The Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights meet for Game 4 of their second-round playoff series on Sunday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Three keys for Colorado, which leads 2-1:
1. Compete. This should be a given at this time of the year but the Avs lacked intensity in Game 3 and coach Jared Bednar called it like it was. They need to play with more urgency and attack and defend every shift like it was their last. Slump-busting games can happen with extraordinarily hard work and this highly skilled team needs to get back to the basics of winning races to pucks, winning puck battles and creating a strong forecheck. Gaining possession and maintaining it is a strength of both teams but Colorado has not been good at it since the first period of Game 2.
2. Return of MacKinnon. The Avs need superstar center Nathan MacKinnon back in his Game 1 form when he had two goals, three points and eight shots. He assisted on the game-winning overtime goal in Game 2 but was ineffective in Game 3. MacKinnon was credited with a team-high four shots Friday but he didn’t look like himself — not nearly as dangerous as he typically is — and was pointless for just the second time in seven playoff games. MacKinnon can carry this team offensively, but if he and his line aren’t scoring and the depth guys struggle, the Avs are in trouble.
3. Find the flow. Clean breakout exits, limiting turnovers in the middle of the ice and maintaining possession in the offensive zone have been the Avs’ strengths all season. They need to regain that magic and it always starts by moving your feet. If they can find the flow, the shots will come and the scoring opportunities will develop. Vegas outshot Colorado 41-25 in Game 2 and 43-20 in Game 3. If the Avs find their flow those numbers will get reversed and they will have the best chance to win — particularly because goalie Philipp Grubauer is on his game.
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