Dominant Darcy: Kuemper keeps Avalanche under wraps, Coyotes win Game 3

It took until Game 3, but Darcy Kuemper stole a victory for the Coyotes against the Avalanche. Late goals exaggerated the scoring to 4-2, yet the bottom line was that Kuemper was incredible, and the Coyotes crawled back into their First Round series, shrinking the Avs’ series lead to 2-1.

Make no mistake about it; this Coyotes Game 3 win was all about Kuemper stifling the Avalanche.

The Count on Kuemper plan works for Coyotes vs. Avalanche in Game 3

Look, it’s not as though the Coyotes were unaware of Kuemper’s ability to steal a game.

The big goalie pulled that off for much of the Coyotes’ series against the Predators, and Kuemper almost pulled it off against the Avalanche in Game 1. This time around, the Coyotes could count on Kuemper to steal Game 3, making 49 saves.

It’s now the fifth time in the last seven games that Kuemper faced at least 40 shots on goal. Is that a sustainable plan? Well, Kuemper’s making it look more and more viable for the Coyotes.

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Derek Stepan scored the only goal of the first period, while Brad Richardson broke a 1-1 tie with a big 2-1 goal in the second.

From there, the Coyotes scored an empty-net goal, Mikko Rantanen gave the Avalanche a flicker of hope with a 3-2 goal with less than a minute left, and then Lawson Crouse iced the game with another empty-netter.

Despite closing off a back-to-back set, the Avalanche fired a ton of shots on Kuemper, generating a 51-23 shots on goal advantage overall. But Kuemper was just that brilliant, and Arizona was opportunistic.

Did the Avalanche maybe overthink things by starting Pavel Francouz in a back-to-back after Philipp Grubauer won Game 2 on Friday? That’s easy to say in hindsight, and maybe a bit unfair, especially since Francouz quietly put together a fantastic 2019-20 regular season. But it has to be frustrating for the Avalanche to exert that level of effort and leave Game 3 empty-handed against the Coyotes.

It’s also tough to beat up too much on some of the top Avalanche players. Between Nathan MacKinnon (seven), Cale Makar (seven), Gabriel Landeskog (three), and Rantanen (four), those Avs fired 21 SOG, almost as many shots as the Coyotes mustered. Sometimes you run into a hot goalie, and only Andre Burakovsky (two goals in as many games) has been able to have much luck against Kuemper lately.

The underdog Desert Dogs could become a real problem for the heavily favored Avalanche if Colorado can’t start getting more traction against Kuemper.

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 7 Arizona Coyotes (COL leads 2-1)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Avalanche 3, Coyotes 0 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: Avalanche 3, Coyotes 2 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 15: Colorado at Arizona, 3 p.m. ET – CNBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Colorado at Arizona, 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Arizona at Colorado – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Colorado at Arizona – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Arizona at Colorado – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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