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Avs Pumped as Series Shifts to Denver

Round 1 series between Colorado and Calgary is tied at 1-1

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Silencing the "C of Red" was fun, but the Colorado Avalanche is more excited to have the crowd on their side for the next two games.

"I'm pumped to come home," said Avs goaltender Philipp Grubauer on Sunday afternoon after the club arrived back in Denver following its two-game split in Calgary.

Grubauer made 35 saves and Nathan MacKinnon scored the game-winner in overtime to give Colorado the 3-2 victory against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. The best-of-seven series is tied at 1-1 with Game 3 set for Monday night at Pepsi Center.

The Avs had a strong performance in the second contest of the set, outshooting the Flames 39-37 and recording 23 more total shot attempts (84-61). However, Colorado still had to stage a rally late in the third period to force OT, where MacKinnon went on to score his second career extra-stanza tally in the postseason to quiet the Scotiabank Saddledome crowd.

"I think we had a really good game and the atmosphere was really good," Grubauer said. "We're looking forward to the one at home."

Video: Philipp Grubauer on returning to Denver

The Avalanche's approach going into the Round 1 matchup against the Western Conference's top team was to pick up wins in each of the first two games at the base of the Canadian Rockies, but it will gladly take the one victory and head back south to its home ice. The Flames won 4-0 on Thursday, as the Avs had quality scoring chances but couldn't get any pucks past netminder Mike Smith.

"We just wanted to get one in Calgary, get a split," said MacKinnon. "We feel really confident. I feel like we could have won both games, not saying we should be up 2-0 or anything, but we're feeling really good as a group. Two games at home, and we're in a good spot. I think any team that doesn't have home-ice advantage just wants to get a split."

The last time Colorado was at Pepsi Center was April 4 when the team rallied from a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 in overtime versus the Winnipeg Jets and clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Avalanche ended the regular season on a season-high, six-game winning streak at its friendly confines.

Video: Nathan MacKinnon talks with the Denver media

Head coach Jared Bednar noted that his team needs to keep playing the way it did in Game 2 and down the homestretch of the 2018-19 campaign when it went on an 8-0-2 run in order to not fall behind again in the series.

"Calgary is a really good team, and they're going to come out extremely hungry in our building. We know that. That should give us some confidence given the way we played in their building," Bednar said. "I think there was obviously a little bit of a feeling out period in Game 1. I didn't think our spirit was as good as it needed to be, but definitely Game 2 we brought it from the drop of the puck."

Grubauer noted how the crowd was electric in the Avs playoff-clinching win against the Jets more than a week ago, and the same can also be said about the club's playoff runs in 2018 and 2013. Colorado aims to capture that energy and use it to its advantage against Calgary.

"The fans are amazing, get the [pom-poms] going or whatever," MacKinnon said of the Avalanche faithful. "It's a great atmosphere to play in. We've been playing really well and Grubi has been great, and we're excited to keep going."

GIRARD UPDATE

Samuel Girard left Saturday's game early in overtime and didn't return after taking what appeared to be a high hit from Calgary forward Sam Bennett, but he could be back in action for Game 3 on Monday.

"He's getting further evaluation," Bednar said on Sunday. "He is a possibility for us tomorrow. We'll know more later today, see how he feels. He's feeling pretty good actually."

Girard, 20, recorded career highs this season in goals (four-tied), assists (23) and points (27), ranking second among team D-men in scoring. He has appeared in all 150 regular-season games with the Avalanche after being acquired from the Nashville Predators on Nov. 5, 2017, but he did miss three contests in last year's postseason with an upper-body injury.

Video: Jared Bednar after arriving back in Denver
 

MAKAR'S DEBUT COMING SOON?

The Avalanche signed prospect Cale Makar on Sunday morning to a three-year, entry-level contract and the defenseman will join the club during its postseason run.

Makar ranked first among all NCAA blueliners in scoring this season after recording 49 points (16 goals and 33 assists) in 41 games with the University of Massachusetts, helping the school to the national championship game on Saturday night. On Friday, he was named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award, which is given to college hockey's top player.

"I think he's a dynamic player," Bednar said of 20-year-old on Sunday. "Obviously an elite skater. Physically involved in every game that I've watched. Dynamic in the way that he can help you produce offense. He has a great shot, great blueline movement. He's active in the offensive zone. Some of the things that made us a good team in Calgary yesterday. I think he can just add to that."

Makar is set to join Colorado on Monday and could possibly play in Game 3 of the series, though Bednar has yet to tip his hand, saying only it's a "possibility."

"It is definitely a big step up from the college game, especially when you're jumping in mid-series in a heated playoff round against such a good opponent that Calgary is," he said. "It's my job to make sure we're putting him in a position to succeed, and I think he's an elite talent and real special player. I have hopes that he can come in and help us in this series.

"I just want to make sure he's in, rested, prepared and focused on what we're doing here now, and we'll make a decision on when we get him going."

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