Marchessault, Golden Knights overwhelm Avalanche in Game 4

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The Golden Knights are just absolutely overwhelming the Avalanche, with Game 4 maybe being their masterpiece. The Golden Knights won Game 4 by a score of 5-1, tying their series vs. the Avalanche at 2-2.

Vegas is on fire, and the Avs have a fire to put out. Let’s dive into a stunning Game 4 in a captivating Second Round series.

Golden Knights dominate Avalanche in Game 4

After the Golden Knights broke through to beat the Avs in Game 3, Jared Bednar fumed about his team’s efforts. That included top players.

“The easy answer is for five periods straight they’ve been far more competitive than we have,” Bednar said after a 3-2 Game 3 loss via Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “To dissect the game any more than that is a waste of time.”

Considering how the Golden Knights ran rampant against the Avalanche in Game 4, should we amend that to seven periods in a row? Eight?

Earlier in this series, the efforts were there for Vegas’ top two lines, but the production was not.

Things might be even more concerning for the Avs, including Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen. (And, by extension, explosive defensemen such as Cale Makar.)

After all, Colorado did get an early lead in this one … from one of the few forwards who are still pretty hot, Brandon Saad.

Marchessault, Vegas take over

Things have definitely been looking up for the Golden Knights’ top two lines.

Most obviously, Jonathan Marchessault is surging from ice-cold (one goal on 33 SOG through Game 2) to red-hot. Marchessault scored a big goal in Game 3, but was just on fire in Game 4, collecting his first career playoff hat trick.

It must be refreshing for Marchessault – William KarlssonReilly Smith to make such a difference vs. such a dangerous opponent. They’re not alone in those efforts, either.

The “other” Vegas top line is looking strong, too. Philipp Grubauer‘s been tough to beat, but Max Pacioretty is the type of sniper who can occasionally make you look more human. The Golden Knights continue to look like a different team with “Patches” back in the lineup.

Beyond those top players delivering, the Golden Knights were just relentless, controlling play for most of Game 4, and generally befuddled the typically-unflappable Avalanche.

Time for some adjustments?

Remember when it didn’t seem like it even mattered if Nazem Kadri will successfully appeal his eight-game suspension? Mysteriously, that topic bubbled back up on Sunday.

Truly, it’s jarring to see Colorado play like this. In general and in Game 4 most of all, the Golden Knights have been making the Avalanche look like … well, a lot like many overmatched opponents vs. the Avs.

It inspires plenty of questions, and presents challenges for Nathan MacKinnon, other top stars, and also Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar.

As Jack Han discussed in an interesting thread, maybe there needs to be structural tweaks to limit rush chances, where Vegas has made a killing?

Hockey fans and media have been buzzing about Golden Knights – Avalanche as a series for quite some time for good reason.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Truly, it’s the sort of battle of heavyweights we don’t always get to enjoy in the upset-laden Stanley Cup Playoffs. What happens if you’re vintage Mike Tyson, but now you face someone who can change your plans by hitting you in the mouth?

Maybe the Avalanche can just shake off Game 4 by getting a clean slate, and a change of scenery, vs. the Golden Knights in Game 5 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN)?

As this series began, it seemed like Colorado might steamroll everyone, Vegas included. Now the tide has turned, as the Avs were outclassed — even before Game 4. Can they adjust and respond? Whatever the answer may be, it sure seems like this series will keep treating hockey fans to great drama and excitement.

AVALANCHE VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS (Series tied 2-2) – 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: Golden Knights 5, Avalanche 1
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

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.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

Rasmus Sandin
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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.