A day after being named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, Philipp Grubauer demonstrated why he is one of the top goaltenders in the league as he backstopped his team to an overtime victory.
The German netminder made a postseason career-high 39 saves, including stopping all 15 shots he saw in the third period, to help the Colorado Avalanche to a 3-2 OT win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday at Ball Arena. The Avs now have a 2-0 series lead in the Round 2 matchup.
"He was unbelievable," Brandon Saad said of his keeper. "It is something, we aren't going to get to that point of the game if he wasn't in net, so he did a great job back there… We are not at this point, wouldn't have the season we had without him. We all know how important he is. He gives us all confidence up front, that is pretty much all you can say. He deserves it, he is a great goaltender and obviously you can see that on display tonight."
With less than four minutes remaining in regulation, the Avs found themselves down a man, needing to kill off a penalty. Colorado held Vegas to two shots on net in the 5-on-4 situation, and Grubauer was steadfast in stopping the pucks that made their way to him.
Early in the overtime frame, the Avalanche had a turn with the extra skater and Mikko Rantanen sealed the win on the power play just 2:07 into OT.
Video: Philipp Grubauer after 39-save effort in Game 2
"It was just an overall tough game, but we found a way to win it and that's what we need," said Grubauer. "Obviously, a huge kill at the end there in the third period and then power play stepped up and won us the game."
Grubauer is now 6-0 this postseason, the longest win streak to start a playoff year in franchise history. It sets a new mark for the longest postseason win streak at any point in Avalanche history, besting Patrick Roy's record of five in a row that he set on three occasions. Grubauer also ties the franchise mark of six straight playoff wins by Quebec's Mario Gosselin in 1987.
Going back to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Grubauer has now won his last 10 playoff decisions, joining elite company. He is just the 10th goaltender in NHL history to do so, spanning multiple postseasons or otherwise.
"I thought his performance was exceptional. I mean, we played a good first period, I liked our first period, we were skating, drawing penalties, winning a lot of races, winning a lot of puck battles, and in the final 40 minutes we didn't do that," said head coach Jared Bednar. "I thought we started to come a few times in the third period, but we gave up the home run play against a few times… Guys still had the belief in the locker room, we got a little better in the third and came out in overtime and were ready to play. We draw another penalty and power play was really good tonight, it gets us two big goals. Just seemed to me like we didn't execute very well, and the puck was bouncing around a lot tonight and we needed Grubi in a big way tonight and he showed up for us."
Video: VGK@COL, Gm2: Grubauer denies Tuch with glove save
Grubauer's 39 saves are the most by an Avalanche goalie in a playoff game since Andrew Hammond had 44 in Game 5 of the first round against the Nashville Predators on April 20, 2018.
"I doesn't matter if I face 40, 50 or just 10 shots, the approach is always the same," said Grubauer. "I never change anything. Obviously, those games are a little bit tougher if you get less shots, and you get a little bit into the groove if you get a little bit more. Was really good today, got a little bit more than usual, but I won't complain."
In the locker room postgame, Grubauer was chosen by his teammates to receive the squad's player of the game award, a chain with the Avalanche logo attached that is given out after every contest.
"It is something where we didn't have our best night in front of him," said Saad. "But he made some huge key saves for us, made some momentum swings, so he deserved it."
AVS TAKE 2-0 LEAD TO VEGAS
With the win, Colorado takes a 2-0 lead in Round 2 as the best-of-seven series shifts to Las Vegas for Games 3-4 on Friday and Sunday.
"It's huge. It is a difference if you lead the series 2-0 or if you go into Vegas 1-1," said Grubauer. "We knew they were going to come out with their best game, their backs are against the wall a little bit. We found a way to win and pull that one off for sure."
Colorado is 6-0 so far in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the eighth team in the last 30 years to begin a postseason with six or more straight wins. Only two teams over that span extended their streak to seven contests: Pittsburgh Penguins (2008) and New York Rangers (1994).
