DENVER — Those were white pom-poms on the seats, not white towels.
What, you thought a hockey club that jumped from 48 to 95 points would go quietly into the offseason? Joke’s on you, Smashville. This series is 2-1. And the boxing card after three games shows the Avalanche and Predators separated by a margin as slim as Mikko Rantanen’s attempt at a playoff beard. Series goals: Preds 13, Avs 11. First-period leads: Avs 3, Preds 0. Game 4: Wednesday at Pepsi Center.
May I suggest gargling with lemon water to get your pipes back?
“I just kept telling the young guys just wait for the playoffs,” Gabriel Landeskog said in a business-like dressing room after Colorado hopped right back into the series with a 5-3 triumph late Monday. "Just wait to see what this building can do."
If P.K. Subban is anywhere near LoDo on Wednesday, the NHL has some ‘splainin to do. There’s dirty, there’s classless, and there’s whatever you want to call Subban’s goonery on Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon.
The Avs crowd had a few names that won’t be printed in a family publication. After seeing only the back of MacKinnon’s sweater for most of two periods, Subban unloaded a sucker punch to the back of MacKinnon’s head. The league office should level the Predators defenseman with no less than a two-game penalty. One for whiffing on Ryan Johansen's cheap shot on Tyson Barrie in Game 1, one for Subban's on MacKinnon.
"I think both teams are under each other's skin," Avs coach Jared Bednar said.
“Emotions were high,” MacKinnon added.
Enough on Subban. His cowardice doesn’t deserve any more of your time.
That booming sound you heard was four years of frustration coming to an end. And when the Avs rained on the Predators, they poured it on: three goals in the first period, the next more lovely than the last. Blake Comeau, goal. Gabriel Bourque, goal. MacKinnon, goal. The Avs scored on their first shot in Game 1, their first shot in Game 2 and their second shot in Game 3.
Now that’s efficient.
"It wasn't good," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.
By the time the Jumbotron showed Broncos star Von Miller rocking a No. 58 Avs jersey and waving a sign that said, “Let’s Make Noise!” the Pepsi Center was standing room-only in the nosebleeds and only a scream would reach your neighbor. After being told over and over about the impact of the Smashville crowd on Games 1 and 2 — in this space and others — Avs fans took it as a challenge.
Four years is a long time to wait between playoff games.
And the locals let off some steam.
"It really exceeded all expectations," Landeskog said of the noise generated by 18,007.
"I think we've proven to ourselves we can get a win," MacKinnon said. "Hopefully it snowballs from here."
Don’t get it twisted. The Preds remain Vegas favorites to raise the Stanley Cup, let alone win a series where they still carry home-ice advantage. But there are two reasons there must be a sliver of doubt creeping into the Preds' mind: the Avs have the best player in the series in MacKinnon, and the Preds’ only answer for No. 29 is punching him when he’s not looking.
Monday night after his first and second goals, MacKinnon went by another name: “M-V-P! M-V-P!” This is a sports city that’s suddenly bubbling over with athletes near the top of the pro game. Nolan Arenado. Von Miller. Nikola Jokic. At the top of that list is MacKinnon, who has 12 points in 10 career playoff games and in Nashville spoke with admiration about Sidney Crosby's Game 1 hat trick the other night. Then he nearly got one of his own.
“He’s a game-breaker,” Barrie said.
Know what's longer than four long years? The decade it's been since the Avs won a playoff series. To climb within striking distance of such a feat, winning Game 4 is a must. The Avs aren't all the way back yet. But The Can is.