DENVER - Too little, too late, Gabriel Landeskog and Alexander Kerfoot scored in the third period to get the Colorado Avalanche within one, but the Nashville Predators held on for a 3-2 victory.
The Avalanche of Monday night’s convincing 5-3 win over the Predators surfaced eventually, but a poor start cost them momentum and a third-period rally fell short.
“They came after us,” coach Jared Bednar said. “I just didn’t feel we felt that urgency and desperation early.”
Trailing by two in the second period, the Avalanche didn’t look affected until Nashville’s Craig Smith exited the penalty box and turned a harmless-looking rush into a 2-on-1. Smith sent the puck well above Jonathan Bernier’s glove, into the top corner, to make it 3-0.
Third-string goaltender Andrew Hammond replaced the injured Bernier for the start of the third period and made eight saves.
“He made some key stops,” Landeskog said. “He gave us a chance to keep it at 3.”
The Avalanche have battled back and won after falling into a 2-0 series deficit once, in 1999 against the Detroit Red Wings. They have never come back after going down 3-1.
Sent back on their heels almost immediately Wednesday night, the Avalanche had to kill off 1:20 of 5-on-3 power play time within the first frantic three minutes. They chased the Predators around and Bernier made the best of his 14 first-period saves, including one off his forehead.
“It’s not the ideal start, but mind you, I think we played the next while pretty good,” defenseman Mark Barberio said.
Colorado almost made it to the period break unscathed. But Nashville’s Filip Forsberg ducked his coverage, and a small bit of ice was all he needed to swerve around Bernier and score a stunning goal.
It was the first time in the series the Predators scored first.
The Avalanche put five shots on net during a lengthy 5-on-3 of their own in the second period and sent one off the post. His team swarming immediately after that kill, Forsberg set up Colton Sissons with a long pass and the latter beat a sliding Bernier to make it 2-0.
Throughout the game, careless passing plagued the Avalanche. They had eight giveaways while the Predators had none. Their power play was largely ineffective again.
Then, the Predators - the most penalized team in the NHL - took two penalties on the same play, and Colorado was able to capitalize. Tyson Jost batted a quick pass to Landeskog in front of the crease, and Landeskog finally beat Pekka Rinne.
Five minutes, 41 seconds later, Kerfoot was waiting when the puck skittered over Rinne’s leg pad. He knocked it in and brought the Avalanche within one. But a late push didn’t produce the equalizer.
“In this league, 20 minutes isn’t enough,” Barberio said.
Nashville can clinch in Game 5, which is Friday in Nashville.
While being checked into the boards in the second period, Mikko Rantanen caught Nathan MacKinnon’s stick below his eye. He went straight to the locker room and returned, bandaged up, before the end of the period.