If Sunday afternoon’s game taught the San Jose Sharks any lessons, it’s that the Colorado Avalanche are not to be underestimated. The Avalanche’s young core made sure to make that a point, winning Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinal, now on equal footing to fight for the lead as the series heads to the Pepsi Center.
Brent Burns was a force to be reckoned with in Game 2. Nearly eight minutes into the first period, Burns took a shot from the point that was initially blocked by Philipp Grubauer, but Evander Kane was parked right in front of the net to score his first goal of the series on the rebound.
The Sharks controlled play for the first period, with 56.51 percent Corsi for at 5-on-5, when adjust for score and venue and leading in shots 11 to 6 in all situations, after holding the Avalanche without a shot for the first five and a half minutes. A fairly dominate period, however, also featured a power play that was less than inspired. It started with this ugly hit by Nikita Zadorov on Timo Meier:
Zadorov takes an ugly penalty. Don't ever do this. pic.twitter.com/0nei2P5PBi— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) April 29, 2019
And it ended without the Sharks taking a single shot on goal during their man-advantage. Still, the Sharks closed on a sequence with a huge save from Martin Jones and a quality shot from Kevin Labanc, keeping the score 1-0 in their favor heading into the first intermission.
The Avalanche got a lot out of their second defensive pair, Zadorov and Tyson Barrie, especially from the latter. Midway through the second period, Barrie released a shot, nearly identical to Burns’ assist on Kane’s goal, that was tipped by Gabriel Landeskog past Jones to tie the game.
Barrie’s impact on the Avalanche offense was even more visible when, after an interesting icing no-call, Gabriel Landeskog’s shot rebounded all the way to Barrie, who unloaded with a slap-shot from the point that went over the blocker of Martin Jones to give the Avalanche the lead.
The two goals were unfortunate for the Sharks, but they were still winning the Corsi battle, albeit by a smaller margin. The Avalanche narrowed it down to 51.78 percent during 5-on-5 in the second period.
Even with Marc-Edouard Vlasic taking a slashing penalty that allowed the Avalanche to start the third period on just over a minute of 5-on-4, there was still plenty of room for the Sharks to mount a comeback. Unfortunately, the Avalanche came out firing in the third, leading 5-on-5 Corsi at 60.3 percent and expected goals at 82.18 percent.
The game winning goal was once again be created by Tyson Barrie, but it was eventually scored by — don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it — Long Beach native Matt Nieto, with his third goal of the postseason. Barrie’s shot was tipped by Matt Calvert and after Jones made the save, a scramble in front of the net let Nieto tap the puck in and extend the Avalanche’s lead to 3-1.
All hope wasn’t lost for the Sharks. First, Brent Burns took out Alexander Kerfoot’s skate blade with a slap-shot. Erik Karlsson retrieved the puck while staying onside, then dished it back to Burns, who wristed it high past the glove side of Grubauer and brought the Sharks within one with 4:34 left to play.
Timo Meier took an untimely high-sticking penalty, using two of those precious four and a half minutes to kill the penalty. Once they were back at full strength, the Sharks pulled Martin Jones in an attempt to tie the game, but Nathan Mackinnon put the puck into the empty net, making it 4-2.
With just 18 seconds left, Ian Cole was sent off for a holding penalty and the Sharks made quick work to attempt a heroic comeback. Burns caught a pass from Tomas Hertl and one-timed it past Grubauer for his second goal of the game and his third point of the night. But with 10 seconds left on the clock, the Sharks couldn’t find a tying goal and the Avalanche tied up the series.
In a departure from Game 1, the Sharks relied on point shots more than they did on traffic in front of the net in Game 2. The Avalanche were, however, able to generate more shot attempts in front of the net.
The game got away from the Sharks in the third period.
Game 3 will be at 10 p.m. on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center in Denver.