Superstition says it’s bad luck to touch the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl upon winning the Western Conference title.
The Colorado Avalanche were not fretting about such things on Monday after a 6-5 overtime win over the host Edmonton Oilers that sends them to the Stanley Cup Final.
“Some guys wanted to touch it, some guys didn’t. Joe (Sakic, the general manager) said, ‘Do whatever you want,'” captain Gabriel Landeskog said.
Artturi Lehkonen’s overtime winner capped a three-point outing and defenseman Cale Makar tallied once in a five-point game to lead the Avalanche to the victory that sends them to the championship series for the first time since 2001.
Colorado, which trailed 4-2 in the third period, swept the best-of-seven Western Conference finals in four games.
Landeskog also had a goal and two assists, while Nathan MacKinnon, Devon Toews and Mikko Rantanen added a goal apiece for the Avalanche, who earned their second series sweep of this year’s postseason.
Colorado goaltender Pavel Francouz made 30 saves.
The Avalanche will face the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, which the Rangers lead 2-1.
Lehtonen became the hero 79 seconds into the extra frame when he buried the rebound after his deflection of Makar’s point shot was stopped. He is the first player to score series-clinching overtime goals in consecutive seasons to send his team to the Stanley Cup Final since Gordie Drillon of the Toronto Maple Leafs did so in the 1938 and ’39 semifinals.
“It’s taken a long time to get here and a lot of tough times, but this is a big step, and a big step in the right direction,” Landeskog said.
Zach Hyman scored twice, Connor McDavid collected one goal and two assists and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian added single goals for the Oilers. Mike Smith stopped 36 shots.
Leon Draisaitl, despite an obviously painful ankle issue, netted four assists. Draisaitl collected three or more points seven times during his team’s 16-game playoff run. He is only the second player in history to reach seven three-point games in a single postseason, with the other being Wayne Gretzky, but it wasn’t enough in a wild clash that included six goals in a third period that saw both teams blow a lead.
Makar’s power-play goal at 3:46 of the first period opened the scoring, but second-period goals by Hyman, Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid put the hosts up 3-1 and set the stage for a crazy third period.
Toews scored 31 seconds into the period only to see Hyman pot his second of the game to restore Edmonton’s two-goal edge at 3:55.
The Avalanche stormed back to take a 5-4 lead thanks to goals by Landeskog at 8:58, MacKinnon at 13:30 and then Rantanen at 14:47. However, Kassian’s rebound goal with 3:22 left in regulation forced overtime.
The Avalanche are 2-0 in previous trips to the Stanley Cup final, having swept the Florida Panthers in four games in 1996 before beating the New Jersey Devils in seven games in 2001.
As disappointed as they are, the Oilers can hold their heads high. They got to the conference finals for the first time since 2006.
“Every team goes through it,” McDavid said. “They become a playoff team, get there most years, go on a little bit of run and learn that lesson, and then it becomes their time to win. We look at a Colorado team that’s been in that situation many, many times, and they’re knocking on the door right now. It’s a step in the right direction.”
McDavid recorded his 12th multi-point game of the 2022 postseason. The only players with more in a single year’s playoffs were Mario Lemieux (14 in 1991) and Gretzky (14 in 1988 and 13 in 1985).
–Field Level Media