Artturi Lehkonen is sending a team to the Stanley Cup Final for a second straight season.
Lehkonen scored 1 minute, 19 seconds into overtime, and Colorado Avalanche rallied to beat the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 on Monday night, completing a four-game sweep in the Western Conference final and propelling the Avalanche into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2001.
Colorado are to take on the winner of the Eastern Conference final between the New York Rangers and two-time defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning.
Photo: Perry Nelson-USA Today
Lehkonen repeated his feat of last season, when he scored in overtime in Game 6 to send the Montreal Canadiens to the final against eventual repeat champions Tampa Bay.
“Cale [Makar] took the shot,” Lehkonen said. “I got a tip on it. It landed straight on my blade. I basically had an empty netter in front of me, so tap it in.”
Lehkonen becomes the second player in NHL history, and first in 83 years, to score an overtime goal to send his club into the championship series more than once in his career. Toronto’s Gordie Drillon accomplished the feat in 1938 and 1939.
“Everybody knows how good he is, how resilient he is,” Mikko Rantanen said of fellow Finn Lehkonen, acquired by Colorado at the trade deadline. “He checks, he defends hard, he kills penalties, plays on the power play, he scores big goals, goes to the hard areas. What else can you ask for from a player — a trade acquisition.”
“It’s fun to watch, and I’m really happy that we got him, and he’s shown why we gave quite a bit for him,” Rantanen added.
Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Rantanen also scored for Colorado. Pavel Francouz stopped 30 of 35 shots.
Zach Hyman scored twice for the Oilers, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian also scored. Leon Draisaitl had four assists and goalie Mike Smith finished with 36 saves.
“I don’t think anyone necessarily expected us to be here,” Draisaitl said. “With that being said, we expected to be here, we want to be here and we want to be even further. I’m proud of the group, but obviously we’re disappointed.”
McDavid sees the Oilers’ playoff run as move in the right direction.
“Every team goes through it. You become a playoff team, then you get there most years and they go on a little bit of a run. They learn that lesson and then it’s their time to win... This is a step in the right direction,” McDavid said.
The teams combined for six goals in the third period — four by Colorado, which rallied from a 4-2 deficit despite being outshot 15-13.
“It was a great comeback win, for sure,” Lehkonen said. “We were talking in the second intermission that we just got to find our game and we can pull through this.”
Rantanen appeared to complete Colorado’s comeback, scoring a power-play goal with just more than 5 minutes remaining to give the Avalanche a 5-4 edge.
However, the Oilers stormed back and forced overtime when Kassian scored at 16 minutes, 38 seconds and tied it at five-all. Lehkonen’s overtime goal stood up after review for a high stick.
The Avalanche improved to 11-2 in the playoffs, including a perfect 7-0 on the road. Only six other teams in NHL history have strung together at least seven consecutive road victories in a post-season.
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