The Avalanche came into tonight’s game looking to stop their four-game losing streak while the Blues were attempting to get a leg up on the Minnesota Wild in the race for the second seed in the Central Division. Not only that but the game was being broadcast on prime time national television, so there was reason to believe the two teams were gonna battle hard for the two points.
The two teams had a hard-fought first frame. Each team got power-play opportunities that were cut short due to calls against them. The Avalanche had a few rebound opportunities they weren’t able to track or get a stick on and kept the Blues to one scrum chance that Darcy Kuemper kept under control. After twenty minutes the score stayed stagnant with the two teams also staying equal in the shots department at 11.
Once the two teams hit the ice for period two it was clear that the Avalanche had more jump and were able to cash in on their hot start with a goal from Valeri Nichushkin two minutes and thirty-eight seconds into the game. Nichushkin’s 25th goal of the season game directly off a faceoff win from Nathan MacKinnon where Nichushkin skated from the boards to the middle of the ice and beat Binnington's low blocker.
Just a little over two minutes later the Avalanche doubled their lead with a goal from Erik Johnson. Johnson potted a rebound off of a JT Compher one-handed tuck attempt. The Avalanche would continue their dominant start to the second period with a Josh Manson shot from the point that found its way to the back of the net. The Avalanche would continue to outplay the Blues for the next four minutes until Bowen Byram received an interference call and the Blues would cash in on the following power play. Former Av Brandon Saad would be the one to score for the Blues after he got lost in coverage on the back door and Ryan O'Reilly banked off his skate and in. The final minutes of the second period were much more even with neither team getting many scoring chances.
A mere nine seconds into the final period the Avalanche would capitalize on a turnover from Jordan Binnington. Artturi Lehkonen would score his fourth goal with Colorado after Nichushkin fed him the puck off of Binnington’s turnover. Fifteen minutes later Ryan O'Reilly would score two goals in two minutes, one with the goalie pulled, to put the Blues within one with three minutes remaining. After one minute and fifteen seconds of attempting to hold the lead Nazem Kadri scored his first goal since returning from injury on the empty net. This goal would again come off of a Nathan MacKinnon faceoff win to JT Compher, who gave a pass to Kadri who had beat the Blues defenders. 45 seconds later the Avalanche officially secured their second win in a row against the St. Louis Blues and improved to 118 points on the season.
This was the best game the Avalanche have played since their 7-4 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on the 16th of April. To me, everyone had much more of a positive impact on the ice than a negative. It also felt like the team had the passion and aggression you want from a Stanley Cup contender heading into the playoffs. All 18 skaters were forechecking, backchecking, and selling out to make plays. In the end, it resulted in a big win over a good team.
My standouts for this game are Darcy Kuemper, Devon Toews, and the fourth line. Kuemper had another good performance, but similar to Sunday night against Winnipeg got sabotaged by bad bounces and lapses in defensive coverage. Definitely had a good couple of rebound games after the shaky outing he had against Edmonton.
What else is there to say about Devon Toews. His impact on this team on both ends of the ice is so significant and underrated. Yet another good game for him.
Since the trade deadline, we’ve seen a serious uptick in this fourth line’s play and production, and tonight was another step in the right direction. The line of Darren Helm, Nico Sturm, and Andrew Cogliano wasn’t able to appear on the score sheet but they made their presence known tonight. They created chance after chance and seemed to hem the Blues in their own zone for significant time anytime they were on the ice. Eventually, Cogliano and Sturm are going to get their firsts in burgundy, and they will have worked hard for them.
Thursday night the Avalanche wraps up another season series with a division rival in the Nashville Predators. This will also be their final home game of the regular season with several playoff implications with puck drop at 7:00 p.m. MT.