado's first back-to-back set in the playoffs since Games 3-4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on April 14-15, 2008 versus the Minnesota Wild.
"We are expecting it to be tight checking all the way through, again they are well coached, they are disciplined, they have a great identity and they know what it is, and it was a very close hockey game," Bednar said postgame. "Our message is going to be take a look at that game, we know how hard it was. We are going to expect it to get harder, and we are going to have to keep finding ways to penetrate the interior of the ice and create scoring chances. We are going to have to be equally as good as we were tonight or better on the defensive side of things [as the series continues].
"I would like to say yeah, you stick with it long enough that you are going to be able to erupt and put three goals in every night, but I don't believe that to be the case. I think it's just the way tonight worked out. We were able to execute on a few of those plays to secure the win. It's one, and we need three more."
The Avalanche/Nordiques franchise is 18-10 all-time in playoff series when winning the first game and has a 15-5 record since moving to Denver.
MORE AVALANCHE NOTES
Both Grubauer and Pavel Francouz have now registered a shutout in the 2020 postseason, the first time in franchise history in which multiple Avalanche/Nordiques goaltenders have recorded at least one shutout in a playoff year.
Nazem Kadri, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen have tallied a point in each of Colorado's first four postseason contests, the first Avalanche players to start a playoff season with a point streak of at least four games since 2003-04 when Peter Forsberg (7 games), Joe Sakic (6 games) and Rob Blake (4 games) did it.
Kadri's goal stood as the game-winner and is his second of the postseason, tied (five players) for the most in the league. He also finished with seven shots on goal, a new postseason career high that surpasses his previous best of six (two times - Aug. 2, 2020 vs. St. Louis and April 15, 2017 at Washington).
Erik Johnson finished with a postseason career-high eight shots, the most shots by an Avalanche defenseman in a playoff game since Rob Blake had nine on May 11, 2006 vs. Anaheim.
The Avalanche finished 1-for-2 on the power play and has scored a man-advantage goal in all four games of its 2020 postseason. It is the first time since 2000 that Colorado has tallied a power-play goal in each of its first four games of a playoff year.
Video: Avs surge past Coyotes in Game 1 with three-goal 3rd