DENVER - The formidable Nashville defense showed up to finish the job in Game 6, and the Predators kicked the Colorado Avalanche into the offseason with a 5-0 loss Sunday evening.
Though unable to close out the first round on home ice, the top-seeded Predators advanced to take on the Winnipeg Jets.
“That’s not the way we want to finish,” Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said.
Filip Forsberg put the game out of reach 38 seconds into the second period when he came in on a 2-on-1 and fired over sprawled defender Mark Barberio. Avalanche third-string goaltender Andrew Hammond got a piece of it but not enough.
Coming off a 44-save performance that made him a league-wide fascination again, Hammond was cheered seemingly every time he moved in the first period. But he wasn’t quite as quick as he was Friday. The future free agent finished with 32 saves.
The Avalanche offense was smothered at every turn, pushed to the perimeter and hardly sniffed a rebound. Even Nathan MacKinnon, with three goals and three assists through five games, couldn’t shake his defenders.
Going in, very little was expected from last year’s last-place team, which went into the playoffs down a starting goaltender and top defenseman. But MacKinnon said the Avalanche held themselves to a higher standard.
“We’re trying to win a Cup, and obviously it’s disappointing that we showed up on home ice and lost 5-0 in an elimination game,” MacKinnon said.
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette complimented the “young, skilled and fast” Avalanche and said as the series stretched on, it became clear the Predators were going to have to work harder to beat them.
“We had to treat it with more and more respect,” Laviolette said. “I don’t know if we exposed (them). We had to work through it.”
Seconds after a Predators goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference seven minutes into the game, the visitors made one stick. The review was long and the outcome hardly in question, but after the ensuing faceoff, the Avalanche were caught flat-footed.
Mattias Ekholm took a pass from Colton Sissons, wound up and fired from the top of the faceoff circle to make it 1-0.
Three minutes, 17 seconds later, Nashville doubled the lead. Hammond got tangled up with MacKinnon and Sissons, whose try bounced off the bottom of the post, but Austin Watson was left wide open to bury the loose puck.
“I didn’t mind our energy at the start of the game, but we made a couple mistakes in our (defensive) zone and they ended up in our net,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “We kind of started reeling from there.”
“The emotion wasn’t there for us tonight.”
Just after the Avalanche killed off a penalty in the second period, Nashville’s Nick Bonino beat Hammond through traffic to make it 4-0. Viktor Arvidsson grabbed the puck out of the air, blew past several Colorado defenders on a breakaway and sent a shot over Hammond’s shoulder to cap the scoring early in the third.
There were a few chippy plays, but for the most part, the referees let the game proceed. The Colorado power play never saw the ice.