Stanley Cup champion Avalanche out, as Kraken win 1st series

DENVER -- Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice, Philipp Grubauer was stellar in stopping 33 shots and the Seattle Kraken eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche with a 2-1 win in Game 7 on Sunday night.

The Kraken became the first expansion team to defeat the reigning Stanley Cup champs in their inaugural playoff series, according to NHL Stats.

"I think they are about as highly competitive as any team we played," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "They are deep, and every line is the same."

Bjorkstrand scored one goal on a fortuitous deflection -- the puck hit off a stick and a glove -- and another with a liner past goaltender Alexandar Georgiev that clanged off the post. Seattle grabbed the lead in every game in the series.

"Within the group, we believe in ourselves," Bjorkstrand said in his bench interview on TNT after the victory. "It's been like that all series. ... We knew what we had to do to come in here and win the game."

Next up for the second-year Kraken is a second-round series against the Dallas Stars that opens Tuesday night in Texas.

"They are playing the way they were taught how to play, and Grubauer was incredible in this series," Bednar said. "They make it hard on you to create chances. They are a 100-point team. They are a good team."

Grubauer, who played three seasons for the Avalanche, finished the series against his former teammates with 231 saves and a 2.68 goals-against average.

"He was unbelievable. Every shot he was seeing, he would stop. He was excellent back there," Seattle forward Yanni Gourde told TNT outside the locker room. "He was our rock, and there's no way we win this series if he's not in there."

Mikko Rantanen was credited with a power-play goal for Colorado after a shot by Nathan MacKinnon clipped him and went in. MacKinnon appeared to score early in the third period to tie it at 2, but Seattle challenged the play, and the goal was disallowed due to Colorado being offside.

The Avalanche pulled Georgiev with under two minutes remaining but couldn't get the equalizer. It allowed the Kraken to accomplish another franchise first: a series-clinching celebration.

"We had success when we played them tight and simple," Bjorkstrand said of the Avalanche. "When they were at their best, they had space. The success came from moving our feet and putting pucks deep."

Colorado has now lost its past six Game 7s. And Seattle's win continued a historic road-team trend this postseason. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, road teams are 31-18, the most away victories in the opening round since the NHL went to four rounds of seven-game series in 1987.

"I am just really happy for the guys and their effort. They deserve this," Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. "Everyone was waiting for this group to fall off and go away, and we never did. We have substance, and our team has played very cohesive, and they worked hard for it. We earned it when we became a playoff team."

Both teams lost players for the series due to hard hits. Jared McCann didn't play again after taking a hit in Game 4 from Cale Makar along the boards that drew a one-game suspension (Game 5) for the Avalanche defenseman. Colorado was without Andrew Cogliano for Game 7 after he suffered a fracture in his neck following a hit along the boards from Kraken forward Jordan Eberle, who didn't face supplemental discipline.

MacKinnon energized the crowd on Sunday with what looked like a tying goal. But it was taken off the board following a challenge, as Artturi Lehkonen was ruled in the zone before the puck entered. It was the second time in the series the Kraken used a challenge to negate an Avalanche score.

The Kraken also deflated the capacity crowd by doing what they've done in every game during the series: score first.

Held without a goal all series coming in, Bjorkstrand was credited with a goal in the second period that glanced the stick of Alex Newhook then off the glove of Ben Meyers and into the goal. Bjorkstrand scored again nearly four minutes later on a breakaway down the side to make it 2-0.

Bjorkstrand nearly had a hat trick, but his shot late in the game hit the post.

"I didn't want to go out and not being able to sleep at night because I didn't perform well," Bjorkstrand explained. "Some nights you just kind of feel the puck better, and I feel like this is just one of those nights."

With 27.3 seconds left in the second period, MacKinnon lined a shot that glanced off Rantanen and went by Grubauer. MacKinnon's assist on the play was his 100th career playoff point. He joins the company of Joe Sakic (188) and Peter Forsberg (159) as the only Avalanche players to reach the 100-point milestone in the postseason.

Georgiev finished with 25 saves.

The banged-up Avalanche were missing forwards Darren Helm (upper body), Cogliano and Valeri Nichushkin (personal reasons) along with defenseman Josh Manson (lower body) in Game 7.

They had been without captain Gabriel Landeskog all season after he underwent knee surgery in October.

"Tough year overall," MacKinnon said. "Obviously, during the season, we're going to say all of the right things, but it's hard missing the guys. ... We played a really great game; just couldn't find the back of the net."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.