For the first time since winning it all in 2001, the Colorado Avalanche are headed to the Stanley Cup Final. The Avalanche made it this far by completing a sweep of the Oilers, but not before a hard-fought Game 4 win: 6-5 in overtime.
Much of this game played out like fans would have dreamed. Connor McDavid, Cale Makar, Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, and others proved why they’re top stars.
Yet, it takes your supporting cast members, too. After sending the Canadiens to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final with a game-winner, Arturri Lehkonen punched Colorado’s ticket this time around.
That overtime goal survived a high-stick review:
Lehkonen with the game-winner to send the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup Final. After review, it's deemed a good goal. The Oilers season is over. pic.twitter.com/ICcOCwLGGS
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) June 7, 2022
In what’s becoming a growing theme, Cale Makar arguably ended up the most impressive. Makar collected five points (1G, 4A). Makar’s last assist of the night was on that Lehkonen OT-winner.
(Lehkonen did more than score that OTGWG, as he also collected two assists.)
Avalanche sweep Oilers in Game 4: a back-and-forth, star-studded thriller
After a busy first period, the Avs built a 1-0 lead. Cale Makar began what would be an impressive performance with a power-play goal.
Those waiting for a big Oilers push got what they hoped for in the second period. Edmonton scored all three goals during that middle frame, with goals from Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Connor McDavid (PPG).
Considering Edmonton’s 3-1 edge, you’d think the Avalanche would push, and the Oilers would survive. Instead, both the Oilers and the Avalanche just keep trading blows in the last 20 minutes of regulation.
Just 31 seconds into the third, Devon Toews made it 3-2. Before the four-minute mark, Hyman scored again to restore a two-goal Oilers lead.
Make that ✌️ goals for @ZachHyman tonight. #StanleyCup
🇺🇸: @NHL_On_TNT ➡️ https://t.co/uXYRIWH3W5
🇨🇦: @Sportsnet ➡️ https://t.co/rIruhjCRV2 pic.twitter.com/mbyb3mHHH6
— NHL (@NHL) June 7, 2022
Spoiler alert: that lead would not last. In fact, leads were quite unsafe in this one.
Gabriel Landeskog scored a 4-3 goal that inspired at least some room for debate. (Should the Oilers have challenged for goalie interference?) Coming out of the penalty box, Nathan MacKinnon scored an impressive goal to tie things up.
Then, after a debatable Derek Ryan penalty, Mikko Rantanen scored a power-play goal to give the Avalanche a 5-4 lead over the Oilers.
Lesser teams would have crumbled. Edmonton’s proven to be resilient during this run, so maybe it’s fitting that they forced overtime. Zack Kassian scored off of assists from Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, making it 5-5.
To recap: the two teams combined for six goals in the third period.
Finally, merely 1:19 into overtime, Lehkonen scored that series-clinching overtime game-winner.
Draisaitl, McDavid put together playoff run for ages despite injuries, losing series
Evander Kane missed Game 4 because he was suspended for a hit that’s most likely going to end Nazem Kadri‘s playoff run (not just involvement in the Avalanche – Oilers series). Those weren’t the only players to watch, injury/absence wise.
For quite some time, Leon Draisaitl’s been battling valiantly through lower-body injury issues. Throughout Game 4, Draisaitl was really laboring (at least when he wasn’t scoring).
Leon Draisaitl in excruciating pain, seems like he is close to his breaking point on that right foot injury. 😔 pic.twitter.com/oWggteHCTZ
— CenterIceHockey (@CenterIcefb) June 7, 2022
While the Oilers fell short, Leon Draisaitl piled up four primary assists in incredible pain. Connor McDavid delivered, too, with a goal and two assists.
Chew on a few quick facts about MacKinnon and Draisaitl as their playoff runs wound down. McDavid generated 12 multi-point games in a single playoff run, joining rare company.
Connor McDavid and multi-point games – name a better duo. 😏#NHLStats: https://t.co/QRIRdhbUnm #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/4MsixOj6ya
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 7, 2022
Leon Draisaitl joined Wayne Gretzky as the only two players in NHL history to generate at least seven games with at least three points in a single playoff run.
Leon Draisaitl became the second player in NHL history to register at least seven three-point games in a single postseason. Wayne Gretzky accomplished the feat on three separate occasions: 1985 (9 GP), 1988 (8 GP) and 1993 (7 GP). #StanleyCup#NHLStats: https://t.co/QRIRdhbUnm pic.twitter.com/or5SW2DGIQ
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 7, 2022
Draisaitl and McDavid also finished as one of the greatest one-two punches in playoff history. Especially considering a relatively early exit.
Connor McDavid & Leon Draisaitl are the 9th pair of teammates in Stanley Cup Playoff history to each record 30 points in a single postseason.
Of the previous 8 to achieve the feat, 3 came from Edmonton. pic.twitter.com/T6Z7cmBK1M
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 7, 2022
(Maybe older Oilers fans are jaded enough to feel like this isn’t rare, but this is remarkable stuff.)
Injuries to Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse (torn hip flexor), and others are definitely relevant. They add to already impressive achievements. But bangs and bruises for the Avs are, naturally, more directly pertinent.
Gabriel Landeskog had moments where he looked banged-up in Game 4. There’s a strong chance Nazem Kadri won’t be able to return this postseason, or at least not soon.
With the Rangers and Lightning certain to play at least two more games, the Avalanche get a chance to heal up. Naturally, some issues aren’t just an extra week or so from clearing up, but that healing time could pay off.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.