NHL Hockey

Avalanche moving on in playoffs for 1st time since 2008

Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) celebrates his goal against the Calgary Flames with teammates Nathan MacKinnon (29), Tyson Barrie (4) and Cale Makar (8) during the first period of Game 5 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series Friday, April 19, 2019, in Calgary, Alberta. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press via AP)

By PAT GRAHAM

AP Sports Writer

DENVER (AP) The brief message on social media from Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov was rhetorical in nature: "How is your bracket ?"

Because obviously, it's pretty messy.

The eighth-seeded Avalanche certainly played a big role in that. Colorado knocked off the Calgary Flames - the top team in the West - in five games for its first playoff series win since 2008. It's on to the second round, where Colorado faces the winner of the Vegas-San Jose series. The Golden Knights lead the Sharks 3-2.

While others may be surprised, Nathan MacKinnon and his teammates have been asserting that this postseason would be entirely different. This time, unlike a year ago, they wouldn't be content with merely making the playoffs. This time, they wanted to make some noise even if they again entered as an eight seed and faced a No. 1 seed.

"We're not just happy to be here," said MacKinnon, whose team was eliminated in the opening round by top-seeded Nashville in six games last year. "We're here to win the Cup."

Colorado actually has been in playoff mode for about a month, needing to go 8-0-2 down the stretch to earn the last spot. Despite the Avalanche's surge, they weren't exactly a trendy pick to spring an upset on a Flames squad that amassed 107 points. But they outscored the Flames by a 17-11 margin and outshot them 205-164.

"Now we can rest before the second round," forward Mikko Rantanen said Friday after a 5-1 win in Game 5. "That's going to be huge."

And just like that, another top seed exited. Tampa Bay, the Presidents' Trophy winner with the league's best record, got swept out of the playoffs by Columbus.

Dating to expansion in 1967-68, this marks the first time the top two teams in each division or conference or the teams with the two best records have been eliminated in the opening round, according to the league.

"We told you going into the playoffs that we had a different feeling, a different mindset this year, that we're here for a purpose," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "Our guys believe it ... Our guys are hungry for more."

Rantanen turned in quite a series, with five goals and four assists. He has at least a point in four straight games, which is one away from tying the Colorado/Quebec franchise mark held set by Peter Stastny in 1982 and equaled by Peter Forsberg on three separate occasions.

This after Rantanen missed the last eight games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. He shook off some rust in Game 1 and then spent the rest of the series shaking free of defenders. He scored the overtime winner in Game 4.

"He came back and he looked amazing and dominated," MacKinnon said. "It's so nice to have a guy like that on your team."

The same can be said for goaltender Philipp Grubauer, whose play down the stretch got the Avalanche into the postseason and whose play now has kept them rolling. Grubauer posted a 1.90 goals-against average against the Flames.

"He was a wall for us," said captain Gabriel Landeskog, whose team went 0-3 against San Jose during the regular season and 2-1 versus Vegas. "He was really important for us. He's been really solid this whole series."

Grubauer believes this team can reach an even higher level.

"If we can manage to play that way for a long time, we're going to set ourselves up for a good chance here," said Grubauer, who won a Stanley Cup title with Washington last season. "Guys are stepping up in the right moments."

Like recently signed rookie defenseman Cale Makar , who made his NHL debut in Game 3 and scored a goal. The 20-year-old signed a three-year deal with Colorado last Sunday, a day after his college season ended when Massachusetts lost in the Frozen Four championship game.

Makar, who is from Calgary, grew up a big Flames fan. He just played a role in eliminating them.

Matt Nieto had two short-handed goals in the series, while Tyson Barrie added five assists and logged the most ice time among Colorado skaters.

In the clincher at Calgary, Rantanen, Colin Wilson, MacKinnon and Barrie all had at least three-point performances. This marked the first time in the team's history that four players had at least three points in a series-clinching game.

That comes as no surprise to Landeskog.

"We wouldn't be here," Landeskog said, "if it wasn't for every single guy in this room."

