DENVER – Mikko Rantanen scored a power-play goal 2:07 into overtime, Philipp Grubauer outdueled fellow Vezina Trophy finalist Marc-Andre Fleury and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in their second-round playoff series.
Rantanen took a cross-ice pass from Nathan MacKinnon and sent a liner over the glove of Fleury to set off a celebration in front of a boisterous crowd. The goal came with Reilly Smith in the penalty box for slashing Rantanen.
“Not our best game, but still found a way,” Rantanen said. "That’s what we’ve been doing the whole year. Sometimes we haven’t been feeling it and Grubi’s been awesome and stealing some wins for us — like today. That’s what you need if you want to win the Cup.”
The Golden Knights weren't pleased with the slashing call.
“Just a soft call,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. “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.”
Brandon Saad and Tyson Jost also scored for the Avalanche, who’ve won six in a row to start the postseason, tying the franchise mark set in 1987 when the team was based in Quebec.
Grubauer had 39 saves in becoming the first Colorado/Quebec goaltender to pick up six straight postseason victories.
Alec Martinez and Smith had goals for the Golden Knights, who controlled large portions of the action after two full days off following a 7-1 loss in Game 1. A fresh Fleury provided a big boost. He didn’t play in the series opener after a grueling seven-game series with Minnesota. Fleury stopped 22 shots.
The series heads to Vegas for Game 3 on Friday.
This was more like the tight series that everyone was expecting. The Avs and Golden Knights split the eight games in the regular season and finished tied for the most points in the league. The Avalanche earned the Presidents’ Trophy — along with home ice throughout the postseason -- on a tiebreaker.
Vegas vowed to bounce back from the penalty-filled first game, with William Karlsson commenting after the morning skate: “The sun is shining today.”
The Golden Knights clanged three shots off the post in the third period.
“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 said.
Colorado finished 2 for 6 on the power play and was outshot by a 41-25 margin. The top line of MacKinnon, captain Gabriel Landeskog and Rantanen was held in check — until overtime. The trio combined for five goals and three assists in Game 1.
Rantanen now has at least a point in his last 16 playoff games dating to last season.
Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore had two assists — and a spectacular play on a breakaway from Rantanen late in the third. Theodore was able to disrupt the play at the last moment.
Colorado remains tough to beat at home, winning its 13th straight at Ball Arena dating to the regular season.
Smith tied the game at 2-all when he broke free and lifted a backhanded shot past Grubauer.
Jost gave the Avalanche a 2-1 lead in the first with a power-play goal. His score was after Vegas tied the game on a power-play score from Martinez. It marked the first time in this postseason the Avs have surrendered a goal in the opening period.
Saad started the scoring at 3:39 of the first when he barely got anything on a wide-open shot but the slow roller caught Fleury by surprise and the puck trickled between the veteran goaltender's pads.
Saad extended his goal streak to five games, which is tied for the third-longest string in Avalanche history for a playoff year. The record is seven straight by Claude Lemieux (1997) and Joe Sakic ('96).
AROUND THE RINK
Colorado is 14-1 in a best-of-seven playoff series when winning the first two games since relocating to Denver in 1995-96. ... Avs D Samuel Girard had two assists.
Vegas F Ryan Reaves served the first of a two-game suspension for his roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct on Colorado D Ryan Graves in Game 1. ... Colorado F Nazem Kadri sat out his fourth of an eight-game suspension he received in the first round.
Vegas F Mattias Janmark and G Robin Lehner, the Game 1 starter, were scratched. Janmark was banged up on a check near the boards from Graves in the series opener. G Logan Thompson was recalled and served as the backup to Fleury.
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