DENVER -- It was easy to focus on Nathan MacKinnon's two-goal performance for the Colorado Avalanche in a 5-3 win against the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round on Monday.
It was a strong game not just for MacKinnon, but for the first line of him, Gabriel Landeskog (goal, two assists) and Mikko Rantanen (two assists). It's been that way all season, but in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it can't be about just one line. And the rest of the Avalanche are responding to that.
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"We got some secondary scoring this series, so that's going to be huge moving forward," forward Blake Comeau said. "We can't just rely on that line to score. We have to make sure we have some secondary scoring and follow their lead."
The Avalanche's great start in Game 3 came courtesy of secondary scoring. Comeau scored 1:50 into the game, and right wing Gabriel Bourque scored at 13:24 to give the Avalanche a two-goal lead for the first time the series. They'll need that to continue when they play the Predators here in Game 4 on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, ALT, FS-TN).
Nashville leads the best-of-7 series 2-1.
Video: NSH@COL, Gm3: Comeau buries Soderberg's great feed
In three games, the Avalanche have gotten 13 points from their first line. Landeskog (two goals, three assists) and MacKinnon (three goals, two assists) each has five points, and Rantanen has three, all assists. The rest of the Avalanche have combined for 18 points (six goals, 12 assists); Comeau and Bourque each has two goals.
"The [J.T.] Compher, Bourque and [Colin] Wilson line has scored in back-to-back games while playing a heavy style and being a committed defensive line," coach Jared Bednar said. "The [Carl] Soderberg line continues to chip in. The first goal last night, it's heavy minutes starting in the D zone against their top six forwards, and then our big line got better last night and had a huge impact. Up to this point, it's been pretty good, especially 5-on-5."
The Avalanche's third line of Tyson Jost, Alexander Kerfoot and Sven Andrighetto didn't score in Game 3 but had good opportunities. As Bednar said, matchups can make a difference and it's easier to get the ones you want when you're home. In Games 1 and 2 in Nashville, the Kerfoot line faced the Predators' first line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. In Game 3 at Pepsi Center, Kerfoot's line was usually on the ice against Nashville's second line of Kevin Fiala, Kyle Turris and Craig Smith.
"Our young guys have been good, they've stepped up," Bednar said of Jost, 20, Kerfoot, 23, and Andrighetto, 25. "But there are certainly some scenarios that work out better in our favor. As our kids continue and learn, I'd like to put them in positions to succeed instead of just defending against [the Predators'] top line all night, because that can be a tall task."
Secondary scoring is always welcomed, but Kerfoot said it's more about the timing of the goal than who's scoring it.
Video: NSH@COL, Gm3: Bourque tips Nemeth's shot past Rinne
"Blake getting that goal at the beginning was huge, then Bourque scoring right after that is enormous for us. It gets the whole team going," said Kerfoot, a rookie who scored his first NHL playoff goal in Game 2. "We just want to find ways to produce every game, but you can't really put a number on it. It's just scoring at the right time and in the right situation."
Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen are leading the offense now much as they did in the regular season. That's what top players do. But any production the Avalanche get throughout the rest of the lineup is going to be key if they're going to have a chance to win the series against the Predators.
"I still don't think it's going to change other teams' approach to defending us. They're still going to key in on the top line," Kerfoot said. "But we want to be dangerous up and down the lineup. We want to show that we have depth and other teams have to be able to respect that and focus on the one line."
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