Looking to turn around a modest two-game losing skid, the Colorado Avalanche hosted their division foe the St. Louis Blues and in a strange, frustrating and at times exciting game they came up short in a 4-3 loss.
Both tricks and treats came early this year, as the Avalanche were involved in two coaches challenges, two empty net goals... and lost two of their promising young forwards.
After a tentative start where the Avalanche were perhaps overthinking the match against a strong Blues team, all it took to turn momentum around was a power play goal at 13:40 from Alexander Kerfoot off of a beautiful feed from Mikko Rantanen to JT Compher. Kerfoot showed off his nice hands to pop in the rebound, and the team’s power play finally began to click.
Mixing up the power play units helped jump start a power play which was getting a bit stagnant. The Avs took the spark from the goal, and concluded the first period doubling up the Blues in shots 16-8 and held a 1-0 lead.
The fun was short lived, as just 39 seconds into the second period none other than former long time Avalanche Paul Stastny scored his 600th career point with a nice wrist shot all alone in front of Jonathan Bernier. The Avs had numbers up ice, but Rantanen refused to shoot and instead forced a pass that quickly went the other way.
Before the Avs could regroup, they found themselves in a 3-1 deficit after Jaden Schwartz scored at 12:33 and Vince Dunn at 13:25.
Then in the third period, the Avalanche turned the tide back their direction with an extremely bizarre play in which Blake Comeau bumped into goalie Carter Hutton - but he and his defenseman slid way out of the crease and made no effort to get up and back in the net, where Comeau deposited the puck in the empty net. After a lengthy challenge for goalie interference the play stood at 4:03. Robert Bortuzzo put the Blues back in the lead by two with a goal at 9:05 and it seemed the game was over.
Not so fast, said Kerfoot, as he capitalized on another wide open net after Hutton was caught wandering out of his net. He misplayed the puck right to the wide open rookie, who put a slick back hand on the puck to pull the Avs back within one at 15:40.
It seemed Rantanen had tied the game with minutes left, but the Blues challenged offside and the call was reversed after it was deemed Sven Andrighetto had brought the puck in offside - and with that, the final score was 4-3 to St. Louis.
A 41 shot come back attempt effort might have left lingering feelings of encouragement if it hadn't come on the heels of a lot of sloppy play and mistakes in the team’s own end.
There's improvement, but it's very difficult to determine what is going to take hold long term. The power play looked the best it has all year (or even longer), though, as they converted one of two chances but looked dangerous throughout - which is one positive takeaway.
Kerfoot had his best game of his young pro career with two goals and an assist, plus 6 shots on goal in 14:41 minutes of ice time. However, the commitment to a younger, faster youth movement is going to get a big test if JT Compher and Tyson Jost are out long term. Early prognosis on Compher was not good with a broken thumb, and in all the hoopla surrounding the fluke goals and challenges it went unnoticed by the media that Jost left the bench with what is now called a lower body injury. Patrik Nemeth was also described as having a lower body injury. There's very little in the way of depth in the minors that could step in and try to keep the youth movement going, and the organization could resort to old crutches to fill the lineup.
How the team regroups over a long weekend and facing the reshuffling of their lineup might define the rest of the season moving forward.
The Avalanche have four days off before their next contest against the Dallas Stars back at Pepsi Center on Tuesday, October 24th at 7pm MT.