The Colorado Avalanche will be chasing a sweep when they visit the Nashville Predators on Monday for Game 4 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.
The Avalanche took a 3-0 series lead after their 7-3 victory in Game 3 on Saturday. It was the second time in the series that Colorado has scored seven goals, and the Avalanche have outscored (16-6) and outshot (138-81) Nashville by lopsided margins during the series.
Despite those statistics, the Predators have been more competitive than the numbers and the 0-3 deficit would suggest. Game 2 was a narrow 2-1 overtime victory for the Avalanche, and Game 3 was tied 3-3 before Gabriel Landeskog gave Colorado the lead for good at 14:02 of the second period.
The Predators challenged Landeskog’s tally on a charge of goaltender interference, but a video review confirmed the score. Nashville was then assessed a penalty for the failed challenge, and Nazem Kadri added a power-play goal to extend Colorado’s lead.
Despite the devastating momentum swing, Predators coach John Hynes stood by the decision to request the review.
“Basically (every) goalie interference call that goes through, you review it, and in our opinion, you take all those things into account,” Hynes said. “But we felt in our review and judgment that it was goaltender interference.”
The risk was compounded by the fact that Colorado’s power play was on fire in Game 3, scoring four times on five attempts with the extra attacker. The Avalanche never scored more than three power-play goals in a single game during the regular season, while Nashville hadn’t allowed more than three power-play tallies in a game.
With the Avalanche scoring six power-play goals over the three games, the series has become a worst-case scenario for Nashville’s struggling penalty-kill unit. Between the Predators’ last nine regular-season games and their three playoff games with Colorado, opponents have scored 16 goals on 49 power-play chances.
Game 3 took a scary turn late in the first period when Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper had to leave the game after being accidentally struck in the face by Ryan Johansen’s stick. Fortunately, Kuemper wasn’t concussed on the play but his swollen eye will keep him out of the net in Game 4.
Pavel Francouz stopped 18 of 20 shots in relief of Kuemper, and will get the starting nod Monday night.
Kuemper’s status is another reason why the Avalanche are eager to end the series as soon as possible and start resting up for the next round.
“There’s no easy games in the playoffs,” said Landeskog, who had two goals and two assists in Game 3. “They’ve got their backs against the wall at home. They definitely don’t want to get swept at home, and we want to try to end this thing and don’t give them any life, so it’s going to be a big game on Monday.”
The Predators have their own issues in net, as Juuse Saros (lower-body injury) has been ruled out for Game 4, so the star goalie could miss the entire series. Rookie Conor Ingram has emerged as Nashville’s top goaltending choice with Saros out, and Ingram has a respectable .919 save percentage against the Avalanche’s high-powered offense.
Nashville has never been eliminated by a postseason sweep in franchise history.
–Field Level Media