Avalanche take 3-0 series lead on Oilers, reach brink of NHL Final
Published: Jun 05, 2022 06:34 PM
The Colorado Avalanche are looking for a sweep that will send them to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since claiming the 2001 title.

After Saturday's 4-2 road win over the Edmonton Oilers, the Avalanche have a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals. Even though they have controlled the series right from the beginning, the Avalanche don't expect the Oilers to roll over.

"It's going to be tough," said Nathan MacKinnon. "Last series, against St. Louis, we're up 3-1 and gave them life. It's hard to win that fourth game, very difficult. We've done a pretty good job the last two games five-on-five, controlled the play, and we're going to have to keep doing that."

J.T. Compher's tally with 7:18 remaining in regulation, his fifth goal of the playoffs, broke a 2-2 deadlock in the win.

Valeri Nichushkin scored twice, Mikko Rantanen tallied once and goaltender Pavel Francouz made 27 saves for the Avalanche, who have posted six consecutive road wins.

Connor McDavid and Ryan McLeod replied for the Oilers, while Mike Smith turned in a 39-save performance.

However, Colorado's victory came with a cost. Forward ­Nazem Kadri, who has collected six goals and 14 points in the playoffs, was knocked from the game after being hit from behind by Evander Kane and sent crashing into the boards early in the clash. He was seen after the game with a cast on his right arm.

"He'll be out for this series at least, if not longer," coach Jared Bednar said. "The hit? It's the most dangerous hit in hockey."

Kane was handed a five-minute major and may face further discipline.

"The puck went wide into the corner," Kane pleaded. "I know he likes to reverse it. I was just trying to get a bump on him, that's really all I did. Unfortunately, he went into the boards awkwardly, hurt his hands. That was unfortunate."

In a back-and forth game, McDavid opened the scoring 38 seconds into the clash, his ninth goal and league-leading 30th point of the playoffs, but Nichushkin tied the game later in the first period when his pass ricocheted into the net off the stick of defender Darnell Nurse.

Nichushkin's second of the game, and fifth of the playoffs, put the visitors ahead 2-1 at 4:37 of the second period.

McLeod evened the score at 7:34 of the third period, and the Oilers came close to pulling ahead on a power play just before Compher's winner. Evan Boucher rang a shot off the post seconds before Compher was sprung from the penalty box and converted on a breakaway.

"It's a game of inches, and obviously showed there," McDavid said. "An inch on the other side for Bouch and it's in and we're up 3-2 and having a different conversation here. It's not a great situation, but it's not over."

Rantanen's empty-net goal iced the game.