On a rare one day road trip the Colorado Avalanche visited the St. Louis Blues for the first time all season. The two teams will become very familiar next week but for now was an opportunity to take care of business and move closer to clinching a playoff spot in the Honda West Division.
More adversity was thrown the Avalanche’s way when they had another morning skate called off and a day spent awaiting test results when a positive COVID-19 test placed Philipp Grubauer on the protocol list. Joonas Donskoi also sat out after feeling the effects of a recent COVID-19 vaccination.
As expected the first period slow moving grind until the fourth line got a little cycle going in the offensive zone and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare finished it off at 10:28.
That lead didn’t last long as Colorado’s recent penalty kill struggles continued and Devan Dubnyk gave up his first goal as an Avalanche at 15:20 when Vince Dunn sent off a shot in the slot. The first period ended with a 1-1 tie and the Avalanche a slight advantage in shots 10-8.
Faced with a little opposition the Avalanche countered with what they have done several times this season which is to take the second period and completely change the game.
The fourth line struck again less than three minutes into the second frame with JT Compher cashing in on a rebound off a tipped point shot from Conor Timmins for his first NHL point.
Mikko Rantanen tallied his 26th goal of the season on the power play at 5:17 for the team’s third score of the game. For the fourth goal awarded to the visiting team Brandon Saad buried a fantastic pass from Tyson Jost at 11:17.
Those three unanswered goals put the Avalanche firmly in the driver’s seat in what after 20 minutes looked like a game that was going to be a close contest.
Another continuing theme is third periods that are much more difficult than needed and this game was no exception. Naturally a team fighting for their playoff lives will exert push back when they are down but the Avalanche contribute some self-inflicted wounds in addition. A strange bounce off the end boards and Dubnyk got the Blues back to within two from Mike Hoffman at 5:55.
After trading power plays the Blues took advantage of a delay of game penalty where Hoffman cut the St. Louis deficit to just one with just over three minutes to go. A tense couple minutes ensued with the extra attacker but the Avalanche ultimately prevailed in a 4-3 final score.
The regular season largely feels like a means to an end waiting for the playoffs to begin. While a division crown and Presidents’ Trophy are still in sight it just feels like this team is eager to prove their contender status when it counts. Hopefully they opportunity to rest players and try a few different lines and pairs come to fruition down the stretch.
Newcomer Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves and got the job done for the victory but exhibited some uneven moments. With Grubauer unavailable for a little while Dubnyk will have to carry the load and hopefully playing in front of a good defensive team will help smooth out some bumps.
Old friend Carl Soderberg entered the lineup as well and despite Jared Bednar’s proclamations that what guys in the past have done doesn’t matter Soderberg ended up with 15 minutes of time on ice in what was a second line role in Donskoi’s absence. Those minutes were earned as Soderberg displayed his intelligence and deft passing as he fit right back into the groove with the team.
Back at home for the first in a pair of weekend games versus the LA Kings on Friday, April 16th at 7pm MT.