By PAT GRAHAM. Associated Press
DENVER (AP) — J.T. Compher scored twice, Cale Makar had a goal and two assists and the Colorado Avalanche held off the Edmonton Oilers 8-6 on Tuesday night in a fast-paced, no-lead-felt-safe Game 1 of the Western Conference final.
The Avalanche’s eight goals were tied for the most in a playoff game in franchise history.
Even Colorado’s four-game lead in the second period hardly felt secure in a matchup between the two highest-scoring teams in the postseason— and the win wasn’t in hand until Gabriel Landeskog’s empty-net goal with 21.4 seconds remaining.
Not only were there goals galore, but both teams needed to use backup goaltenders: Mike Smith was pulled after giving up six goals and Darcy Kuemper left with an upper-body injury.
This was a matchup billed as a showdown between stars Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid and they delivered. MacKinnon had a goal and an assist for Colorado, and McDavid a goal and two assists for Edmonton.
But it was the supporting casts that produced big time.
Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen and Andrew Cogliano also scored for the Avalanche, who have a 19-6 series record when taking the first game of a best-of-seven since relocating to Denver. Twelve Avs recorded at least a point and six had multi-point games.
Evander Kane, Zach Hyman, Ryan McLeod, Derek Ryan and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins added goals for the Oilers. Hyman has scored in six straight postseason games to tie the team mark set by Esa Tikkanen in the 1990 playoffs.
Edmonton and Colorado scored six times over a 6:43 span — nearly a goal a minute. And the opening two periods saw 11 total goals. At times, this looked more like an All-Star Game — lots of scoring and defense being optional — rather than a conference final.
Game 2 is Thursday.
Edmonton’s no stranger to dropping the first game of a series in high-scoring fashion: The Oilers lost Game 1 of the second-round series at Calgary 9-6 but won the series in five games.
Compher’s second goal of the night made it 6-3 and ended the night of Smith, who allowed six goals on 25 shots in just over 26 minutes. Mikko Koskinen came on in relief.
Kuemper left the game in the second period as well, after surrendering three goals on 16 shots. He was replaced by Pavel Francouz.
After Cogliano’s goal gave Colorado a 7-3 lead late in the second, it looked like the game might be in hand. But by 7:24 left in the third, Edmonton made it 7-6 on Nugent-Hopkins’ power-play goal.
The Oilers pulled Koskinen with under two minutes remaining but couldn’t score despite a wave of chances.
DAD OR GRANDPA?
Oilers assistant coach Dave Manson went over to visit his granddaughter after practice Monday. Oh, and his son, too — Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson.
“They played a bunch and she was all over them. So it was great,” the defenseman said. “Made me happy, too.”
Given the family rivalry, Manson was asked what side his two-year-old daughter was picking.
“She does love her grandpa,” Manson said. “She better be pulling for me.”
Edmonton defenseman Tyson Barrie skated with Makar in the 2019 playoffs as part of the Avs and instantly realized Makar’s potential.
“I knew I was in trouble right when I got on the ice with (Makar) the first time,” said Barrie, who later traded to Toronto in a deal that landed Kadri in Denver. “I thought, ‘I might be out of here.’ He was exceptional.”
Hall of Fame QB John Elway joined Wayne Gretzky and the crew on TNT’s pregame show. Elway praised the work of Joe Sakic, the Avs’ Hall of Fame player who is now their GM.
Elway won two Super Bowls as a player for the Broncos and another as an executive. Sakic captured two Stanley Cup titles as an Avalanche player and is trying to deliver another calling the shots from the front office.
“I’ve got so much respect for Joe,” Elway said. “When he first started we had some conversations. And then things weren’t going very well, he says, ‘Why’d you ever get me into this?’ But he’s come back and he’s done a heck of a job.”
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