Updated June 4, 2021 - 11:37 pm
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar doesn’t have to break down much film to diagnose what has gone wrong in the past two games.
He believes it comes down to one key factor that never will be seen on a stat sheet.
“The easy answer is for five periods straight they’ve been far more competitive than we have,” Bednar said after a 3-2 loss to the Golden Knights on Friday night at T-Mobile Arena. “To dissect the game any more than that is a waste of time.”
Colorado still leads the best-of-seven West Division final 2-1, but Bednar doesn’t want his team to take any false sense of security out of that narrow advantage.
He believes his team won Game 2 despite getting outplayed for the final 40 minutes and then got the outcome it deserved for being outplayed Friday.
Bednar thought his team gave away a chance to put a “stranglehold” on the series.
“We’re kidding ourselves if we think that’s the competitiveness we need to beat a team that tied us for first in the league,” he said. “We had a good night and caught them on an off night in Game 1. We gave them life in Game 2 and were able to come out with a win because of special teams and our goalie. We’re going to have to compete way harder than that in order to beat them. If we haven’t already realized that, we’re late to the party.
The Avalanche almost stole another one in Game 3, largely because of goaltender Philipp Grubauer. The top netminder in the playoffs so far made stop after stop to keep the game tied until Mikko Rantanen gave the Avalanche a lead on the man advantage with 14:56 to play.
Colorado then allowed two late goals in 45 seconds to turn a 3-0 series lead into a 2-1 advantage with Game 4 on Sunday at T-Mobile.
“The hardest-working player we have right now is Philipp Grubauer,” Bednar said.
Bednar’s top line looked pretty good in a dominant Game 1 victory, too, but has been largely neutralized since.
Rantanen’s overtime game-winner on the power play in Game 2 was their only real impact, and Bednar broke up the group of Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog in the third period Friday looking for a spark.
“It starts there,” Bednar said of who needs to step up to change the complexion of the series. “I haven’t seen the stats, but check the numbers on our top guys and see what they did against their top guys. It’s not close.
“Did you see anything going on? What would you do? There’s nothing going on the whole night. Should we just leave it the same?”
While Bednar called out his top line, Rantanen’s goal marked the 17th straight postseason game in which he has recorded a point, the eighth-longest streak in NHL history.
Rantanen thought his group still created opportunities but needs to be more responsible on the defensive end.
“We were trading chances, and that’s not winning hockey,” he said. “Everybody knows that. It’s the defense that wins you championships.”
The Avalanche allowed 43 shots on goal and created 20. Still, they had a chance to go up 3-0 in the series with a lead in the final minutes.
Forward Carl Soderberg, who had the first goal for Colorado, knows it’s a chance they might regret squandering.
“Maybe we stepped back too much in the third,” he said. “We gave them a lot of opportunities. We were almost there.”