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Round 1

Avalanche determined to extend playoff series against Predators

Resolute Colorado unwavering in belief it can climb out of 3-1 hole

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

DENVER -- It's possible the Colorado Avalanche have played their final home game this season, trailing 3-1 against the Nashville Predators in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round.

"I'm not going to talk about that," Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon said through gritted teeth Wednesday when the idea was put to him. "It's not over."

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Avalanche series coverage]

 

There was no air of resignation in the Colorado dressing room following Nashville's 3-2 victory at Pepsi Center in Game 4 that left the Predators needing one win to reach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Game 5 is at Bridgestone Arena on Friday (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, FS-TN, ALT, SN360, TVAS).

The Avalanche made a game out of it Wednesday, when for 40 minutes it seemed there was no game at all, the Predators having surged to a 3-0 lead by 11:49 of the second period and almost in cruise control.

Video: Predators hold off Avs' late rally to take Game 4

But then Colorado rose off the mat and scored twice in the third period. Forward Gabriel Landeskog made it 3-1 at 5:20 on a 5-on-3 power play, then center Alexander Kerfoot scored at even strength at 11:01, bringing Pepsi Center to raucous life for what would be a thrilling yet ultimately disappointing finish.

Now the Avalanche hope they can bring that kind of energy again Friday and force Game 6 back here Sunday. They know that will be no easy task, given the fact they have lost 13 of their past 14 games against Nashville, including the regular season and playoffs, dating to April 5, 2016.

"I guess we're due for a win there," MacKinnon said of Bridgestone Arena, where the Avalanche lost Games 1 and 2. "Hopefully we can win Game 5 and come back to the Pepsi Center. We know [the Predators] are not going to want to come back here. They'll want to close it out."

Nashville had turned the tables on Colorado after Game 3, when the Avalanche ran up a three-goal lead on the way to a 5-3 victory. On Wednesday, the Avalanche were being outshot 8-0 before managing their first shot on goal, and were on their heels almost from the start, forced to kill a 5-on-3 Predators power play, which they did successfully, before the game was 1 ½ minutes old.

"They get a 5-on-3 off the bat and we kind of get on the wrong side of things," Landeskog said. "It felt like the whole first period they were basically in our zone. It started with a 5-on-3 and it just kind of fed their momentum and they kept pushing. It wasn't the start we wanted. They get a couple of odd-man rushes that they capitalize on, a couple turnovers. 

"[MacKinnon] hits the post or the crossbar [when] it's 2-0. That would have been a great chance with half the game left, [to have] had a little more time than with a 3-0 deficit to try to come back in the third period. Obviously the third is a great period for us, but it was too little, too late."

The Avalanche made the push in front of goaltender Andrew Hammond, who made eight saves after Jonathan Bernier left after two periods because of a lower-body injury. Prior to traveling to Nashville on Thursday, the Avalanche announced Hammond would start Game 5.

The late Colorado surge, Landeskog said, "goes to show what kind of character guys have in this dressing room. I'd like to see it a little earlier, that desperation and the hunger on the forecheck and things like that."

Video: NSH@COL, Gm4: Landeskog finishes great play with PPG

That missing hunger also dissatisfied Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, who said he loved his team's third period but found the 40 minutes before it to be lacking in intensity.

"We need to find that urgency earlier," Bednar said. "We were going back for pucks, pushing them up in a hurry. … I don't think the 3 vs. 5 in the first two minutes helped us. It kind of gave them a little rhythm, a little confidence, then they came after us. Everything for me in the first two periods was a little too slow, a little too deliberate. … We've got to pick up the tempo and have more of an attack mentality that we had in the third period."

Colorado defenseman Mark Barberio played 24:43, had four shots on goal, four hits and equaled his NHL career-high with five blocked shots.

"Starting the game going down 5-on-3 isn't the ideal situation for us," said Barberio, who played a team-high 3:23 on the penalty kill. "It keeps some of your better players on the bench and it takes them longer to get into the game. That started us on our heels a bit and they took momentum from their power plays and by hemming us in a lot. But I thought we weathered that storm pretty good and we were in this game right to the end."

For Bednar, this series isn't about needing to win three games to move on.

"Our goal is to go there and win [Game 5]," he said. "It's simple. You go to Nashville, play the game we played in the third tonight, the game we played the other night early [in Game 3] and stay with it for 60 minutes or more, whatever it takes."

The Avalanche indeed will return home after Game 5 in Nashville. Whether they'll have another game on their schedule, or two, remains to be seen.

***

 

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