NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Colorado Avalanche lost goalie Darcy Kuemper late in the first period. Their power play is so strong right now that’s all they lost.
Gabriel Landeskog scored twice in the second period, and the top-seeded Avalanche beat the Nashville Predators 7-3 Saturday for a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round Western Conference series.
Landeskog also had two assists. Nazem Kadri and Devon Toews each added a goal and an assist, and Artturi Lehkonen and Nathan MacKinnon scored a power-play goal apiece as Colorado went 4 for 5 on the man advantage to push Nashville to the brink of elimination. Cale Makar had three assists.
“I’ve liked our power play a lot in this series, and tonight we just converted on our chances,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “Sometimes it’s as simple as that.”
Valeri Nichushkin added an empty-net goal with 2:46 left. The Avs had a couple missed opportunities once Nashville pulled goalie Connor Ingram with more than 4 minutes remaining.
Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper was hurt with a minute left in the first period. Pavel Francouz replaced him and made 18 saves in his seventh career playoff appearance. Francouz didn’t see what happened to Kuemper, only that his teammate was in a lot of pain and he was going in immediately.
Bednar said Kuemper took a stick to the eye, leaving him with swelling. Kuemper will be re-evaluated and could be available Monday night for Game 4.
“I didn’t even know that something like this could happen until today,” Francouz said. “I’ve never seen such an injury. It’s obviously scary that the stick can fit into the cage, but I think it’s a really small chance that something like this can happen.”
Matt Duchene, Eeli Tolvanen and captain Roman Josi each scored goals for Nashville. Alexandre Carrier had two assists.
This is the first time the Predators have trailed 0-3 in a series, and they will try to avoid being swept for the first time in their 15 playoff appearances.
“We have to win one,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “You look at it right now we’ve got a group that’s been resilient. We know what it is. And you’re not out of a series until it hits four.”
Colorado has simply dominated the Predators, outscoring them 16-6 with a 137-81 difference in shots through the first three games.
Lehkonen got the Avs on the board first yet again midway through the first on yet another Nashville penalty, deflecting a slap shot by Toews. MacKinnon made it 2-0 just 21 seconds into the Avs’ next man advantage at 16:07.
Duchene got Nashville on the board, scoring on a wrister at 17:37. Then Predators center Ryan Johansen’s stick caught Kuemper’s face, and Francouz replaced him in net.
The Predators managed to score twice on the man advantage in the second with Tolvanen scoring from the dot in the left face-off circle at 5:41. Landeskog beat Ingram with a backhander on the man advantage midway through the second for a 3-2 lead, then Josi tied it with a slap shot from the blue line at 12:11.
Landeskog scored his second at 14:02 to put Colorado ahead to stay.
The Avs got another man advantage when Nashville lost its challenge of Landeskog’s goal for Lehkonen interfering with Ingram. Predators forward Mikael Granlund was blamed for the contact. Ingram played the puck behind the net, lost the puck and Kadri scored into the open net just 39 seconds later for a 5-3 lead.
“That’s exactly the risk you take challenging sometimes,” Landeskog said. “That’s what we did last game, and we ended up getting a penalty on it. That was a big swing for sure, and we were able to get a bounce on the next power play and Naz cashes in. Definitely a big swing in the game.”
Toews padded the lead with a shot from the top of the left circle midway through the third.
The Avalanche goalie was hurt with 56.6 seconds left in the first as Johansen’s stick caught his face through the mask. Kuemper yanked the mask off and was down on the ice before skating to the locker room holding a towel to his face. He was 37-12-4 for Colorado during the regular season and won the first two games of this series.
“I don’t know exactly what happened or how it gets in there,” Bednar said of the stick. “It’s unfortunate is what I think. It’s an unfortunate play.”
Nashville led the NHL in penalties during the regular season, and Colorado has converted 42.9% on the man advantage in this series thanks to this strong performance. Josi said he felt the Predators improved later in the season.
“They got so many great offensive players and you don’t want to put them on the power play, you don’t want to give them looks,” Josi said. “They made us pay for them.”
Ingram became the first rookie in Nashville history to start a playoff game in Game 2’s overtime loss on Thursday night. His 49 saves tied for most by a goalie in his first postseason start in the last 10 years and tied for the fourth-most saves by a Predators goalie in franchise history in the playoffs. Ingram stopped 79 of 83 shots faced over the first two games of this series after coming off the bench.
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