Avalanche aiming to distract Coyotes’ Kuemper more in Game 4
The Colorado Avalanche had all the numbers in their favor. Odd-man rushes, 51 shots on goal, 92 shot attempts.
One hot goalie turned what should have been a win into a loss.
Now up 2-1 instead of 3-0 against Arizona, the Avalanche need to figure out how to get in front of Darcy Kuemper more or the series could end up tied after Monday’s Game 4.
“We’re going to have to find a way to get in Kuemper’s eyes a little bit more because if he sees it, he’s stopping it,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said.
Kuemper has stopped plenty of shots since the postseason began.
Hampered by a lower-body injury during the regular season, he helped carry the Coyotes past Nashville in the Stanley Cup qualifiers and has stopped 111 of 119 shots in three games against Colorado.
Kuemper was stellar in Game 3, stopping 49 shots as the Coyotes withstood one flurry after another to win 4-2.
Arizona’s biggest concern: finding a way to answer the Avalanche’s pressure.
The Coyotes spent most of Game 3 on their heels after Derek Stepan scored in the first period, putting extra pressure on Kuemper to make one difficult save after another.
It worked on Saturday, but the Coyotes know that needs to change if they’re going to even up the series inside the Edmonton bubble.
“We’re going to have to tilt the ice a little bit on the other side if we’re going to get back in this thing,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said.
The Coyotes aren’t the only team in the bubble looking to generate more offense.
Columbus managed just seven combined shots in the final two periods in Saturday’s Game 3 against Tampa Bay, leading to a 3-2 loss that put the Lightning up 2-1 heading into Game 4 Monday.
The Blue Jackets already play a close-to-the-vest style and the Lightning have made it tougher on them with offensive pressure.
“The more you make them play offense, the more they maybe don’t have the legs or the wind to go down and play offense,” Lightning coach John Cooper said. “You’re almost defending all over the ice.”
Boston took control of its series against Carolina on Saturday despite learning goalie Tuukka Rask decided to opt out of the playoffs to be with his family.
The defending Eastern Conference champions also were without leading scorer David Pastrnak for the second straight game because of injury, but still beat the Hurricanes 3-1 to take a 2-1 lead into Monday’s Game 4.
Pastrnak skated with the team on Sunday, but coach Bruce Cassidy said he’s “50/50 at best” to play Monday.
Carolina knows it will be without Andrei Svechnikov. The young Russian winger’s right leg buckled after he tangled with Zdeno Chara late in Game 3 and his absence will force Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour to make a few lineup changes for Monday’s game and the rest of the series.
“We have to be fluid with the lineup,” Brind’Amour said. “We practiced with some different combos today. With ‘Svech’ being out, it puts us at a little disadvantage. I think we’ll move the lines around quite a bit tomorrow. We’re going to need everyone.”
Vancouver will have a chance to extend its series lead against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Monday. The Canucks were up 2-0 heading into Game 3 Sunday night.
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