The defending Stanley Cup champions are not done yet. Despite surrendering the first goal for the sixth consecutive game in the series on Friday, the Avalanche escaped Climate Pledge Arena with a 4-1 victory and will play a winner-take-all matchup against the Kraken at 7:30 pm Sunday at Ball Arena.

Mikko Rantanen, Erik Johnson and two goals from Artturi Lehkonen were the difference for Colorado, which has a 2-1 record in Seattle but just one victory in three playoff games at Ball Arena. The winner of the seventh game will advance to Round 2 and take on the Dallas Stars. If the Avs are victorious, they’ll have home-ice advantage against the Stars.

The Avs thought they had the first goal of the game for the first time in this series, but an offside challenge from Kraken coach Dave Hakstol wiped it off the board. Defenseman Bowen Byram sniped it from beyond the circle and beat goaltender Philipp Grubauer top shelf before the challenge overturned the goal. It was a potentially game-changing play that didn’t end up making a difference.


No goal, no problem

Scoring first has already been a backbreaker for the Avs at times in this series. The constant need to play catch-up hockey had, well, caught up to them. In Game 2, Colorado erased a two-goal lead to defeat the Kraken 3-2. It then needed to rally from surrendering the first goal in Game 3 to defeat Seattle on the road. But the Avalanche’s efforts in Game 4 — where they erased another two-goal deficit — were not enough to complete the comeback in overtime. On Wednesday, Colorado again trailed by two goals but only managed to get one back.

Not only did the Avs let in the first goal again in Game 6, but the tally came just minutes after Byram’s goal was waved off. It could’ve been that extra bit of frustration to knock them off their game. But instead, Colorado started to find its game in the first period, getting a goal from Rantanen with 19 seconds remaining before dominating the second period and never looking back.

Head coach Jared Bednar shook up his line combinations. Aside from Cale Makar’s return from serving his one-game suspension, and an injury to Josh Manson, which kept him out for Game 6, Bednar also made several changes to the forward group. Most notably, superstars Nathan MacKinnon and Rantanen were reunited with Lehkonen — stacking the top line for the Avs. On the second line, J.T. Compher shifted to the right wing with Lars Eller joining the top six. Evan Rodrigues was on the other wing. Line 3 consisted of Matt Nieto, Andrew Cogliano and Logan O’Connor, while the fourth line was Ben Meyers, Alex Newhook and Denis Malgin.

Depth scoring

Sometimes it just takes one. And that one came from the long-time Avalanche blueliner. Johnson scored his first goal of the postseason after failing to score in 63 regular-season games and the first five games of this series. It was his first goal since May 23 of last year, when he tallied a goal against the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 of the second round.

Johnson’s goal was a breath of fresh air for Colorado, which finally got much-needed help from its depth players. Each of the first 14 goals came from just eight skaters — all of which are the top-six forwards or the top blueline pair of Devon Toews and Makar. Johnson was the first tally for the Avs from either of the bottom two forward lines or defensive pairs. For comparison, 14 different skaters have scored for Seattle after Vince Dunn had the opening goal. Nobody on the Kraken has scored more than two goals.

Low event third period

Leading 3-1 heading into the final 20 minutes, a boring, low-event third period was just what the doctor ordered for the Avalanche. One of the more fascinating advanced stats to track is “score effects,” which more often than not proves that a team trailing by multiple goals often controls the later stages of a game in an attempt to mount a comeback. We saw it a little bit from Colorado on Wednesday.

But a low-stress third was necessary for Colorado. Outside of opening up a multi-goal lead in Game 3, the Avs haven’t had much of a chance to lock it down and roll their lines to hold a lead. The third period was an 11-9 shot advantage for Colorado, and Avalanche netminder Alexandar Georgiev stopped each of the nine shots he faced. He finished the night with 22 saves, facing just 13 shots in the final 40 minutes of the game.