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Golden Knights prove they can trade punches with Avalanche

William Carrier skated into the offensive zone as time was winding down Monday, and with someone from the Golden Knights’ bench yelling to shoot, the winger sent the puck on net after the final horn.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer didn’t appreciate the late shot attempt in the Knights’ 3-0 victory and took a swipe at Carrier as he skated by.

After Carrier circled back to say something, Grubauer gave him a shove before they were separated by the linesmen.

Neither side is backing down in this brewing battle between West Division powers.

The Knights and Avalanche fought to a standstill over the past four games, with each side flexing its muscles like Cobra Kai battling Miyagi-Do for karate supremacy in the San Fernando Valley.

The teams are scheduled to play four more times in the regular season starting March 25 and 27 in Colorado and look to be on a collision course to meet in the playoffs, too.

As their recently completed series showed, the first-place Knights pack enough wallop to trade blows with the powerful Avalanche.

“I thought it was a good opportunity for both teams to kind of measure themselves against each other. Strengths and weaknesses,” Knights coach Pete DeBoer said. “I’m sure we’ll both go back and look and see what worked and what didn’t work. I think we see them again in about a month.”

The Knights outscored Colorado 8-6 during the series, which included three one-goal games, and relied heavily on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

But they also showed the blueprint for how to slow the Avalanche and proved they could win on the road after taking one point from their previous four visits to Denver.

The Knights contained Colorado star center Nathan MacKinnon in the two victories and were spotless on nine penalty-kill chances.

Rather than getting into a track meet, the Knights tried to limit chances and prevented the Avalanche’s speedy defensemen from starting the rush with easy breakouts.

Colorado generated more shots on goal across the series, and Fleury came up with a handful of spectacular saves. But the Knights more than held their own.

According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Knights created more scoring chances in three of the four games, and the one time they didn’t was Saturday’s 3-2 loss outdoors at Lake Tahoe.

During the 3-2 loss Feb. 16 when Avalanche center Nazem Kadri scored a last-minute winner, NaturalStatTrick showed the Knights with more shot attempts (65-55), scoring chances (38-35) and high-danger chances (16-6) to go with 58.67 percent of the expected goals share.

At the end of the scrum between Carrier and Grubauer, Knights forward Keegan Kolesar skated in to help settle down the situation.

Kolesar fought Avalanche defenseman Dennis Gilbert during the second game of the series, and Colorado coach Jared Bednar said this week that Gilbert will miss four to six weeks after undergoing facial surgery.

More proof that the Knights give as good as they get.

“We wanted to send a message, and I thought our guys did that,” DeBoer said. “The message was to Colorado that we can play with them.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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