NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Valeri Nichushkin scored the game-clinching goal with 7:58 left, and the Colorado Avalanche became the first team to advance to the second round on Monday night by finishing a sweep of the Nashville Predators 5 -3 Monday night.
The Avalanche are now in the Western Conference Semifinals for the fourth straight season and second in a row after sweeping their first-round opponent. They improved to 6-0 since the franchise moved to Denver in the best of seven series after winning the first three games with their fourth sweep in that span.
They now have to wait for St. Louis or Minnesota after what Avs defenseman Cale Makar called step one.
“You enjoy it a bit, but then you move on,” Makar said. “Obviously we don’t know who our opponent is yet, but it will be a familiar team. For us, it is already at this next stage. We are where we want to be, but we have to make sure we can stay tight through this little break we have.
Andre Burakovsky and Cale Makar each had a goal and two assists for Colorado, and Devon Toews added a goal. Nathan MacKinnon sealed the victory with an empty net goal on the power play with 55.9 seconds left.
Yakov Trenin scored twice for Nashville, which was swept for the first time in franchise history in its 15th playoff appearance. Filip Forsberg scored his first of the series giving Nashville its first lead this series at 3:58 of third. Colton Sissons had two assists.
“The fact that we weren’t able to win a game is something we all take personally for sure,” Nashville coach John Hynes said.
Colorado scored three times in the 11:05 final to wrap up a series by outscoring Nashville 21-9. After Toews tied the game 3-3 at 8:55 of the third, Nichushkin scored on an instant shot from the right circle to give the Avs the lead to stay.
The Predators had a few free seats midway through the first period. Even the fact that MLS Nashville SC defender Walker Zimmerman waving the pre-game rally towel didn’t help.
Colorado ended up scoring on its first shot attempt of the game for the second time in this series, although a replay was needed to call it a goal.
Burakovsky’s wrist sent the puck through the back net, a shot that started the Avalanche celebrating before a referee immediately dismissed it On a 1:56 stoppage, the refs reviewed play and saw the puck go through the net requiring a repair of the net behind Predators rookie goaltender Connor Ingram.
The rookie goaltender had to make a save on a shorthanded Avs attempt on Nashville’s first power play, and Colorado had two more shots than the Predators. The Avs beat Nashville 13-6 dominating the first until Trenin got his second of this series on a wrist from the slot with 61 seconds left in the period.
Makar put Colorado ahead 2-1 with an instant shot near the blue line at 1:33 of the second, and he nearly scored again on a breakaway about 2 minutes later for Ingram to stop the puck with his left pad.
“Whenever you have the chance to end a team’s season, you grab it and run,” Makar said. “You at least try. For us tonight, there were a lot of ups and downs, but we wanted this one. I think the resilience in general has shown from our group.
Trenin tied again, this time with 3:11 to go in the second. He spun in the right circle and fired a wrist shot past Pavel Francouz.
Forsberg scored into an open net behind Francouz on a cross pass from Mattias Ekholm, giving Nashville a 3-2 lead in the third.
“You never want to go out 4-nothing,” Nashville captain Roman Josi said. “It’s tough right now. … I thought our two home games we played a lot better. But yeah, we didn’t. We didn’t get a win, so yeah, that’s is really disappointing.
The Avalanche also swept St. Louis in the first round of the 2021 playoffs, Vancouver in the 2001 Western Quarterfinals and the 1996 Stanley Cup Final against Florida.
NORRIS TROPHY FINALISTS
Josi and Makar were announced as finalists earlier Monday for the Norris Trophy. Josi won the Norris in 2020, and he posted the best scoring season since Phil Housley in 1992-93 with 96 points – a franchise record for the Predators.
Makar is a finalist for a second consecutive season. He led defensemen with 28 goals and became the eighth defenseman in NHL history with seven or more points in the first three games of a playoff series and the first since John Carlson also scored seven in 2018.
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