DENVER – Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice, Philipp Grubauer was outstanding in stopping 33 shots and the Seattle Kraken eliminated defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche with a 2-1 victory in Game 7 on Sunday night.
The Kraken became the first expansion team to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champions in their first playoff series, according to NHL Stats.
“I think they’re about as competitive as any team we’ve played against,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “They are deep and every line is the same.”
Bjorkstrand scored a goal on a chance deflection – the puck hit a stick and glove – and another with a liner past goaltender Alexandar Georgiev who hit the post. Seattle took the lead in every game in the series.
“As a group, we believe in ourselves,” Bjorkstrand said in his TNT interview after the win. “It’s been like that every series. … We knew what we had to do to come here and win the game.”
Next up for the sophomore Kraken is a second-round series against the Dallas Stars that opens Tuesday night in Texas.
“They’re playing the way they were taught to play and Grubauer has been amazing in this series,” Bednar said. “They prevent you from creating chances. They’re a 100-point team. They’re a good team.”
Grubauer, who played three seasons for the Avalanche, finished the series against his former teammates with 231 saves and a 2.68 goals-against average.
“He was amazing. Every shot he saw he was stopping. He was great there,” Seattle striker Yanni Gourde told TNT outside the locker room. “He was our rock, and there’s no way we’re going to win this series if he’s not in there.”
Mikko Rantanen was credited with a power-play goal for Colorado after a Nathan MacKinnon shot clipped him and went in. MacKinnon appeared to score early in the third period to tie it at 2, but Seattle challenged the play and the goal was disallowed. due to Colorado’s offside.
The Avalanche knocked out Georgiev with less than two minutes left, but failed to tie. This allowed the Kraken to accomplish another franchise first – a series-defining celebration.
“We had success when we played them tight and simple,” Bjorkstrand said of the Avalanche. “When they were at their best, they had space. Success came from moving our feet and getting the pucks deep.”
Colorado has now lost its last six Game 7s, and Seattle’s win continued a historic trend of road teams in the playoffs. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, teams on the road are 31-18, the most first-round road wins since the NHL went four rounds of a seven-game series. games in 1987.
“I’m just really happy for the guys and their efforts. They deserve it,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “Everyone was waiting for this group to fall and go, and we never did. We have substance, and our team played very cohesively, and they worked hard for that. deserved when we became a playoff team.”
Both teams lost players for the series due to hard knocks. Jared McCann did not play again after taking a hit from Cale Makar along the boards in Game 4, which resulted in a one-game (Game 5) suspension for the Avalanche defenseman. Colorado was without Andrew Cogliano for Game 7 after suffering a broken neck from a hit along the boards by Kraken forward Jordan Eberle, who did not face further discipline.
MacKinnon energized the crowd with what looked like an equalizer. But he was taken off the board following a challenge as Artturi Lehkonen was judged in the zone before the puck entered.
This is the second time in this series that the Kraken has used a challenge to nullify an Avalanche score.
The Kraken also deflated the crowd by doing what they’ve done every game in this series – score first.
Held scoreless all series to come, Bjorkstrand was credited with a second-period goal that glanced off Alex Newhook’s stick, then Ben Meyers’ glove and into the net. Bjorkstrand scored again nearly four minutes later on a breakaway down the side to make it 2-0.
Bjorkstrand came close to scoring a hat trick but his late shot hit the post.
“I didn’t want to go out and not be able to sleep at night because I wasn’t performing well,” Bjorkstrand explained. “Some nights you feel the puck better and I feel like this is just one of those nights.”
With 27.3 seconds left in the second period, MacKinnon lined up a shot that stunned Rantanen and went past Grubauer. MacKinnon’s assist on the play was his 100th career playoff point. He joins the company of Joe Sakic (188) and Forsberg (159) as the only Avalanche players to reach the 100-point milestone in the playoffs.
Georgiev finished with 25 saves.
The damaged Avalanche were missing forwards Darren Helm (upper body), Cogliano and Valeri Nichushkin (personal reasons), and defenseman Josh Manson (lower body) in Game 7.
They have been without captain Gabriel Landeskog all season after undergoing knee surgery in October.
“A tough year overall,” MacKinnon said. “Obviously during the season we’re going to say all the right things, but it’s hard to miss guys. … We played a really good game, we just couldn’t find the back of the net. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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