The Avs earned their 11th straight win overall dating back to the regular season (since May 7). They have also won 13 straight games at Ball Arena and are 20-0-1 in their last 21 contests on home ice.
SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLE
In addition to the successful penalty kill in the closing minutes of regulation, Colorado ended the game with a power-play marker, finishing 2-for-3 on the penalty kill and 2-for-6 with the man advantage in the outing.
It was the third straight game that the Avalanche had multiple power-play goals and the fourth of the postseason. The Avs are 10-for-23 (43.5 percent) with the man advantage in the playoffs, tops in the league.
"I thought that penalty kill we kept them to the outside, they had a couple looks off the flanks, I guess that's the best you can hope for against a strong power play like they have. Again, Grubi was good in goal," said Bednar of the penalty kill in the third period. "When we got it on our tape, we got it down. The goal they had in the first period we had a failed clear and then we didn't protect the seam and they scored on that. Our guys learned from that, did a nice job on the seam a couple times on that late one in the third, so that was a huge kill… Penalty kill steps up at the end of the third and our power play steps up in overtime, so huge performance from our special teams tonight to help us get the win."
SAAD'S STREAK AT FIVE
Brandon Saad opened the game's scoring when he took a pass from Samuel Girard in the neutral zone and sort of fanned on a shot that beat Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury five-hole at 3:39 of the first period. It wasn't the prettiest of goals, but it counted all the same.
It was the fifth straight contest that Saad has found the back of the net in, setting a new personal best for the longest goal streak in either the playoffs or regular season in his career. His previous mark was four in a row that he set in the postseason from May 26-June 1, 2014, with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Video: VGK@COL, Gm2: Saad beats Fleury five-hole on a rush
"I think [Girard] made a great pass up the middle where their D kind of got pinching and I had some space," Saad said of the tally. "Just found a way to the net, so it was a great heads-up play by G."
Saad's five-game streak is tied for the third-longest in franchise playoff history. His run matches Michel Goulet's with the Quebec Nordiques in 1984-85 and trails only Claude Lemieux (seven, 1996-97) and Joe Sakic (seven, 1995-96).
"He's a guy that's performed in big moments his whole career and seems to get better as the season goes on," said Bednar of Saad. "Right out of the COVID break [in the middle of April], he was an impact player for us. He's finding a way to get on the scoresheet every night, late in the season and in the playoffs, and scoring big goals for us. He had some jump early in the game. It looked like he lost his legs a little bit as the game went on, but I he was skating and jumping into holes in the neutral zone and creating some chances off the rush. Again, I thought tonight he was real strong on the walls and made sure pucks got out, which we needed to relieve some pressure, especially in the second and third period."
Video: Brandon Saad after the Avs' OT win in Game 2 vs. VGK
MORE POSTGAME NOTES
Colorado is now 41-31 all-time in playoff overtime, including a 31-22 record since moving to Denver.
Samuel Girard (two assists), Devon Toews (one assist), Cale Makar (one assist) and Ryan Graves (one assist) combined for five points tonight. The Avs have 23 points (three goals, 20 assists) from the blue line in the playoffs, the most of any team.
Girard registered his first multi-point game of the playoffs and the fourth of his career. He has registered a point in three straight contests.
Mikko Rantanen scored the game-winning goal in overtime to extend his playoff point streak to 16 games going back to last year. He has collected 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) over that stretch, including 10 points (three goals, seven assists) so far in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Rantanen's goal was his second game-winner of the playoffs and fourth of his career. It was also his second career overtime-winner in the playoffs (also: Game 4 of Round 1 vs. Calgary, April 17, 2019).
Cale Makar, who recorded the assist on Rantanen's game-winning tally, has points in three straight games and six points (one goal, five assists) over that stretch. His eight points (two goals, six assists) in the playoffs lead all Avalanche defensemen and ranks second among NHL blueliners (Victor Hedman, 10 points).
Colorado (Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon & Mikko Rantanen) is the first team with at least three players with 10-plus points through six games in a playoff year since Ottawa in 2006 (Martin Havlat, Dany Heatley & Jason Spezza).