Game 7, for all the marbles, win or go home.
Sadly for Avalanche fans, in San Jose, the Sharks overpowered Colorado early and withstood a barrage from the Avs late in the game to win 3-2 and move onto the Western Conference Finals.
With an added emotional boost from getting their captain and leader, Joe Pavelski, back into the lineup, the Sharks came out flying to start the first period. Pavelski proved to be an issue for the Avalanche early, netting a goal off a tipped shot from Brent Burns. Later, Pavelski added an assist.
Also key in that high-flying first period was Nathan MacKinnon leaving the game early with an apparent upper-body injury. Luckily for Colorado, the star was able to come back into the game and immediately made an impact with his speed, giving Colorado the emotional boost they needed.
With 6.8 seconds left in the first period, Mikko Rantanen netted Colorado’s first goal of the game off a tip from Sam Girard.
However, the Avalanche came out with vengeance to start the second frame. Colin Wilson buried a goal assisted by MacKinnon, but it was later overturned because Gabriel Landeskog was deemed offsides.
The call was pivotal in the game because the puck was intercepted by MacKinnon just outside the Sharks’ zone, and as Landeskog left the ice inside the blue line the puck bounced back into the zone before Wilson scored. Then, it was reviewed by NHL headquarters in Toronto and the score was wiped off the board.
San Jose capitalized on the overturn and Joonas Donskoi made the Avalanche pay as he scored on Philipp Grubauer, sending the teams into the last intermission with the Sharks leading 3-1.
Colorado made sure to give it everything they had in the final frame, with Tyson Jost adding a goal and the Avs fighting until the final whistle, ultimately losing 3-2.
What did we learn from the season-ending game?
1. The Pavelski effect is legitimate. The Sharks captain brought so much more to this game than his two points. He was an emotional leader for San Jose and gave them an immediate boost to start the game. He played a huge role for his team throughout and put the Avalanche on their heels early.
2. The power play continued to be an issue. Colorado went 0-for-3 on the power play in Game 7. Not only did the Avalanche not put the puck in the net while on the advantage, but San Jose gained some very valuable momentum from their penalty kills. This should have been a definitive advantage for the Avs heading into the playoffs and it wasn’t.
3. Zone exits continued to be an issue. On one of the biggest momentum goals of the game, Nakita Zadorov threw an errant pass to the neutral zone, turning the puck over and leading to a goal for San Jose. This exact thing was an issue all season, especially when Colorado goes through the long change in the second period.
4. The resiliency of this Avalanche team is unbelievable. Nathan MacKinnon went down with an injury, but the Avs battled back. They crawled their way back into the game multiple times, giving San Jose all they could handle, especially in the third period. After looking like the season was over in early February, Colorado fought their way into the playoffs and were two goals away from making the Western Conference Finals.
5. This is only the beginning for this Avalanche team. While this loss is a disappointment to Avalanche fans everywhere, the future is bright for this team. Sam Girard and Cale Makar are only 20 years old. MacKinnon is a mere 23. They have Shane Bowers in the pipeline and the fourth overall pick in the upcoming 2019 NHL Draft. The window is just opening for this Colorado team and Avalanche fans have so much to look forward to.