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Avalanche overwhelm Predators to clinch sweep

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Published in Hockey
Monday, 09 May 2022 23:49

Before the Colorado Avalanche entered the postseason, Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter infamously predicted that a first-round series against them would be "a waste of eight days."

He was wrong. It only took seven days for the Avalanche to sweep the Nashville Predators.

Colorado ended their first-round Western Conference series with a 5-3 road win on Monday night, as the top-seeded team in the conference eliminated the final wild-card team. The Avalanche won with a backup goalie in Pavel Francouz, filling in as starter Darcy Kuemper heals up from taking a stick to the eye in Game 3.

They also won with their signature brand of overwhelming offense, which enabled them to rally in the third period.

"It was a lot of emotion," center Nathan MacKinnon said on SportsCenter. "Down 3-2 in the third, the boys battle back. It wasn't our best night. The first three games were a lot better. But we found a way. It starts with Cale Makar. He might be the best player in the league right now."

Makar, who was nominated for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman, continued his playoff mastery with a goal and two assists in the win, giving him 10 points in the postseason -- the most in NHL history by a defenseman through four games in a postseason.

The Predators didn't leave without a fight. Yakov Trenin scored twice to erase Colorado leads. In the third period, Filip Forsberg gave the Predators a 3-2 lead just 3:58 into the third period.

"This was our toughest game for sure," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "Made a few mistakes that they capitalized on."

But the Avalanche, as they had done all series, eventually overwhelmed them. Devon Toews scored his third goal of the playoffs to tie the game at 8:55. Just 3:06 later, Makar artfully set up Valeri Nichushkin for a one-timer that gave Colorado the lead. MacKinnon's fifth goal of the postseason, into an empty net, clinched it.

"We were resilient," said Makar, who added in his postgame news conference that Predators fans threw candy at him from the stands near the end of Game 4. "It was just in the last minute of the game there. I'm not too sure. They were throwing stuff over the glass before. Not a fun way for your team to end a season like that. But a couple of Skittles hit me."

The Avalanche will play the winner of the series between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues, which is tied 2-2 with Game 5 scheduled for Tuesday night in Minnesota. The Avalanche have lost in the second round of the playoffs in three straight postseasons.

"Four really good efforts [against Nashville]," MacKinnon said. "Really excited about the sweep. Get a little rest here and get ready for Round 2."

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