When Game 1 was over and the Avalanche survived Edmonton 8-6 in a thriller which featured four goaltenders, 84 shots and literally one scoring chance per minute, defenseman Cale Makar summed it up perfectly on Tuesday night.
“Obviously there was a bit of chaos,” he said after the opening game of the teams’ Western Conference Finals.
The chaos created terrific hockey, led by Makar, who had three points (he was initially credited with four points, but a change of score took away a third assist).
The chaos created the perfect pace for a player like Makar, who led the Avs in ice time (27 minutes, 16 seconds).
And the chaos has only heightened anticipation for what the rest of the series can bring in general and what Makar can do in particular.
In 11 playoff games, Makar has four goals and 12 assists; his 16 points are second among defensemen behind Adam Fox of the New York Rangers (18 points in 14 games).
After the Oilers took a 1-0 lead after 5:05 of play, the Avalanche scored three of the next four goals to cap off the first period. The Avs made it 2-1 when Makar and Devon Toews assisted on Nathan MacKinnon’s goal. After the Oilers tied the game with just 22 seconds left in the frame, Makar struck in a big way.
Taking possession of the ball in the neutral zone, Makar pushed the puck over the blue line just as teammate Valeri Nichushkin left the Oilers’ zone. Makar then fired a shot past Oilers goaltender Mike Smith’s blocker.
Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft challenged the play, believing it to be offside, but the on-ice decision stood and the Avalanche made it 4-2 on the power play that follow-up for a failed challenge.
How about Cale?
“I knew (teammates) were trying to get out of the zone and my instinct was to try to give them as much time as possible,” Makar said. âIt wasn’t great when they called the challenge. Maybe (one) lucky (to play). “
Maybe just the opposite, though. A player on a single lane would have passed the blue line unaware that his teammates were trying to score.
“I saw Cale come in and he was able to stifle the play by getting out of their zone and then he got the puck and went on the attack,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said.
The Avs were on offense, taking a 7-3 lead less than four minutes into the second period. But the third period was Edmonton’s turn. The Oilers’ third straight goal made the Avs 7-6 with 7:24 left.
âIt’s hard when everything starts to open up like that; we get chances and capitalize and obviously they do the same,â Makar said. “We have to be tighter as a group, we know that.”
The defense tightened in the final two minutes. Once Edmonton pulled their goaltender off, Makar had a 69-second shift in which he was equal parts stuck on the ice under pressure and unable to get clear because he was playing against the bench. Avs.
Unlike Game 5 against St. Louis, in which the Avs allowed an empty-net goal to force overtime, Makar and Co. did not allow the tie.
âYou learn from that experience on the last lap,â Makar said. “I feel like we did some things right, but at the end of the day, we gave (the Oilers) a lot of options that we hadn’t given up over the last two series.”