3 Keys: Avalanche at Golden Knights, Game 4 of second round

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No. 1 Avalanche at No. 2 Golden Knights

8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS

Colorado leads best-of-7 series, 2-1

The Vegas Golden Knights will try to even the Stanley Cup Second Round with the Colorado Avalanche when they host Game 4 at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday.

The Golden Knights lost 7-1 in Game 1 and 3-2 in overtime in Game 2 but won 3-2 in Game 3 to end an 11-game winning streak for the Avalanche dating to the regular season. Since the first period of Game 2, they have outshot the Avalanche 75-34.

“There [weren’t] many people picking us at the start of the series, and the few that were on that raft I saw jumping with life jackets after Game 2,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “So we know what people are saying out there, and you know, I think we’re using that as fuel and motivation. We feel we can play with his team, and I think we’ve proven that during the regular season and we’re proving it again right now.”

Vegas and Colorado tied for the most points in the NHL in the regular season (82); the Avalanche won the Presidents’ Trophy because of the regulation-wins tiebreaker (35-30). Vegas went 4-4-0 against Colorado. The Avalanche were 4-3-1 against the Golden Knights.

“We all know that we need to be better,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “At the end of the day, we’re still up 2-1 in the series. It was our first loss in 2 1/2 weeks. But having said that, we need to learn from it and be better and make sure we bounce back [in Game 4]. It’s as simple as that.”

Here are 3 Keys for Game 4:

 

1. Earn your ice

Vegas has stopped Colorado from getting started by staying above the puck, keeping tight gaps and being physical. The Golden Knights have controlled 64.0 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts over the past two games.

“It’s a tougher challenge than we’ve ever faced, I think, in Vegas being a top team and playing the right way,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “The message is probably going to be that there’s not any easy ice out there, that you’re going to have to go and earn every inch of ice that you get. …

“You’re going to have win battles … and be in the right positions on the ice and have the right desperation and tenacity on the puck in order to create offensively, and that’s where we have to get to as a group.”

 

2. Colorado’s top players

Bednar called out the Avalanche’s competitiveness, in particular their top players, after Game 3.

Mikko Rantanen has scored two power-play goals in the past two games, the overtime winner in Game 2 and a goal that put the Avalanche ahead 2-1 in Game 3, but the line of Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Rantanen has not scored an even-strength point in that span.

“It’s the playoffs,” Landeskog said. “We all need to step up, and leadership definitely needs to step up, and that’s the way it is in any game following a loss. It’s as simple as that.”

 

3. Foot on the gas

The Golden Knights cannot let up, because the Avalanche can steamroll you with their “A” game and still win without their “A” game as they did in Game 2.

The Avalanche almost won without their “A” game again in Game 3. They had a 2-1 lead with less than six minutes left in the third period before the Golden Knights scored twice in 45 seconds. Rantanen had a golden opportunity to tie it in the final minute but was stopped by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

“If you’re going to compete with a team like Colorado, you’ve got to have 20 guys invested in what you’re doing and you’ve got to do it every shift you hop over the boards, because if you take your foot off the gas in any area for a second or a shift, they’re going to make you pay,” DeBoer said. “They’ve swamped us before when we’ve been off as a group. So I think that fear in your belly is motivating, and our group’s going to run with that.”

 

Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen

Brandon SaadTyson JostValeri Nichushkin

Andre BurakovskyJ.T. CompherJoonas Donskoi

Kiefer SherwoodPierre-Edouard BellemareCarl Soderberg

Devon ToewsCale Makar

Patrik NemethSamuel Girard

Ryan GravesConor Timmins

Philipp Grubauer

Devan Dubnyk

Scratched: Bowen Byram, Jonas Johansson, Jacob MacDonald, Liam O’Brien, Dan Renouf, Alex Newhook, Sampo Ranta, Jayson Megna

Injured: Matt Calvert (upper body), Logan O’Connor (lower body)

Suspended: Nazem Kadri

Golden Knights projected lineup

Max PaciorettyChandler StephensonMark Stone

Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith

Dylan SikuraNicolas RoyAlex Tuch

William Carrier — Patrick Brown — Ryan Reaves

Alec MartinezAlex Pietrangelo

Nick HoldenShea Theodore

Nicolas HagueZach Whitecloud

Marc-Andre Fleury

Logan Thompson

Scratched: Cody Glass, Keegan Kolesar, Jimmy Schuldt, Jack Dugan, Kaedan Korczak, Jonas Rondbjerg, Carl Dahlstrom

Injured: Peyton Krebs (jaw), Tomas Nosek (undisclosed), Mattias Janmark (upper body), Robin Lehner (undisclosed)

COVID-19 protocol: Brayden McNabb

Status report

The Avalanche did not hold a morning skate. … Reaves is available after serving a two-game suspension for roughing/unsportsmanlike conduct against Graves in Game 1. … McNabb skated for the Golden Knights. The defenseman has been in NHL COVID-19 protocol since May 26.

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