CALGARY, Alberta--The Calgary Flames won the special-teams battle on Thursday night, but it wasn't for a lack of opportunities by the Colorado Avalanche.
Colorado had four power plays in Game 1, but the team couldn't convert and is now down 1-0 in the best-of-seven first-round series. The Flames won 4-0 at the Scotiabank Saddledome after converting on 2-of-5 man-advantage chances.
"If you don't score, you're not really happy with it, so we had some good looks, but [Mike Smith] made some big saves and we've got to find a way to find the back of the net on the mitt," said defenseman Tyson Barrie on the man advantage. "We had some really good chances, so maybe it's just raising it an extra half a foot or whatever it is to make sure it goes in so we've got to bear down on that."
After the Avs weathered an early Flames power play opportunity, they got the next three extra-man chances in the first 23 minutes of play. Colorado produced several quality looks but couldn't get enough pucks to challenge Smith.
Barrie finished with seven total shot attempts in the game while Nathan MacKinnon had 12. Ultimately, Calgary did a good job of clogging up passing lanes and shielding its netminder from pucks, blocking a total of 19 in the game.
"It's a different game if we score on one, two, three of our chances early, we take the lead," said Barrie. "So disappointing because I think the chances were there for us, but it's going to be a long series so you just got to turn the page."
More than a few of Smith's 32 saves came in spectacular fashion, including flashing his glove on several of them.
"He was seeing the puck really well," said defenseman Erik Johnson. "I thought we did a decent job of getting traffic in front of him, but he made some really, really big saves for them and trust me, we went over a lot of stuff on him this morning and the last couple of days and trying to see some spots we can put the puck to score some goals. But he was lights out, he was really good. So we're going to have to be better and find a way to pot a couple goals."
Colorado entered the outing with the seventh-best power play during the regular season, scoring at 22-percent clip, while Calgary had the No. 7-ranked man advantage at home with a 23.6-percent success rate.
Matthew Tkachuk tallied the Flames' first power-play goal on a deflection with 1:02 left in the second period to make it a 2-0 game, and Mikael Backlund sealed the game with redirection with 2:59 left in the third frame. Tkachuk then added an empty-net marker 14 seconds later.
"You're going to have certain plays where you're going to take penalties and engage that way, you just have to be smart about it," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "Both teams have a dangerous power play coming out of the regular season, and you got to be careful how much time you put their stars on the ice with the man advantage."
Game 2 is Saturday night.
GRUBAUER IN GOAL: Philipp Grubauer was Colorado's starting netminder in Game 1 and made 28 saves, a postseason career high.
The goalie was one of the hottest keepers in the final weeks of the main campaign. He started nine of the Avs' final 11 games of the regular season, posting a 7-0-2 record, 1.63 goals-against average and .953 save percentage.
"He's given us a chance to win every night," Bednar said prior to the game. "He looks confident, quick in goal. He's taking care of rebounds. All of the things we talk about a lot. Just based on what he's done over the last month of the season, he earned the right to start for us."
It was Grubauer's first action in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since playing for the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Round 1 series against the Columbus Blue Jackets last season. Grubauer went on to win the Stanley Cup with the Caps.
MIKKO'S RETURN: Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen played his first game since missing eight contests with an upper-body injury.
The forward had a shot, two blocked shots and four hits in 21:36 of ice time.
"Looked a little rusty to me, with the puck, the jump that he normally has with his legs and the impact that he can make," Bednar said. "I thought as the game went on he got a little more competitive and started making things happen, even in the 4-on-4 game, it was a good, hardworking shift by him. I think he got better as the game went on, and I expect him to be real good next game."
Rantanen got hurt in Colorado's contest on March 21 at the Dallas Stars. Despite missing the final two-plus weeks of the regular season, he still finished second on the team in scoring with 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists) in 74 outings.
CHALLENGING: Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar challenged for goaltender interference on Matthew Tkachuk's redirection tally late in the second period, but he was unsuccessful.
It appeared that Tkachuk got a hold of Colorado goalie Philipp Grubauer's stick moments before scoring, but the call on the ice ultimately stood.
Even if the Avs weren't successful with the challenge, it slowed down any momentum that the Flames might have had as both teams had to wait several minutes for the final call to be made.
During the regular season, Bednar went 5-for-9 on coach's challenge.
MORE NOTES: Thursday's game was the first-ever postseason contest between the Avalanche and the Flames. The only Western Conference clubs that Colorado has yet to play a playoff series against is the Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets.
Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog led Colorado with 25:04 of ice time, the second-most time on ice for each in their postseason careers (MacKinnon, 25:18, April 18, 2018 vs. Nashville; Landeskog, 25:56, April 17, 2014 vs. Minnesota).
The Avalanche surrendered two power-play goals in a playoff game for the first time since April 22, 2010 at San Jose.