Two games, two wins. That’s what needs to happen for the Colorado Avalanche to keep playing.
“I’ve seen our guys step up in big moments now for four years and none bigger than this one here tomorrow night,” coach Jared Bednar said.
They’ve circled each other since January. Now the team that tied the Avalanche in the standings is poised to finish them off in the postseason. The Vegas Golden Knights are cashing in on mistakes and erasing leads. The Avalanche were once up 2-0, in Game 5 and in the series.
Colorado played aggressive, sound hockey most of Tuesday night’s game. A blocked shot, a slow recovery and a goal 50 seconds into overtime put the onetime Stanley Cup favorite down 3-2, one loss away from elimination, heading into Thursday’s Game 6 in Vegas.
“In my short time here, it’s something I’ve learned pretty quickly — you've got to have a short memory in this league and in the playoffs especially,” rookie forward Alex Newhook said.
Bednar stated several times that he “loved” his group's Game 5 except for a few costly errors.
“Just making sure that we’re not trying to make something out of nothing in those situations” is key, Bednar said. “Take what they give you. Get your eyes up and make high-percentage plays.
“If we can go and play the same type of game and just manage the puck a (small) percent better, then we’re going to give ourselves a real good chance to win.”
The stakes are familiar for much of the team’s core. In each of the past two seasons, the Avalanche trailed 3-2 in the second-round series but forced a Game 7. In 2019, Game 6 was at Pepsi Center and in 2020 it was at a neutral site in the bubble. Colorado went on to lose both series.
In the more immediate past, the team hasn’t lost four straight games all season.
Rallying for a series tie and then reversing that Game 7 trend would have tremendous implications moving forward. But one day at a time, defenseman Cale Makar said.
“If we’re to look too much in the future, our head’s not in the right place,” Makar said.
“I think our team's mindset is right where it needs to be going into these next two.”