The Colorado Avalanche emerged from the chaos in Game 1, taking the opener of the 2022 Western Conference Final with an unruly and immensely entertaining 8-6 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night in Denver.
Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon were the early catalysts and helped represent the superior collection of superstars in the high-profile, high-talent matchup — at least on this night — combining for two goals and five points. J.T. Compher, meanwhile, was the single multi-goal man in a contest that featured 13 different goal scorers.
Game 1s continue to be unkind to the Oilers, a team proven seemingly incompatible with these series ice-breakers. They have now fallen behind in all three series this postseason, and their first game versus the Calgary Flames played out in the same, strange fashion as this one. Colorado built what appeared to be an insurmountable lead like the Flames did two weeks ago before a furious comeback bid from Edmonton fell short in the sort of game with scoring from a different era.
It is fitting that the Avalanche won the game by two after Gabriel Landeskog thwarted Edmonton's efforts to tie in the final moments with empty-net insurance. That's because it was a two-goal swing to bookend the first intermission that began nine seconds after the Oilers tied the game which set the tone for the remainder of the contest as a result of a questionable, but apparently accurate video review.
It looked obvious that Valeri Nichushkin was caught offside on the play when Makar scored with 14 seconds remaining in the first, but Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft and his video team failed to consider that Makar had momentarily ceded control of the puck while entering the zone.
Despite seemingly gaining possession in the neutral zone and not letting go of the puck until he blew it past Mike Smith, the NHL's replay officials deemed that Makar pushed the puck over the line and did not re-establish control until Nichushkin tagged up, confirming the goal.
You be the judge.
Not even sure what to say about this one. Offside or onside? pic.twitter.com/vaBsIC2ob9
— Mr Matthew CFB 🇺🇦 (@MrMatthewCFB) June 1, 2022
Consequently after the failed challenge, the Oilers started the second period on the power play, and promptly allowed another goal, this time off the stick of Nazem Kadri, less than a minute (in game time) after Zach Hyman's first-period equalizer.
The teams traded five goals throughout the remaining minutes of the second, which saw both starting goaltenders exit. It was a performance issue for Smith, who was pulled for a second consecutive Game 1 after allowing six goals on 25 shots in just over 29 minutes. Meanwhile Darcy Kuemper left before the midway mark of the game as well, but did so due to an injury.
Both replacements managed to settle their respective creases to a certain degree. Edmonton's Mikko Koskinen was the best netminder involved, making 20 saves on 21 shots, while Pavel Francouz allowed three goals on 21 shots for the Avalanche.
It's possible that its Francouz's crease for Game 2 with Kuemper nursing an upper-body injury.
Connor McDavid lost his matchup versus Colorado's ultra-talented five-man unit, but still led the way offensively for the Oilers, scoring a goal and adding two assists. He registered his 11th multi-point game in these playoffs, which are the most ever through 13 outings to begin a postseason.
Evander Kane and Hyman extended their remarkable scoring runs as part of the scoring surges as well. Kane opened the scoring with his playoff-leading 13th goal, scored in as many games, while Hyman notched a goal for a sixth consecutive outing.
There were more steps taken toward some historic individual marks with 14 combined goals in the contest, but in order for this series - which has been hyped like no other in recent history - to reach legendary status, a few things will need to happen.
The goals are unbelievably fun. But Game 1 was, at times, less about a clash between two of the larger collections of stars in the game, and more a spill in the dairy aisle of your local supermarket.
Between the goaltenders, blue liners and a vast majority of forwards missing assignments, there is lots to clean up on both sides.
It won't be the best possible representation of the sport, and the league, until both teams turn in a better effort tactically and fundamentally.
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