Avalanche off to Cup Final for 1st time since 2001

    Kristen Shilton is a national NHL reporter for ESPN.

EDMONTON, Alberta — The Colorado Avalanche swept Edmonton from the Western Conference finals in Game 4 on Monday, topping the Oilers 6-5 in overtime to win the best-of-seven series 4-0.

Colorado advances now to the Stanley Cup Final, where it will face the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers. New York leads that series 2-1. It’ll be the Avalanche’s first appearance in the final round since 2001.

Edmonton had its opportunities to stay alive in Game 4, squandering two multigoal leads. The Oilers were ahead 4-2 midway through the third period, only to allow three straight to the attacking Avalanche. Zack Kassian tied the game 5-5 late in regulation to force overtime, where Artturi Lehkonen ended Edmonton’s hopes of an eventual Cup Final bid with the game-winning goal.

It was Colorado that struck first off a power-play goal by Cale Makar. It was Makar’s fifth goal of the postseason, and his first of five points in Game 4.

The game remained 1-0 until halfway through the second. Edmonton was being outshot 21-12 at that point, as goaltender Mike Smith once again kept the Oilers in the game early.

Zach Hyman finally capitalized during a strong push by the Oilers in Colorado’s end, beating Colorado netminder Pavel Francouz to give Edmonton some life.

The Oilers scored two quickly after that, first when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pounced on a Colorado turnover and then with Connor McDavid’s power-play marker.

Leon Draisaitl assisted on the McDavid goal, despite appearing to suffer an injury earlier in the second. The Oilers top liner hasn’t been nearly 100% healthy in the postseason, and he labored to the bench in agony following a hit late in the second period. Draisaitl refused to leave the game, though, and barely missed a shift before adding the helper on McDavid’s goal. And he wasn’t done there.

Draisaitl generated another assist on Hyman’s second goal, this one in the third period. Edmonton had started that frame ahead 3-1, until Devon Toews scored 31 seconds in to make it 3-2. The Oilers hung in, and Draisaitl fed Hyman to hurriedly restore Edmonton’s two-goal lead.

Colorado was down 4-2 but wouldn’t be for long. Midway through the third, Smith’s clearing attempt hit a referee and stayed in the Oilers’ zone to set up a fast score by Gabriel Landeskog.

Then, after another unsuccessful Oilers power play, Nathan MacKinnon jumped into the play and fired the game-tying goal past Smith to make it 4-4 with six minutes to play in regulation.

Mikko Rantanen had Colorado up 5-4 with a power-play goal right after. Edmonton responded with McDavid and Draisaitl combining to tee up Kassian’s game-tying goal after that. Draisaitl finished with four points, and McDavid with three.

Lehkonen needed just 1:19 in the extra frame to score the game winner, capping his three-point night.

The Avalanche have played for the Cup twice in their franchise history, winning both series. In 1996, they defeated the Florida Panthers. In 2001, they outlasted the New Jersey Devils.

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