Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen was free on the right side of the ice before rifling in the game winning shot up off goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s left shoulder pad to give the Colorado Avalanche a 2-0 series lead over the Vegas Golden Knights with a 3-2 victory.
A controversial slashing penalty was called against the Knights in the first minute of OT leaving the team underhanded, and Colorado didn’t take long to capitalize.
Vegas finds themselves down 2-0 in the second round and will get a day off to recoup before returning home for games three and four. Game three is Friday, June 4. Puck drop is 7:00 p.m.
“Just a soft call,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer told ESPN. “I can’t even blame the refs. Because they’re fighting the embellishment of grabbing your face, or falling down, or dropping your stick every period. I can’t even blame the referee on it. They fooled them on it.”
The penalty isn’t a common one in postseason play, but nonetheless, Colorado’s goaltender Philip Grubauer frustrated the Knights like he has all season.
Grubauer had 39 saves on 41 shot attempts.
On the other end of the ice, Fleury stopped 22-of-25 shots in his first start of the series after Robin Lehner started game one.
It was a display of brilliant goaltending as both team’s goalies bent backward to keep their squads in the game.
The first shot to hit the back of the net went to Colorado’s Brandon Saad. He beat Vegas down the ice and softly laid the puck right between Fleury’s legs. It appeared Fleury was expecting a fast shot up high.
After Saad’s goal, defensemen Alec Martinez would answer on a Vegas power play.
Knight’s winger Max Pacioretty lined a risky pass eastward to the cutting Martinez, who lined a shot past Grubauer to tie the game at 1-1.
Late in the first period, Colorado would once more answer the call with a goal from Tyson Jost on the power play.
Halfway through the second period, a broken play found winger Reilly Smith found himself alone on a pass from center Jonathan Marchessault.
Smith faked both ways and Grubauer was one step behind which allowed Smith to tie the game at 2-2.
That would be the last time Grubauer lost the puck.
With a little help of the post, Marchessault had a shot rejected off the iron which would have put Vegas up 3-2.
The post would back Grubauer twice more stopping three Vegas shots in total during the third period alone.
Even without the post, Grubauer would turn shots away from multiple Knights including Pacioretty more than once in the final two periods.
Following a scoreless third thanks to the brilliance of Grubauer and Fleury, OT was born, and was the slashing penalty.
Rantanen scored shortly after and Colorado’s fans went wild.
Despite the loss, the Knights played much cleaner hockey, but more importantly, the energy level was much higher.
“If we keep playing the way we did tonight, we all have confidence in our team that we can come back in the series,” Fleury told ESPN.
Will Vegas bounce back at The Fortress in game three?