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Avalanche 'have to be better' in Game 5 against Sharks

Trying for second road win in Western series with lead up for grabs

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com Correspondent

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche are convinced they will need to play their best game yet against the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round at SAP Center on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Colorado won Game 4 3-0 at home Thursday to tie the best-of-7 series.

"We were the desperate team last night and we needed to be in order to make this a series, and now we know we're going to get the same type of effort from them as we had last night," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Friday. "They're going to be better and we have to be better as well."

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Avalanche series coverage]

 

Colorado has had little success in San Jose, where they are 3-16-5 since the 2008-09 season after splitting the first two games of this series there (a 5-2 loss in Game 1; a 4-3 win in Game 2).

"Even though we won the game there, I felt last night was our best game of the series," Bednar said. "It's going to take at least that or better to go in there and win."

Video: MacKinnon keeps his playoff point streak going in win

Colorado used a more conservative game plan Thursday, getting pucks deep and forechecking to cause the kind of turnovers it was guilty of in a 4-2, Game 3 loss.

"I don't think there were any major adjustments, I just think the discipline and the stick-to-itiveness in what we needed in our game showed up a lot more in Game 4," Bednar said. "I thought our guys were excellent in buying into the game plan and finding ways to excel. It was a stingy game, there weren't a whole lot of chances on either side. We happened to capitalize on some of ours and get a couple saves."

The Avalanche prefer to play an up-tempo style to take advantage of their fleet forwards, including Nathan MacKinnon, who is tied with linemate Mikko Rantanen for the Stanley Cup Playoff lead with 13 points. MacKinnon has six goals and seven assists in an eight-game point streak.

"I think we learned in Games 1 through 3 that we're not going to have a lot of rush attack," Colorado forward Colin Wilson said. "They're very good at reloading and having a third guy high, so we started getting the pucks in, wearing them down low.

"They're very responsible in that they always have a third forward high, so creating 3-on-2s has been difficult for us, and that's one of the attributes to our game. They've been taking that away, so last game we went to down-low play and it worked well.

"Game 3 was definitely frustrating from an offensive standpoint. They were holding us to a minimum amount of shots, but that's why we made the adjustment, that's why it's a seven-game series. We learned a lot about our opponent in those first three games."

The Sharks will try to create more traffic in front of Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer, who made 32 saves Thursday for his first Stanley Cup Playoff shutout.

"I think we should do a little bit more," San Jose center Tomas Hertl said. "We made it pretty easy on him. We had a couple of good chances. We have to front him, like we played against [the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round], always one guy fronting him. [Goalie Marc-Andre] Fleury was frustrated because he wasn't seeing the puck. Forwards have to be a little bit better, make it a little bit tougher for him."

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