The Colorado Avalanche will need to win in Las Vegas if the club wants to advance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Colorado played as solid of a Game 5 as it could for nearly 60 minutes on Tuesday night against the Vegas Golden Knights, but the difference came in about 10 combined seconds that involved Avs turnovers and led to goals against, according to head coach Jared Bednar.
Vegas used those giveaways to win 3-2 in overtime and take a 3-2 series lead heading to T-Mobile Arena with a chance to close out the second round in Game 6 on Thursday.
"I loved the way we played tonight, I loved it. I thought we were the aggressors, we were on our toes, we were playing to win the hockey game, we played to our identity. The three goals they got--even in the third period I had no problems with it--except for the turnovers," said Bednar postgame. "I don't think we had a lot of turnovers tonight, but we had three and they all, that I know, led to their goals against. They were all turnovers."
The Avalanche had a 2-0 lead heading into the third period and was controlling the pace for the most part while holding a 21-14 edge in shots on goal. However, two costly turnovers in the first 4:07 of the final regulation stanza ended up in Colorado's net and brought the contest back to even.
The Golden Knights took advantage of a giveaway again 50 seconds into overtime when Mark Stone tallied on a rush up the ice after the Avs weren't able to corral the puck following a block in the slot.
"I think just a couple bad plays. I mean that is all that it takes against a good team like Vegas," said forward Logan O'Connor. "We carried the play for the most part and had a couple slip ups that obviously led to their goals. We just got to turn the page at this point. Good teams find a way, and we got to go into a hostile environment there and worry about the first [win]."
Colorado outshot Vegas 30-25 and finished with a 64-46 edge in total attempts in 60-plus minutes, though the Knights blocked 26 of those shots.
"We were forechecking hard, we were skating, coming up with pucks in the neutral zone and turning it quick on them and didn't really let them get set up in our zone," said Gabriel Landeskog. "We were quick to contact and quick to stop their cycling game, and we were able to turn it and go the other way. Lots of positives to take out from tonight."
Video: Gabriel Landeskog after the Game 5 overtime loss
The Avalanche now faces elimination for the first time in these playoffs and will have to do it in a place where it has yet to win in this postseason. Colorado won't have the benefit of a favorable crowd behind it or the last line changes to control matchups, but the team is confident it can continue to play the way it did on Tuesday.
"That's the way we got to play, that's how we're effective and we're just going to have to replicate that," Landeskog said. "Obviously it's a tough building, but this is the playoffs and now we lost one at home and we got to go on the road and win one."
Bednar said the message to his players stays the same as they travel to enemy territory in the middle of the Mojave desert.
"Go do it again and eliminate a couple of those plays. I told them that is exactly how you have to play in order to win against Vegas, and you got to do it again," Bednar said. "We'll look again to see if we can find something else to help our guys, but to me, I liked our attack mentality. I thought we defended hard. We did a lot of good things, a lot of good things, and we just got to be smarter with the puck in a couple areas. Again, that's what ended up costing us tonight."
The Avs have done well with their back against the wall, so to speak, in recent history as they've won elimination games in each of the previous three playoffs, including two in a row last year against the Dallas Stars to force a Game 7.
They'll have to do it again for a fourth-straight campaign, but as O'Connor said, that's what good teams do.
HAPPY AND SAAD
Brandon Saad opened the game's scoring with a marker just prior to the first intermission, his seventh goal in nine playoff outings this year. Saad is tied for third in the league in goals, and it is his second-most tallies in a single postseason and one behind his career best of eight that he produced during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Chicago Blackhawks (23 games played).
With time running out in the opening frame, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native's shot from the left wing fooled Marc-Andre Fleury as it went over the right shoulder as the Vegas goaltender attempted to reached across his body to make a glove save with 1.8 seconds left in the period.
Video: VGK@COL, Gm5: Saad scores in final seconds of 1st
Saad has scored a goal in each of his last four games at Ball Arena, with only Claude Lemieux (six games, 1997), Nathan MacKinnon (five games, 2020) and Joe Sakic (five games, 1996) having longer playoff goal streaks in franchise history where the squad was considered the home team.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion was also playing in his 90th career playoff game, the most on the Avalanche roster.
LIVING IN THE OC
Logan O'Connor returned to game action after missing more than two months with a lower-body injury.
O'Connor made his debut in the 2021 playoffs on a line with Tyson Jost and Andre Burakovsky and in 13:18 of ice time he had a career-high seven hits and three shots, including one on a breakaway attempt in the third period.
Video: O'Connor after returning to the lineup in Game 5
O'Connor had missed the final 21 games of the regular season and the first eight of the playoffs after getting hurt on March 31 against the Arizona Coyotes and needing surgery. He rejoined the club ahead of schedule after making significant progress with his rehab.
"I mean this guy's a worker, he's had to earn everything he's gotten as a professional hockey player," Bednar said of O'Connor after morning skate. "One thing he's never going to cheat you on is his commitment and his work and he's done an amazing job getting himself ready, as has our medical staff to get him ready to play, so he is an option for us."
It was his sixth career game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after skating in five last year for the Avs in the Edmonton bubble, all in the second-round series against the Dallas Stars.
During the regular season, the Calgary, Alberta, native produced three goals and two assists in 22 contests.
LINES IN A BLENDER
The Avs changed all four of their forward line combinations for the first time in the series, and the new mix seemed to create more favorable matchups for the club. The team was able to find more open ice in the offensive zone and created additional scoring chances.
"I loved our lines tonight," Bednar said. "I thought they were great. Getting back to the way we have to play to have success. I thought it was a really good hockey game by our team besides a couple plays that ended up in the back of our net."
Colorado broke up its usual top line, with Brandon Saad joining Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen while Gabriel Landeskog started on a trio with J.T. Compher and Valeri Nichushkin. Tyson Jost centered the team's third line with Andre Burakovsky and Logan O'Connor, and Alex Newhook reentered the lineup on the fourth combo with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Joonas Donskoi after being scratched for two games.
Donskoi tallied Colorado's second marker of the outing, with Newhook contributing the primary assist.
Video: VGK@COL, Gm5: Donskoi blasts Newhook's pass home
MORE POSTGAME NOTES
The Avalanche is now 41-32 all-time in playoff overtime, including a 31-23 record since moving to Denver. Colorado is 1-1 in OT in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The loss snapped a streak of 13 straight wins at Ball Arena for the Avs, with the team last losing on home ice on March 27 versus Vegas, also in overtime.
Joonas Donskoi notched his first goal of the series and third of the postseason. Alex Newhook registered his first career postseason assist.
Patrik Nemeth recorded his second career playoff point and first since the 2018 postseason with the Avs, an assist in Game 3 of the first round versus Nashville on April 16.