The Avalanche flipped the script on Arizona goaltender Darcy Kuemper on Monday.
Colorado, which couldn’t win on a 51-shot attack on Saturday, chased the starter en route to a 7-1 victory over the Coyotes in Game 4 at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
The Avs now leads the series 3-1 with a chance to close it out and advance to the second round on Wednesday.
“We didn’t change anything honestly,” Avs superstar center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We got a few bounces and we know we’re one of the best goal-scoring teams in the league this year. We’re such a deep team that it was eventually going to go in. We wanted to come out flying. We felt that in Game 2 and 3 they had the better first five minutes and that set the tone. We outplayed them, they didn’t have a shot on net until halfway through the first. Obviously the power play had to step up. We’ve been pretty good but obviously could’ve been a bit better. We got the job done today. That starts with our 5-on-5 play, though.”
Kuemper was eventually pulled after allowing four goals on 22 shots in a 4-1 game. His replacement, Antti Raanta, allowed three goals in the final frame. Colorado’s starter Philipp Grubauer made 14 saves as the Avs outshot the Coyotes 30-15.
The Avs started strong, mimicking the performance they had to begin Game 1 last Wednesday. While the team stressed the importance of making it more difficult for Kuemper to see the puck, they still stuck to the plan of continuing to pepper the opposition with shots and control the puck in the offensive zone. Arizona did not have a shot until 10:27 into the game and was already trailing 1-0.
Fourth line winger Matt Nieto scored the opening goal after the puck deflected off his skate and into the back of the net. Center Nazem Kadri tallied the next two on the power play. The 29-year-old now has four playoff goals in seven games since the NHL restart — one more than his entire 19-game playoff career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“What we were missing was a really sound centerman in our lineup to go along with a guy that could drive a line,” MacKinnon said of his teammate. “That’s Naz to a ‘T.’ He’s a great player for us, great on faceoffs. He brings some swagger to our team too. He’s a fun guy to be around, he’s very confident and a great teammate. Every facet of the game helps our team. He’s having a great playoffs so far and we wouldn’t be here without him.”
Kadri has recorded zero penalty minutes after developing a reputation in the past two playoff seasons which saw him get suspended in the first round each time.
“I just try to play as hard as I can,” he said. “I’m more important on the ice than I am in the penalty box. Just trying to show a little more maturity and worry about the scoresheet.”
The Avalanche’s power play was 3-for-7. Kadri drew the penalty that led to his second power-play goal. Colorado’s special teams have been dominant throughout the series. Not only has it scored four goals on 16 opportunities with the man advantage, but it’s surrendered just one goal on 13 tries — which came in the second period of this game.
Leading by three goals entering the third, Colorado’s prized rookie defenseman Cale Makar scored a breakaway goal on a spectacular individual effort to blow the game wide open. The fifth Avalanche goal was enough to put an end to any hopes the Coyotes had of making a late-game comeback.
“That goal kind of takes the wind out of their sails,” Bednar said. “Doesn’t give them an opportunity to scratch and claw back into the game. It was a timely goal but that’s what good players do.”
MacKinnon was involved in a tussle in the third period that resulted in offsetting roughing minor penalties. After Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse hit Makar, his teammates came to his aid. And even though Makar admitted he put himself in a dangerous position, the result of the gathering in front of the bench led to MacKinnon, who was crosschecked by Arizona’s Christian Fischer, wrestling his opponent to the floor.
MacKinnon’s roughing minor was his 10th penalty minute in seven playoff games after having just 12 throughout the regular season.
“I love his fire and passion he’s played with the whole series,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of the Hart Trophy finalist. “It’s a check from behind on Cale. Our guys took offense to it. Nate and Fischer get paired up and it’s just two guys playing with intensity and passion and they get wrestled up. I love seeing our guys stick up for one another at the right time.”
Colorado’s Matt Calvert, who added the sixth goal in the third period added: “I think Fischer crosschecked the wrong guy in the face. You saw what Nate did to him. He absolutely manhandled him. He probably could’ve thrown ten punches and knocked him out. Not the right guy to do it to but I’m glad he didn’t throw the punches.”