As an early birthday present, Colorado reserve goalkeeper Pavel Francouz received plenty of defenses and absences to go with it.
Just not the nod to take over as starters. That will have to wait.
Francouz stopped 24 shots for the second play-off of his career, Nazem Kadri provided three assists in the space of 2:04 in the second half and Avalanche beat Edmonton Oilers 4-0 in Thursday night to a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference final.
“From the first seconds, I knew they were going to be of great help to me, it calmed me down,” said Francouz, who turned 32 on Friday. “I can only focus on my play.”
Avalanche focuses on proving a point – that a team known for speed can also play some “D.” tenacious. It came to a close after Game 1, in which they won 8-6 but came close to taking a four-goal lead.
This time, they locked it.
“Definitely a confidence thing,” Kadri said. “We can play both ways – we can score and we can defend.”
Francouz grew stronger with each save as he replaced Darcy Kuemper, who left the first half with an upper body injury. Francouz was bombarded with chants of “Frankie! Frankie!” From the crowd.
VIEW | Avalanche shuts down the Oilers to take the series 2-0 lead:
“It was a team effort,” said Francouz. “It’s better when they shout, “Go, Avs, Go!” or “Let’s go Avs!.”
Because he’s so good, but coach Jared Bednar isn’t ready for him to be the one to start moving forward.
“We’ll see,” Bednar said. “We’ll evaluate the game and we’ll talk to Darcy and Frankie and then we’ll make our decision.”
Colorado has held off Edmonton’s big trio of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane seven times. Draisaitl has seen his nine-game streak with at least one assist come to an end.
The avalanche is 5-0 on the way
They have good players. They have good D-men,” said McDavid, “They do a lot of good things, and we had to figure out how to find them. “
Avalanche broke through for the second after a failed opening period, the hallmark of something rare so far in this series – defence. Artturi Lehkonen and Josh Manson scored 15 seconds apart to make things happen in the second, with Mikko Rantanen scoring another in Kadri’s third assist.
Nathan MacKinnon scored late in the third half. He had 11 shots.
Game 3 takes place on Saturday in Edmonton. So far, Avalanche are winning 5-0 in these playoffs, and 15-4 in a best-of-seven series with a 2-0 lead.
Mike Smith allowed four goals from 40 shots. This after 40-year-old Smith was dragged in the First Half after conceding six goals.
Edmonton is looking to regroup at home.
“We definitely didn’t take this into account,” said Oilers defender Tyson Barrie. “We have a lot of hockey left to play.”
To slow MacKinnon down, Edmonton tried to obscure him all the time. The unrelenting pressure includes a ride by Duncan Keith after the whistle. It did not draw a penalty but drew a lot of boos from the crowd. MacKinnon was also slapped in the face during a play.
Kadri initially scored with the first goal at 3:58 of the second before it was ruled that Lehkonen had overturned. Kadri ended the franchise record for supports in a period. It’s a mark set by Quebec’s Risto Siltanen in 1987 and matched in 1996 by the Avalanche Hall of Fame forward GM Joe Sakic.
Kadri said: “Some times return luck.
Colorado and Edmonton went through the most exciting first time possible without a goal. It includes Edmonton overtaking Colorado’s 5 to 3 advantage.
There was also a play where Smith used his helmet to redirect a ball hit through the air.
Francouz also took part in nifty save-in action, including one as he ventured out of his fold. He was able to stop Cody Ceci’s lining.
“He looked really composed,” Bednar said. “Just sitting in the right place all night and making most of the saves looks easy.”