The Golden Knights scored two goals in 45 seconds of the third period. Before that, they had led for just 1:29 of the entire series.
The final 4:33 of Game 3 with the Colorado Avalanche, the second Golden Knights lead of the season, may have been what saved their season.
Max Pacioretty tipped a shot past Vezina finalist Philipp Grubauer with that 4:33 on the clock to give Vegas its second lead of the game, and second lead of the series, and set the Golden Knights up for a 3-2 win over the Avalanche.
A loss would have meant almost a certain ending to their season, in a 3-0 whole. Instead, they have another game on home ice in Game 4, now trailing a manageable 2-1 in the Second Round.
The Knights peppered Grubauer and the Avalanche, and on their 19th shot of the night, they struck.
Off a rebound from an Alex Pietrangelo attempt, William Karlsson backhanded a shot past Grubauer by the crease and put the Golden Knights ahead 1-0 4:38 into the second period.
By that point, the Avalanche had taken just eight shots on goal. They managed just three in the entire first frame compared to the 14 from the Golden Knights.
Colorado didn’t need, well, an Avalanche of shots to knot the score up once more. It was just one shot from Carl Soderberg that evened the contest.
For his first goal of the postseason, the center picked up a rebound off a Pierre-Edouard Bellemare blast by the right circle, collecting the puck off Fluery just beneath the hashmarks. The tally came just 1:29 after the Golden Knights had gone ahead.
Colorado took its first lead 5:04 into the third period on a Rantanen shot on the power play just above the slot. He fired it just past Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on the inside of the right post, making it a 2-1 score. The goal made Friday night the 17th consecutive playoff game where Rantanen has contributed a point, dating back to last season.
That was Colorado’s 15th shot of the game, as the Avs inched closer in the shots department, though the Golden Knights still held the heavy advantage the entire game.
Rantanen’s goal was also the fifth Colorado power play goal in 13 attempts against the league’s top-ranked penalty kill in Vegas. No matter what the Golden Knights have thrown at Colorado, the Avalanche have found an answer.
Vegas, however, had an answer too.
Jonathan Marchessault whiffed on a shot then got the rebound past Grubauer with just under six minutes to play to tie the game 2-2, and Pacioretty netted the go-ahead tally with 4:33 left in regulation.
The Golden Knights forward deflected a shot from Nick Holden on the blue line to give the Golden Knights their second lead of the series.
Even after Vegas went ahead, they faced a flurry of shots from the Avalanche as the clock ticked down. Being the threat to score that the Avalanche are, a go-ahead goal with 4:33 left is far from a secure ending.
Rantanen nearly buried his second goal of the game with 44 seconds left but was denied by Fleury, who preserved the win, and likely the Vegas season.
The Golden Knights finished with 42 shots on net to the Avalanche’s 20. They were desperate for the win, and in the third period, in front of a full crowd, things came together enough to preserve the season for another day.
Game 4 is Sunday. If it’s anything like Game 3, buckle up. This series has life.
AVALANCHE VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS (COL leads 2-1) – series livestream link
Game 1: Avalanche 7, Golden Knights 1
Game 2: Avalanche 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT)
Game 3: Golden Knights 3, Avalanche 2
Game 4: Sun. June 6: Avalanche at Golden Knights, 8:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 5: Tues. June 8: Golden Knights at Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
*Game 6: Thurs. June 10: Avalanche at Golden Knights TBD
*Game 7: Sat. June 12: Golden Knights at Avalanche TBD
Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.