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Postgame Wrap-Up: Cale Makar's Historic Debut

Rookie defenseman scored and entered the NHL during the Avs' playoff run

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

Not many players have done what Cale Makar accomplished in his NHL debut.

Three days after winning the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player and one day after inking his first NHL contract, Makar scored his first goal--in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, nonetheless.

The marker proved to also be the game-winner as the Colorado Avalanche picked up a 6-2 victory against the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on Tuesday. The Avs took a 2-1 lead in the clubs' first-round series with the win.

"Obviously it's a cool moment," Makar said of his first contest. "You've been working your whole life for this point, but obviously you're not done yet."

He became the first player in franchise history to record a goal while making his NHL debut in the postseason and only the seventh player in league history to accomplish such a feat. Lauri Korpikoski was the last player to do it in Game 4 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals with the New York Rangers.

Video: Makar on scoring in his NHL debut in the playoffs

Overall, Makar is the 138th player in league history to skate his first-ever game during the NHL's postseason and the fourth in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history to do such. Joey Hishon was the last player to do it when he took the ice in Game 4 of the Avs' first-round series at the Minnesota Wild on April 24, 2014.

"It's very physical out there. I would say that's probably the biggest difference, but you're kind of gearing up in playoffs the whole time, ramping up the pace," Makar said. "It's nothing that I haven't seen before in terms of pace, but it was very physical."

The defenseman's goal with 3:58 remaining in the first period extended Colorado's lead to 3-0. He took a pass from Nathan MacKinnon, drove down the slot and then sent a wrist shot that beat Calgary goalie Mike Smith between the pads. It was the first shot of his career.

"He didn't just get it and shoot it or try and panic and give it back to me," MacKinnon said. "He stopped it on his backhand, dropped his shoulder, I think he probably looked around to see if anybody was backdoor, then just snapped it five-hole. And I hear him too, he's calling for it in his first game ever. He's yelling 'three, three, three,' at me. That's great, you want a player to be aggressive and assertive, and I was really impressed by that."

Video: CGY@COL, Gm3: Makar scores in NHL debut

Selected at No. 4 overall in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Avalanche, Makar has spent the past two seasons playing NCAA hockey at the University of Massachusetts, he also won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championship during that time as well.

After recording 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) as a freshman in 2017-18 and earning Hockey East Conference Third-Team All-Star and All-Rookie Team honors, Makar broke out in his sophomore campaign this year.

The Calgary, Alberta, native registered 16 goals, 33 assists and 49 points in the latest college season, ranking first amid NCAA defensemen and third overall among all skaters in scoring. He was a unanimous selection as Hockey East's Player of the Year and was named a first-team All-American before winning the Hobey Baker Award. Makar became the first underclassman to pick up the hardware since Boston University freshman Jack Eichel in 2015.

Makar won the award on Friday afternoon, played in the NCAA national championship game on Saturday, inked his deal on Sunday and skated into the NHL record books on Monday.

FIERY FIRST: The Avalanche came out in Game 3 firing on all cylinders and sent all the pucks toward Flames goaltender Mike Smith in the first 20 minutes.

Colorado had 21 shots in the first period to tie a franchise playoff record for shots in a single frame. The Avs also had 21 shots in the second period of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against Dallas on May 21, 2000.

"I liked our start again," said head coach Jared Bednar. "Physically, emotionally involved right away, skating, had good pace to our game, good execution."

The Avalanche buried three shots in the stanza, and Nathan MacKinnon had a hand in each of them. MacKinnon tallied the first two markers on the power play and then had the primary assist on Makar's goal.

"We had a lot of good looks and again tonight we probably could have had a couple more," MacKinnon said of the team's man advantage. "We got them, we needed to, we got up 2-0 and we kind of ran away from there."

Video: MacKinnon after the win in Game 3 versus the Flames

MacKinnon tied the franchise record for points in a period with three, last achieved by Peter Forsberg in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Quarterfinals (April 17, 2004 vs. Dallas).

It was also the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, native's second career multi-goal playoff game (also: April 16 vs. Nashville, Game 3) and matched a postseason career high for goals in an outing (two). He has four points during the 2019 postseason, with his three goals ranking tied for second in the league.


SHORT AND VERY SWEET: Matt Nieto scored his first-career, playoff short-handed goal on Saturday to jumpstart the Avs' attack in Game 2 in Calgary, and he added a second on Monday to keep the club's offensive output going.

The Long Beach, California, native buried a rebound puck that was originally shot by Ian Cole for his second shorty in as many games and extended Colorado's lead to 4-1 at 7:51 of the second period.

Video: CGY@COL, Gm3: Nieto buries rebound for SHG

He is the second player in franchise history to score shorthanded in back-to-back games during the playoffs, joining the Quebec Nordiques' Andre Savard in Games 2 and 3 of the 1984 Division Semifinals versus Buffalo. He is the first skater in Avs history to score twice on the penalty kill during a series (since 1995-96).

Nieto is the 17th player in the NHL annals to score a short-handed goal in consecutive playoff contests and the first since Philadelphia's Max Talbot did it in Games 2 and 3 of the 2012 Conference Quarterfinals against Pittsburgh.

Nieto, who has four career short-handed tallies in the regular season after posting one in 2018-19, also added an assist in the third period to bring his all-time playoff totals to four goals and nine assists.


INJURY & ILLNESS: Samuel Girard missed his first game of the playoffs with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day, head coach Jared Bednar said on Monday morning.

Girard was injured early in overtime of Saturday's Game 2 at Calgary after he took a hit from Flames forward Sam Bennett. He was able to get to the Avs' bench on his own, but he immediately went to the locker room and did not return to action.

The defenseman also missed three games in last year's postseason with an upper-body ailment, but he has yet to be absent for a regular-season contest with Colorado since being acquired from the Nashville Predators in a three-team trade (also Ottawa) on Nov. 5, 2017, skating in 150 consecutive games.

Forward Derick Brassard was out of the Avs' lineup for the first time this postseason as he was a bit under the weather. J.T. Compher took Brassard's center spot on a group with Matt Calvert and Matt Nieto.

Sven Andrighetto slotted into game action for the first time during the playoff season and was on a line with Tyson Jost and Gabriel Bourque.

Video: Jared Bednar after the 6-2 win in Game 3


MORE POSTGAME NOTES: Colorado's six goals is its most in a playoff game since scoring eight on May 4, 2002 vs. San Jose (Conference Semifinals) and tied for the most in the NHL in the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far. The Avs scored three times in the first period, their most goals in a playoff period since April 16, 2018 vs. Nashville (first period).

The Avalanche's 56 shots are its most in a playoff game since June 10, 1996 at Florida (also 56: Stanley Cup Final, Game 4) and one shy of a franchise record for shots in a playoff game. The Avs are the first team to record 56-plus shots on goal in regulation time of a playoff game since the Florida Panthers on May 24, 1996 vs. Pittsburgh. 

The Avalanche scored two power-play goals in a playoff game for the first time since May 1, 2008 vs. Detroit (Western Conference Semifinals).

Erik Johnson (goal and assist) notched his first career postseason multi-point game, matching his career total for playoff points.

Ian Cole (two assists) registered the second multi-point postseason game of his career (also: April 14, 2017 vs. Columbus). His +3 plus/minus rating is a career high for the postseason.

Mikko Rantanen recorded his first career playoff goal and second multi-point outing of the series. His six shots is a career high for the playoffs.

Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie also recorded six shots each, postseason career highs for both players.

Alexander Kerfoot registered his first career playoff assist.

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