Earning the No. 1 seed has not translated into an advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, as Tampa Bay found out in the East and Calgary is hoping to avoid in the West. The Flames, who rolled up a Western Conference-best 107 points, have dropped two in a row to fall into a 2-1 series hole entering Game 4 against the host Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.
Nathan MacKinnon delivered the decisive tally in overtime in Game 2 and ignited Colorado by scoring twice on the power play in the first period of Monday's 6-2 romp. "We're just trying to get to four wins," MacKinnon said. "We feel good, but at the same time, we got to move on. It's two wins now, but we need to regroup and get ready for a huge game Wednesday." Calgary was overwhelmed from the outset in Game 3, allowing 21 of Colorado's 56 shots on goal in the opening period and putting the Avalanche on the power play eight times, but the players know how quickly the momentum can change. "It's a 2-1 series. We win tomorrow, we go back best-of-three with two home games," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "If you look at it that way, it's a positive. But we have to put in the work and get the win."
ABOUT THE FLAMES: While both teams rely a high-powered top line, but Calgary's No. 1 unit of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm need to start producing after being held to a collective four points through three games. "Everyone has got to be better, not just one guy," said Gaudreau, who has managed only one assist after matching MacKinnon by racking up a career-high 99 points during the regular season. Third-line forward Sam Bennett has a team-high four points while defenseman Rasmus Andersson is second on the team with three points.
ABOUT THE AVALANCHE: Cale Makar made a loud introduction just one day after signing a three-year contact with Colorado, becoming the first defenseman in league history to make his NHL debut in the playoffs and score a goal. "It's pretty weird. Pretty special, though," said Makar, a No. 4 overall pick in 2017 who led Massachusetts to the Frozen Four and was named the Hobey Baker Award winner this season. "Obviously, it's a cool moment." Forward Matt Nieto, who entered the series without a goal since Dec. 6, has notched short-handed tallies in each of the past two games.
1. Avalanche F Mikko Rantanen, who missed the final eight games of the regular season, has consecutive two-point contests.
2. Flames Fs Michael Frolik and James Neal have yet to dent the scoresheet.
3. Avalanche D Samuel Girard (upper body) could rejoin the lineup after sitting out Game 3.