After an eight-day hiatus, the Colorado Avalanche were finally back in action to kick off their second-round series against the division rival St. Louis Blues. While the boys in burgundy controlled most of the game a poor special teams effort in the third period forced overtime. However, Josh Manson scored on the team’s 54th shot and the Avalanche took a 1-0 series lead in this 3-2 victory.
It was the start the Avalanche wanted pushing the pace and dictating play but despite hitting the post three times the first period’s lone goal went St. Louis’ way with none other than Ryan O’Reilly pouncing on a turnover in the slot. The Blues took the lead at 6:25 and held the score for the balance of the first 20 minutes. A little more danger and shots on goal would be required to solve Jordan Binnington as the Avalanche only had eight on net at that point.
The second period was much more familiar for the Avalanche as they completely controlled play for the first 15 minutes of it before big Val Nichushkin finally got the home team on the board doing what he does best cleaning up a loose puck at the net-front off of a pass from Mikko Rantanen. The score occurred just three minutes into the period and the Avalanche took the momentum from there.
An incredible pass from Bowen Byram to Erik Johnson should have resulted in the second Avalanche goal but Johnson only got the heel of his blade on the puck and Binnington made an incredible diving save. But never fear, Samuel Girard rekindled some 2018 Game 82 magic. The blueliner put the puck in the net at 11:32 on a quick shot from the point. The Blues made a late-period push but not before giving up 20 shots to the Avalanche and after 40 minutes the home team had the 2-1 lead.
In predictable fashion, the Avalanche just could not get that third goal to put this game away and then the penalty calls started coming. First, the Avalanche blew their chance on the power play, and almost immediately after the Blues got their own power play, which was the first in the game for them. The penalty was almost killed off but Jordan Kyrou put the puck past Darcy Kuemper and tied the game at two with just over three minutes remaining. The Avalanche got yet another chance to put the game away on a power play as regulation time expired yet still nothing was produced from the unit.
In overtime at 5-on-5, the Avalanche found their game again and went on a 13-0 shot on goal and 18-2 shot attempt run before Josh Manson finally put the game to bed on a long-range point shot at 8:02 into the extra frame. It was a hard-working shift by the second line with Gabe Landeskog setting the screen and helping seal the 3-2 victory and 1-0 series lead.
While five of the Avalanche’s 54 shots on goal came from their three power-play opportunities none were good enough to convert and could have cost them the game. Conversely, St. Louis only needed one shot on goal in their lone power play to put this game in doubt. Plus it was clear the power play failures led to lost momentum and gave the Blues a chance to tie this game. Special teams are going to have to be much better if the Avalanche are going to take this series.
The encouraging early sign is that the Avalanche controlled an impressive 70% of this game via Corsi and 73% by expected goals. Dominating at 5-on-5 will lead to many more scoring opportunities and if the execution and finish improve, then there will be a lot more Colorado goals on the board. There were five posts hit in this game - a tie for the most in a Stanley Cup playoff game - but none of the big guns stepped up to get that third goal in regulation. Depth is important and getting goals from Manson and Girard won this game but it’s not something the team can rely on every night,
Game 2 is back at Ball Arena at the same time on Thursday night, 7:30 p.m. MT on TNT.