Game 1 between the Avalanche and the Coyotes looked as though it could be yet another first round game to head to overtime before the Avs finally broke through in the third.
In the round-robin games, the Colorado Avalanche often got off to quick starts, outshooting opponents in the first period in each of the three contests. The Arizona Coyotes on the other hand, often had to weather a storm and get solid goaltending to stay in games.
It came as no surprise, then, that the Avalanche carried the play and dominated in shots in the first period of Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal mathcup. The shot total was 13-3 after one, and Arizona was held without a shot for the entire second half of the period.
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Colorado also benefited early from ten Coyotes giveaways and a 61.1% faceoff efficiency. What did not help was the man in the Arizona net. Darcy Kuemper, who thrived in first periods such as this one on multiple occasions against the Nashville Predators in the Qualifiers, shut the Avs out in the first frame.
The second period offered some faster paced, more back and forth play at its start. The Avalanche, though, continued to get the bulk of the shots, led by Nazem Kadri, who matched the shot total of Arizona (six) through the first 29 minutes of the game.
Despite once again being all over Arizona, and leading in shots by a total of 28-7, Colorado was stifled in the second period by Kuemper, so the 0-0 score persisted into the third period.
Having covered the Coyotes in the Qualifiers, this game looked awfully familiar and felt as though it may break in Arizona’s favor, just as these types of games did for the Coyotes against the Predators. The Avalanche controlled the play and tripled the Yotes’ shot total midway through the third, but the inability to break through seemed like it could come back to haunt them.
However, the Avs did wind up being the team to break through, and they did so in a big way. Colorado took advantage of a Derek Stepan penalty, as Kadri scored a well-deserved goal to break the scoreless deadlock. Ten seconds later, J.T. Compher made it 2-0, and less than two minutes after that Mikko Rantanen scored Colorado’s third goal.
The Coyotes were unable to get a puck behind Philipp Grubauer, who only had to make 14 saves, and the Avalanche escaped Game 1 with a 3-0 victory and a 1-0 series lead.
Arizona will have to find a way to support Kuemper, who made 37 saves in the loss. Top players Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel combined for a minus-1 rating and three shots in a quiet game for the Coyotes.
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Meanwhile, more of the same will do the trick for the Avalanche, who deserve credit for sticking to their game and eventually being rewarded late in the contest. Game 2 will be Friday afternoon.