EDMONTON, Alberta — Fourteen games, 12 victories.
Western Conference champions with just two losses on the way.
The Avalanche on Monday rallied to complete its second sweep in three best-of-seven series, defeating the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 in overtime to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since winning it all in 2001.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “It’s just resilience, belief, guys just wanting to win.”
Winger Artturi Lehkonen scored on a rebound 1:19 into OT in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals to cap a furious rally. Colorado twice trailed by two goals in a wild third period that featured six goals.
“When I saw that puck go in I was just so happy and now we get a chance to play for the Cup that every kid dreams about,” said Avs defenseman Erik Johnson, 34, the most senior member of a franchise that finished with a league-low 22 wins in 2016-17. “To have that opportunity — so we’re excited. I’m excited. So excited.”
Lehkonen batted down a high shot from defenseman Cale Makar and the puck hit goalie Mike Smith. Smith’s contact negated a potential whistle for a high stick and Lehkonen swatted the rebound into an open net. Makar had a hand in five goals, scoring the first.
“We had some real good resiliency in that third period,” said left-wing and team captain Gabe Landeskog, who scored to get the Avs within 4-3 during a back-and-forth stretch that resembled Game 1
“Lehky – that’s a clutch goal at a key time.”
Colorado will face the winner of the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Rangers lead that series 2-1. The Avs could have another week-long break between games, as they had after sweeping Nashville in the first round.
“It’s awesome,” said center Nathan MacKinnon, who tied it 4-4. “We just felt it was our time.”
Johnson saw it coming.
“We’re so resilient. Even after the third we went into the locker room before overtime and we just said, ‘Hey boys, we would sign up for this great comeback. All the pressure is on them. If they lose their season’s over.’ So we stuck with it and put our heads down and knew that if we played the right way and continued to play that way that it was going to come.”
Tied 4-4, Avalanche center Mikko Rantanen scored a power-play goal with 5:13 remaining in the third period for Colorado’s first lead since going ahead 1-0. But less than two minutes later, Oilers winger Zach Kassian pounced on a loose puck in the crease to forge another tie.
Landeskog and MacKinnon put pucks behind Smith at 8:58 and 13:30 to knot it 4-4. Landeskog chipped the puck in the net during a moment of chaos in the crease and MacKinnon beat Smith with a top-shelf wrist shot.
The Avs had a 1-0 lead and were dominating play early in the second period before the Oilers got a goal from Zach Hyman to tie it and then scored two twice with 1:57 late in the frame to take a 3-1 lead into the third.
Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins both beat goalie Pavel Francouz with backhanders on the breakaway. Leon Draisaitl sprung Hyman with a diagonal pass through the neutral zone and Nugent-Hopkins capitalized on a defensive-end turnover by Avs defenseman Devon Toews.
A little more than a minute after Nugent-Hopkins’ goal, Colorado forward Alex Newhook shot the puck out of play from the defensive end for a delay-of-game minor. And 52 seconds later, Connor McDavid beat Francouz with a wrist shot on the power play.
In the first minute of the third period, Toews made up for his costly turnover by scoring to get Colorado within a goal. His shot from the high slot caromed off Edmonton defenseman Cody Ceci and behind Smith.
But Edmonton regained a two-goal lead by capitalizing on a 3-on-2 rush, with McDavid dropping the puck for Draisaitl and Draisaitl dishing to Hyman for a one-time blast.
Makar opened the scoring. It came during the game’s first power play as the result of Kassian’s slash on Avs defenseman Jack Johnson. Lehkonen sent the puck low to high to Makar, who found a lane and wristed the puck high over Smith’s glove-side shoulder.
“A lot of fight in our team. I’m really proud of them for what they’ve accomplished to this point,” Bednar said. “Our first goal was the regular season and then Round 1, 2 and 3, sort of a five-step process for us to be the best team we can possibly be. To get our habits right through the regular season and find a way to advance and continue to try to get better — we’ve done that.”
Footnotes. Goalie Darcy Kuemper, who was injured early in Game 1 of this series, was cleared to play and backed up Francouz. … Mikko Rantanen, a natural right-winger, replaced the injured Nazem Kadri as the Avs’ second-line center. Winger Andre Burakovsky returned from a two-game injury absence and winger Nicolas Aube-Kubel stepped in for Nico Sturm. … Oilers forward Dylan Holloway, 20, made his NHL debut. Edmonton again went with 11 forwards and an extra defenseman (Kris Russell).