DENVER – The ice opened up, the net yawned wide and the Colorado Avalanche unleashed.
Building off a rally and overtime win in Game 2, the Avalanche blew out the Calgary Flames in the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center, 6-2, and took a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference playoff series.
Cale Makar didn’t make the jump to the NHL so much as teleport in. It took all of 16:02 into his pro career for the 20-year-old, who was playing in the NCAA title game with the University of Massachusetts two nights previously, to become the first defenseman in NHL history to score in a debut that came in the postseason.
With the Avalanche up 2-0, Nathan MacKinnon dropped it off, Makar stickhandled in heavy coverage and beat Mike Smith low.
The Avalanche peppered Smith, the first star of Games 1 and 2, with 56 shots, a new record for playoff regulation.
MacKinnon opened the scoring on the back end of a full two-minute 5-on-3. He pinched in and beat Smith through a Gabriel Landeskog screen.
A minor penalty turned into a 5-on-3 for a few seconds as a Flames player headed to the bench to replace a stick, even as the Avalanche maintained possession. The Avs used that window to set up an impressive passing play. Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen threw it around, then MacKinnon took a knee and finished it at the back door.
Matt Nieto scored shorthanded for the second straight game, pouncing on the leftovers of an Ian Cole breakaway. Three games in, he has twice as many shorthanded goals as he did during the regular season. The Flames responded on the same power play to make it 4-1.
Colin Wilson fed Rantanen to make it 5-1. It was the first career postseason goal for Rantanen, who returned from injury for Game 1.
An Erik Johnson goal and a Calgary response within 15 seconds early in the third period closed the scoring.
The Avalanche lead a playoff series for the first time since 2014.
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