Last year the Avalanche ended a 21-year Stanley Cup championship drought. On Sunday, they’ll look to put an end to 21 years without winning a Game 7.

Following Friday’s 4-1 Game 6 victory at Climate Pledge Arena, Colorado, in what was far and away its best and most complete performance in its first-round series against the Seattle Kraken, staved off elimination to force a winner-take-all battle at Ball Arena.

In the Nathan MacKinnon era, the Avs are 0-3 in Game 7 — falling by just a single goal in each game. Two of those matchups ended in overtime. The last time Colorado won Game 7 was the second round of the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs. Here’s how they’ve since faired, in reverse-chronological order.

2020 second round: Avalanche lose 5-4 (OT) to Dallas Stars

In what was a disastrous series on the injury front, the Avs, backstopped by third-string goalie Michael Hutchinson, clawed back from a 3-1 deficit to the eventual Stanley Cup finalists to force a Game 7. Missing top defenseman Cale Makar, fellow blueliners Erik Johnson and Conor Timmins, and several forwards — including captain Gabriel Landeskog, the Avs seemingly had all the odds stacked against them.

And they still felt like they let one slip away.

“We choked it,” MacKinnon said following his second straight year of suffering a Game 7 defeat.

In an empty Rogers Arena in the Edmonton COVID bubble, the Avs led the Stars by a goal at each of the first two intermissions. And after Dallas clawed back midway through the third to make it 3-3, forward Vladislav Namestnikov scored for Colorado with just 3:40 remaining to give the Avs their third lead of the game. Dallas quickly answered back 70 seconds later thanks to Joel Kiviranta’s second of the game. And at 7:24 of overtime, Kiviranta completed the hat trick to eliminate the Avalanche in their first year with Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky as staples of the top-6.

“We felt like we were outplaying them in overtime and it was coming,” MacKinnon said. “But boys got hemmed in, we got gassed and they made a nice play. Two straight years Game 7 losses, one-goal games, it’s tough. We got to find a way to break through. There are no moral victories here, we came here to win and we didn’t.”

2019 second round: Avalanche lose 3-2 to San Jose Sharks

The Avs of 2017-18 and 2018-19 were building toward something special. And this series elevated them to that level. After sneaking into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, the 38-win Avalanche defeated the No. 1 Calgary Flames in just five games. Makar made his debut in Game 3 of that series and was a perfect fit coming out of College. Colorado, the heavy underdogs against San Jose, forced Game 7 thanks to an overtime game-winner from captain Gabriel Landeskog in Game 6. It was a momentous triumph for a franchise that suffered its worst season just two years prior.

In the deciding game, the Avs found themselves in an early 2-0 deficit. They clawed back to make it 2-1 thanks to a goal from Mikko Rantanen with seven seconds remaining in the opening period. They thought they had tied it at 7:49 of the second period but a controversial offside review wiped the goal away.

Forward Colin Wilson received a pass in the slot from MacKinnon and wired it home, but behind the play, Landeskog was late to get off the ice and was just a smidge offside. At least that’s what the referees determined after looking at the pixelated replay.

“I was just as surprised as anybody,” Landeskog told reporters later that night. “I came off, and all of a sudden two seconds later we score. I didn’t think anything of it, to be honest with you. And then we were wondering why they weren’t dropping the puck.”

What could’ve been 2-2 ended up being a 3-1 deficit for Colorado. The eventual game-winner, which came almost five minutes after the overturned goal was scored by Joonas Donskoi, who went on to sign with the Avs on the first day of free agency less than two months later.

Down 3-1 entering the third, the Avs got a big goal from forward Tyson Jost just 51 seconds in but were unable to find the game-tying goal despite a late push.

2014 first round: Avalanche lose 5-4 (OT) to Minnesota Wild

The first playoff series for MacKinnon and Landeskog was preceded by a magical season that all came to a crashing halt in Round 1. Despite winning the Central Division, the Avs were unable to get past the wildcard Wild, who handed first-year coach Patrick Roy a Game 7 overtime loss with Colorado. Keep that note in mind for later, because the Wild have done this before.

MacKinnon had three goals and 10 points in seven games at just 18 years old but it wasn’t enough. The Avs led 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3. Not only did Minnesota feel like it was down and out, but their starter and future Avalanche champion Darcy Kuemper left the game late in the third period with an injury. Trailing by a goal, and with a struggling Ilya Bryzgalov re-entering the series in goal, Minnesota still managed to tie the game at 4-4 with less than three minutes remaining in regulation.

The overtime winner then came from Nino Neiderreiter.

2003 first round: Avalanche lose 3-2 (OT) to Minnesota Wild

Minnesota has won just four series in its history and two of them are against the Avs. Not only did the Wild defeat Roy in his first year as an NHL head coach — the only playoff series he’s coached — but they also ended his hall-of-fame career as a goalie 11 years prior. Roy and the Avs blew a 3-1 series lead to the recent expansion team to put an end to a stretch where Colorado appeared in the Western Conference Final six times in seven years. And they didn’t find their way back again until last year’s Stanley Cup championship run.

This series marked the end of the first golden era of Avalanche hockey.

2002 third round: Avalanche lose 7-0 to Detroit Red Wings

Should we even discuss this one? No?

This might sting a little bit, but I promise I’ll keep it to one sentence:

In a star-studded series between two of the most talented teams in NHL history, the Avalanche failed to score a goal against hall-of-famer Dominik Hasek in both Games 6 and 7, the latter of which saw the Avs get embarrassed by their rivals, the Detroit Red Wings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup after ending Colorado’s attempt to repeat as Cup champs despite the Avs fighting tooth and nail in two previous Game 7s to even get this far, and it was the final true battle between one of the more storied rivalries in NHL history because we’re just going to pretend 2008 didn’t happen and Johan Franzen doesn’t still haunt this franchise.


Those two previous series — specifically the second-round matchup against the also talented Sharks was the last time Colorado was victorious in Game 7. San Jose was led by veterans Owen Nolan and Teemu Selanne and had an injection of youth with Evgeni Nabokov between the pipes and Patrick Marleau at center. And who could forget the exceptional performance of defenseman Scott Hannan, who shadowed Colorado’s Peter Forsberg for seven games in an attempt to shut down the leading point producer in the playoffs?

What a series it was.

It was a generation ago when Roy was still between the pipes and future general manager turned president Joe Sakic was still centering the top line. But things have since changed, the new-aged Avs are defending champs and they’re looking to extend their Stanley Cup championship defense for another series.

Last year the Avs erased 21 years of disappointment to win their first Stanley Cup since 2001. This year, they’ll look to erase 21 years of failing to win the most exciting albeit nerve-racking game in hockey. Just like in 2002, Colorado finds itself in a Game 7 in Round 1 coming off a Stanley Cup championship. Just like in 2002, the Avs used their experience to get them this far into a series where they seemed to lose their offensive flare for several games. And just like in 2002, winning at home is a must.

Anything less would be a failure for the stars in the dressing room hungry for another chance to reach hockey’s pinnacle.