DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Avalanche couldn’t find their stride in the first period, skating with more caution than confidence.
After intermission, they flipped a switch to swagger mode. They played more like the version that earned a Stanley Cup title last season.
Devon Toews scored with 7:01 remaining to complete Colorado’s rally from two goals down as the Avalanche beat the Seattle Kraken 3-2 on Thursday night to even their first-round series at a game apiece.
Trailing 2-0 in the second period, Artturi Lehkonen and Valeri Nichushkin scored 48 seconds apart to tie the game. It set the stage for Toews, who knocked in a rebound for the Avalanche. It was Toews’ first career winning goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“When we’re playing like that, I don’t know many teams that can beat us,” defenseman Avalanche Bowen Byram said.
Justin Schultz and Brandon Tanev scored for a Kraken team that again got off to a flying start after winning 3-1 in Game 1.
“We have to manage the game a little bit better, knowing what to do and slow the game down a little bit and go back to our roots, what works for us,” Seattle forward Yanni Gourde explained. “When we do that, we’re a pretty successful group. We don’t have to chase the game. We don’t have to change the way we play. We just go back to what we do and we should be OK.”
Alexandar Georgiev was tested all night and finished with 27 saves. One of his top stops was in the closing seconds of the second period with Seattle on a 3-on-1 break. A pass was sent over to Jordan Eberle, but a sprawled-out Georgiev prevented the score with his extended right leg.
“He was exceptional the whole night,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of his goaltender.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday in Seattle, where the building will be rocking for the Kraken’s inaugural home postseason game.
“Going to be awesome,” Gourde said. “Super excited.”
Philipp Grubauer stopped 38 shots against his former team. He spent three seasons in Colorado before signing with Seattle prior to the 2021-22 season.
The Avalanche vowed to play with more intensity and more resolve in Game 2. But it was the Kraken who controlled the early tempo. Seattle’s defense found a way to contain Nathan MacKinnon and his speedy cast — until the second period.
That’s when Colorado hit its stride. Lehkonen and Nichushkin re-energized the capacity crowd by scoring 48 seconds apart. Last season, Lehkonen played a role in a two-goal spurt over a 15-second span when he and Josh Manson scored in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
“We were pressing a little bit and once we got that first one, we took a deep breath, got the second one quickly and after that just kept rolling,” Avalanche forward Evan Rodrigues said. “We fed off the crowd and started to play a lot more simple.”
For the second straight game, the Kraken scored early. This time, it was the result of a 2-on-1 break where Schultz sent the puck through the pads of Georgiev. The Kraken were 32-7-3 in the regular season when scoring first.
Tanev added a short-handed goal to make it 2-0 and then blew a kiss to the crowd.
Any particular reason why?
“No,” Tanev said.
As for losing the two-goal lead, Tanev said it’s about managing those momentum shifts.
“They’ve got some really good players on their team and when you give time and space and opportunities for them to get up the ice, they’re going to capitalize,” Tanev said.
The injuries continue to pile up for the Avalanche with defenseman Jack Johnson and forward Andrew Cogliano sidelined for a second straight game. Midway through the third period, Lars Eller slammed into the boards and struggled to get to the bench.
Colorado used 43 different players in the regular season, the most in a season since the Avalanche moved to town before the 1995-96 season. One of the biggest absences has been captain Gabriel Landeskog, who hasn’t played all year due to a knee injury.
AROUND THE RINK
Both teams were 0 for 2 on the power play. … Gourde had two assists. … The teams combined for 90 hits.
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Pat Graham, The Associated Press