The Colorado Avalanche scored in the very last second of the game to give themselves a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night. The game was a goaltending duel overall, but the Avalanche got the best of all areas. Adam Graves showed some offensive finesse, scoring the first Avs goal on an odd-man rush. Nazem Kadri showed up in a big way with a buzzer beater to win it. Philipp Grubauer stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced.
The Avalanche sit atop the West Round-Robin standings as this was the first game. A solid start gets them off on the right foot which could be huge for seeding purposes down the road. The defending Stanley Cup Champions were leading the West heading into the break.
The first period saw the Avalanche absolutely dominate the Blues, despite coming out of it down 1-0. The shots were 16-4 in favour of the Avs and the shot attempts were 25-10. Jordan Binnington stood on his head making multiple great stops to keep the game scoreless.
The Avalanche took a penalty late in the first period and St. Louis made them pay. Brayden Schenn found David Perron for the first goal of the game at 16:46. The Avalanche continued to create chances but just couldn’t beat Binnington the other way.
Nathan MacKinnon looked sharp as always, however, some other names that stood out in the first period were Joonas Donskoi and Vladislav Namestnikov. Donskoi blocked a Colton Parayko shot early in the first period. It looked sore at first but he battled back. On the Avs power play he was very noticeable, looking to retrieve pucks all over the zone. Namestnikov almost put one in late in the first period but once again it was Binnington saving the day. He had an overall solid period despite the close chance. The whole Avalanche team looked ready to battle for pucks from the very start.
The second period was much closer in terms of shots and overall pace. The tempo of the game picked up more and more as both teams were getting close to fully engaged. Any rust there may have been seemed to be knocked off. At 1:52 of the second, Gabriel Landeskog made a very questionable hit on Zach Sanford, which lead to a penalty as well as a scrum right after. The hit was a pretty dangerous one but the Avalanche managed to kill off the minor.
The rest of the period was largely uneventful, the two teams went back and forth, trading chances at both even strength and on the power play. Near the end of the period a scrum broke out that saw Landeskog and Schenn in the middle of it. It was clear the Blues hadn’t forgotten the hit from earlier in the period. Following that, Carl Gunnarsson took a penalty with just six seconds left in the period. Although the Blues cleared it, it meant the Avalanche would start the third with a man advantage.
The shots in the second 13-10 in favour of the Blues. The shot attempts were 19-15 for the Blues in all situations. While the Blues outshot and chanced the Avs, Colorado did a very good job at keeping just about everything to the outside. There weren’t too many high-danger chances for St. Louis. On the other side, the Avs also couldn’t generate much but had the odd chance here and there. The power play had some good puck movement but struggled to find a shot.
The power play to start the period led to nothing for the Avalanche, however, it gave them some momentum to build off of. Then, at 5:33 into the third period, Adam Graves jumped up in the rush to make it a 3-on-2, he got fed the puck in the high slot and fanned on a pass. Despite that, the puck remained with him and he sent a quick wrister up top to finally beat Binnington. A beautiful recovery and shot caught the Blues off guard and the Avs tied it up at one.
With 1:17 left in the third, Pietrangelo went down blocking a shot in the back of the leg. He would hobble off but remain on the bench. The Avalanche would also go back to the power play thanks to an Alexander Steen penalty. On this power play, Nazem Kadri would score as the buzzer was going off. Amazing puck movement led to a post being hit but Kadri would get the puck with a wide open net. He would pot it at the very last second. Literally, 0.1 seconds left. The play would be reviewed, but in the end, it stood as a good goal which gave the Avalanche a 2-1 win.
The tempo of the game seemed to really pick up as it went on. This was one of the things that would be interesting to watch as these games aren’t elimination games. How hard the teams would battle really was one of the biggest questions heading into this round-robin tournament. The Blues came out pretty slow in the first but after that Landeskog hit, both teams really made it clear that they were there to win. As this round-robin goes on it will be interesting to see if the games feel more and more like actual playoff games all the way through.
If you like goaltending, this game was for you. We have talked about how good Binnington was this game but on the other side of things he was rivalled at every play. Grubauer looked extremely comfortable out there tonight. He stopped 31 of 32 shots tonight and the one goal that did go in was not his fault at all. If he plays even close to that standard for the playoffs the Avs should feel extremely confident. The Avalanche didn’t give the Blues too much to work with, but when they did, Grubauer was there to stop them.
The power play is the last of the notes here. It started off very mixed, the puck movement seemed to be there but it felt like they were doing too much. This is an absolutely loaded group so it was only a matter of time before they clicked. However, at the start it felt like they were rushed. They had plenty of opportunities to strike and just couldn’t do so. That last minute was beautiful to watch though. Just constant pressure that St. Louis could do absolutely nothing about. It’s ultimately what ended up giving the Avalanche the win.
A great start for the Avalanche, getting their first win out of the way. Building on this win will be huge for the team. If they can put together a full 60 again and keep up the defensive play they should look good. Add in a power play that looked like it did in the final minute, the Avs could be very dangerous.
Their next game is Wednesday at 4:30pm against the Dallas Stars.