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Updated April 20, 2019

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Teams Score Time
NCAA FB
NC State   12:00pm
Boston College  
Duke   3:30pm
Virginia  
North Carolina   3:30pm
Virginia Tech  
NHL
Carolina 2 00:00 2nd
Anaheim 4
Teams Score Time
Pittsburgh 27 F
Syracuse 20
Ohio State 52 F
Northwestern 3
Auburn   12:00pm
Arkansas  
Clemson   12:00pm
Louisville  
Florida   12:00pm
South Carolina  
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Miami  
NC State   12:00pm
Boston College  
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Minnesota   3:30pm
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North Carolina   3:30pm
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Oregon   3:30pm
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Temple   3:30pm
SMU  
Tulsa   3:30pm
Cincinnati  
UL Monroe   3:30pm
Appalachian State  
Baylor   4:00pm
Oklahoma State  
Missouri   4:00pm
Vanderbilt  
Arizona State   6:00pm
Utah  
Kentucky   6:00pm
Georgia  
Kansas   7:00pm
Texas  
Florida State   7:30pm
Wake Forest  
Michigan   7:30pm
Penn State  
Tennessee   9:00pm
Alabama  
Boise State   10:15pm
BYU  
Teams Score Time
American League
Houston 1 9th
New York 4
New York   8:08pm
Houston  
Teams Score Time
Washington 112 F
Philadelphia 93
Toronto 123 F
Brooklyn 107
Houston 144 F
Miami 133
New Orleans 117 F
New York 116
Memphis 91 F
San Antonio 104
Los Angeles 55 00:00 Half
Golden State 71
Teams Score Time
Arizona   Sun 1:00pm
New York  
Houston   Sun 1:00pm
Indianapolis  
Jacksonville   Sun 1:00pm
Cincinnati  
Los Angeles   Sun 1:00pm
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Miami   Sun 1:00pm
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Minnesota   Sun 1:00pm
Detroit  
Oakland   Sun 1:00pm
Green Bay  
San Francisco   Sun 1:00pm
Washington  
Los Angeles   Sun 4:05pm
Tennessee  
Baltimore   Sun 4:25pm
Seattle  
New Orleans   Sun 4:25pm
Chicago  
Philadelphia   Sun 8:20pm
Dallas  
New England   Mon 8:15pm
New York  
Teams Score Time
Colorado 5 F/OT
Florida 4
Dallas 2 F
Pittsburgh 4
New York 2 F
Washington 5
Columbus 2 F/OT
Chicago 3
Detroit 1 F
Edmonton 2
Carolina 2 00:00 2nd
Anaheim 4
Vancouver   1:00pm
New Jersey  
Montreal   3:00pm
St. Louis  
Boston   7:00pm
Toronto  
Colorado   7:00pm
Tampa Bay  
Dallas   7:00pm
Philadelphia  
New York   7:00pm
Columbus  
Ottawa   7:00pm
Arizona  
Vegas   7:00pm
Pittsburgh  
Florida   8:00pm
Nashville  
Calgary   10:00pm
Los Angeles  
Buffalo   10:30pm
San Jose  
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES AT TALLADEGA
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 12 Ryan Blaney 9
2 6 Ryan Newman 13
3 11 Denny Hamlin 40
4 10 Aric Almirola 5
5 34 Michael McDowell 22
6 3 Austin Dillon 20
7 32 Corey Lajoie 33
8 9 Chase Elliott 1
9 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr 7
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES AT DOVER
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 00 Cole Custer 3
2 7 Justin Allgaier 8
3 22 Austin Cindric 2
4 11 Justin Haley 11
5 98 Chase Briscoe 1
6 1 Michael Annett 16
7 9 Noah Gragson 7
8 23 John Hunter Nemechek 17
9 8 Zane Smith 10
NASCAR GANDER OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES AT TALLADEGA
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 20 Spencer Boyd 25
2 4 Todd Gilliland 6
3 51 Riley Herbst 7
4 24 Brett Moffitt 8
5 52 Stewart Friesen 10
6 16 Austin Hill 13
7 17 Tyler Ankrum 2
8 88 Matt Crafton 1
9 2 Sheldon Creed 5