SEATTLE (AP) — Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar weren’t interested in being side characters to a historic night for the Seattle Kraken.
The trio took center stage and reclaimed home-ice advantage for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
MacKinnon and Rantanen scored in a 1:28 span early in the third period, and the Colorado Avalanche spoiled Seattle’s first home playoff game with a 6-4 victory Saturday night in Game 3 of the first-round series.
Tied at 3 after a wild first 40 minutes, the defending Stanley Cup champions relied on their best players to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
“I think scoring in the playoffs on the road is awesome. It’s a cool feeling, no matter how you get them. They feel great,” MacKinnon said. “A lot of guys scored some big goals tonight.”
MacKinnon scored his first two goals of the playoffs, Makar added his first of this postseason after winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of last year’s championship run, and Rantanen scored for the second straight game, capping the victory with an empty-net goal with 2:14 left.
MacKinnon scored on a breakaway late in the first period to give Colorado a 2-1 lead. His second goal was even better, taking advantage of Seattle’s fourth line getting stuck on the ice and ripping a wrist shot past Seattle goalie Philipp Grubauer for a 5-3 lead.
MacKinnon’s second goal came moments after Rantanen finished off a 3-on-2 rush and silenced fans in a frenzy after Seattle’s second-period rally.
“He was the difference-maker that we’ve come to expect in big games, in must win games, in critical games, regular season and playoffs,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said about MacKinnon. “He played with great speed, great competitiveness, physical, and then when he got the puck, he was really tough to check.”
J.T. Compher scored short-handed in the first period and Makar’s goal at 4:33 of the second period gave the Avalanche a 3-1 lead. Makar’s goal came off a clean faceoff win by Colorado and left Seattle’s fans murmuring uncomfortably instead of the deafening cheers in the opening moments of the game.
Alexandar Georgiev made 26 saves for the Avalanche. Game 4 is on Monday night in Seattle.
“We had a couple of lapses in the game, but overall I feel like we played to our strengths,” Makar said.
Jaden Schwartz became the answer to a trivia question when he gave Seattle a 1-0 lead tipping Justin Schultz’s shot past Georgiev just 6:08 into the game. Jamie Oleksiak and Matty Beniers then scored 19 seconds apart during a wild sequence in the second period to pull Seattle even.
Oleksiak’s seventh career playoff goal was a nifty backhanded finish after stickhandling through several Colorado defenders and Beniers scored the first of what Seattle hopes is many playoff goals at 13:10 of the second period.
But Colorado controlled the third period. Schwartz scored his second with 40 seconds left in the game.
Grubauer made 28 saves for Seattle.
“We knew it was gonna be a long series. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Schwartz said. “So we’ve got a lot of faith in our game, lot of belief in each other. Just got to regroup.”
The first home playoff game in Kraken history was met with fans lined up outside Climate Pledge Arena long before doors opened and in full throat with the puck finally dropped just after 7 p.m. local time. It was the first home game in Kraken history but games for the Stanley Cup had been played in Seattle – 104 years ago to be exact when the 1919 Stanley Cup final between Seattle and Montreal was abandoned after Game 5 due to a flu pandemic.
“We were ready for this one, no question,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “I loved our start tonight. Loved the atmosphere. Loved the fans, the feel of the building. That was a playoff feel. That part of it was awesome.”