January 28, 2023

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Avalanche sweep Oilers, advance to NHL Stanley Cup Final

Avalanche sweep Oilers, advance to NHL Stanley Cup Final

Artturi Lehkonen scored 79 seconds into overtime and the Colorado Avalanche advanced to the Stanley Cup Final with a 6-5 victory over Edmonton on Monday in the NHL playoffs.

Colorado swept the host Oilers 4-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference final to reach the championship series for the first time since winning the title in 2001.

The Avalanche will face either the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning or New York Rangers for the Stanley Cup. The Rangers lead the Eastern Conference final 2-1.

No Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens, the longest such drought in NHL history.

Colorado will try to claim a third Stanley Cup, having also lifted the trophy in 1996.

The winning goal came when Finnish left wing Lehkonen tipped a shot from defenseman Cale Makar past Oilers goaltender Mike Smith.

“Cale took the shot. I just deflected it,” Lehkonen said. “It landed straight on my blade. I had an empty net in front of me.”

The Avalanche rallied from two goals down in the third period and briefly seized the lead before being forced to play overtime to subdue the stubborn Oilers,

“It was a great comeback win for sure,” Lehkonen said. “We were talking in the second intermission that we just had to find our game and we could pull through this.”

Colorado defenseman Makar opened the scoring 3:46 into the game on a power play goal off a pass from Lehkonen.

Zach Hyman equalized for Edmonton on a backhand shot off a pass from Leon Draisaitl 7:39 into the second period.

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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins lifted the Oilers ahead on an unassisted backhand goal with 3:03 remaining in the second period.

Connor McDavid followed with a power play goal off a Draisaitl pass only 66 seconds before the end of the period to put Edmonton ahead 3-1 after 40 minutes.

Just 31 seconds into the third period, defenseman Devon Toews lifted the Avalanche within 3-2 on a short-handed goal from a shot that deflected in off an Oiler defenseman.

But Hyman answered for Edmonton, taking a Draisaitl pass and firing an off-speed shot from the left face-off circle that beat Colorado goalie Pavel Francouz to give the Oilers a 4-2 edge with 16:05 to play.

Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog poked in a loose puck from the crease past Smith to pull the Avalanche within 4-3 with 11:02 remaining in the third period.

Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon netted the equalizer with 6:30 remaining, firing just under the crossbar inside the near post for his 11th goal of the playoffs.

Mikko Rantanen scored a power play goal with 5:13 remaining to put Colorado ahead 5-4, giving the Avalanche three goals in five shots over a 5:49 span to seize the lead.

But the Oilers, facing elimination, were not done yet as Zack Kassian knocked in a loose puck in the crease to equalize at 5-5 with 3:22 remaining in regulation time.