The Avalanche rode an absolutely dominant performance from Nathan MacKinnon and more than doubled St. Louis’ shot output as the home team rode a 4-1 victory to earn a 1-0 series lead.
This game could have gotten out of hand for St. Louis much quicker than it did if it wasn’t for the first and second period play of Jordan Binnington as well as a few bad bounces for Colorado.
It was a slow start to first period for the home squad, but the Avs absolutely dominated St. Louis from the 5:00 mark onwards (the Blues were outshot 18-5 in the opening period).
At about the midway point of the first, St. Louis forward Brayden Schenn threw an objectively dirty, knee-on-knee hit on Mikko Rantanen just inside the Blues’ zone. Gabriel Landeskog answered the call by standing up for his Finnish line-mate and absolutely took Schenn to the cleaners. Both players would serve five-minute fighting majors for the scrap. Thankfully Rantanen was not hurt on the play.
Gabriel Landeskog vs Brayden Schenn— Everything Hockey (@EHClothing) May 18, 2021
Later on, former Avalanche forward Ryan O’Reilly took a tripping penalty against Nathan MacKinnon and on the ensuing man advantage, Cale Makar made him pay for the transgression with a sweet dangle around Blues’ penalty killer Tyler Bozak for a power play goal. 1-0 good guys.
There were a lot of high quality chances throughout the remainder of the period, but some bad bounces and Bennington making some quality saves kept the score at 1-0 heading into the dressing room.
St. Louis had more push back in the middle stanza as both teams traded good chances.
Mikko Rantanen was absolutely robbed by Binnington during the period off of a great feed from Nazem Kadri. Naz probably could have shot the puck himself, but he opted to slide it over to Rantanen instead. The Finnish forward was robbed of a goal twice at this stage in the game; once when missing a wide open net in the first and by Binnington here in the second. This save from Binnington might remind some Avs fans of a certain save from Philipp Grubauer from back in game 4 of the 2019 first-round series against Calgary.
The Blues got on the board late in the period when poor defensive coverage resulted in an odd-man rush for St. Louis. Forward Jordan Kyrou buried a one-time past Grubauer to even the game up at one goal apiece.
30 seconds into the final frame, Mikko Rantanen worked hard down low for a puck in the offensive zone and feed a streaking MacKinnon in the slot to regain the lead.
The Avs killed off a big tripping penalty from Ryan Graves and a few minutes later added to their lead when MacKinnon blasted a shot from the point that was tipped in front of the net by Landeskog.
MacKinnon added an empty-netter for good measure to seal the victory 4-1.
As stated earlier, the play of Jordan Binnington combined with a few bad bounces was the difference between this game being an absolute shellacking.
There was chatter amongst Avs faithful after the final Vegas game of the regular season that MacKinnon did not look himself; like he was playing injured. The Colorado superstar put these worries to bed tonight as playoff MacKinnon showed up and he showed up in a big way. With his three-point outing (two goals, one assist), MacKinnon moved into fourth place on the all-time playoff points list upping his average to 1.39 points per game.
The Avs absolutely dominated large stretches of this game and more than doubled St. Louis’ shot total 50-23. The top line was dominant tonight as well as they posted eight total points (three goals, five assists).
As the clock struck triple zeros on the night, defenseman Patrik Nemeth came up in a big way as he tackled Blues forward Kyle Clifford to the ice for slashing Grubauer in front of the Avs net multiple times. Good on the Swedish big man for protecting arguably Colorado’s most important player.
St. Louis will need to go back to the drawing board between games one and two as they won’t be able to rely on Binnington to carry the load, this Avs squad is just too dangerous.
Game two against the Blues is schedule for Wednesday evening. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:30PM MST and the game can be found on CNBC.