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Recap: Avalanche recover after first period struggle, win 5-2

Sam Girard is out of the playoffs, but the Avalanche still captured a 2-1 series lead.

Colorado Avalanche v St Louis Blues - Game Three Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

A loud St. Louis Blues crowd greeted the Colorado Avalanche as they took the series to Missouri. It was a critical game for both teams who each had already earned a win in round two. Taking the lead at this stage was a priority and the Avalanche were ultimately able to come out on top in this 5-2 victory.

The first period

Unfortunately the first period was defined by injuries as much as by goals. Less than two minutes in, Sam Girard took a big hit from Ivan Barbashev and after his head went into the boards he stayed down on the ice. He was able to skate off with some help but didn’t return for the rest of the game. It was confirmed that he was taken to a local hospital, and the team have now shared that he broke his sternum and will not return for the rest of the playoffs.

A difficult first period continued for the team when on their third shot of the game, the Blues put the puck in the net right off the faceoff thanks to Colton Parayko. It was another shot that went in after connecting with a Colorado defenseman. This time Devon Toews’s stick broke, and the Blues were able to take the lead. Happening only two minutes after Girard left the ice it could have potentially dictated the way the rest of the game would go.

Mikko Rantinen had a scoring chance on a pass from Toews, but Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington was able to glove it down. Soon after it was Jordan Binnington who would pick up an injury when Nazem Kadri and Calle Rosen were chasing a rebound and collided with him. He came off and was replaced by backup netminder Ville Husso.

This period was undoubtedly the busiest. The Avalanche found themselves on the penalty kill when Josh Manson was called for holding. As soon as he was out of the box, the defenseman passed from the Blues blueline to a waiting Logan O’Connor who scored his first goal of the post season at 10:57. The second half of the first saw the Blues with some scoring chances, but they were unable to capitalize on them, leaving the teams tied at one going into the first intermission.

The second period

The Avalanche dominated far more in the second period, though they were still forced to go on the penalty kill after Darren Helm was called for holding. It appeared that St. Louis might get a goal, but Pavel Buchnevich was called for interfering on Manson and so it was a no goal. Just as the ensuing power play ended Kadri was able to tip in a shot from Cale Makar, giving Colorado a one goal lead.

The Avalanche increased their lead at 17:15 with a goal from Artturi Lehkonen, getting the puck over Husso’s shoulder and into the net. Unfortunately the Blues soon answered when Ryan O’Reilly was able to pick up the rebound to get it passed Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper was having a great second period and had helped keep the Avalanche in the game.

The third period

Both teams had chances in the third with several promising exchanges that ultimately led to nothing. Colorado still held a one goal lead with less than five minutes to go in the game, which was where they truly began to dominate. As Ville Husso was heading to the bench, the Avalanche took advantage of the empty net with a goal from Gabriel Landeskog. Artturi Lekhonen picked up his second goal of the night just over a minute later, putting the puck in an empty net at 19:02. With a 5-2 Avalanche lead, the Blues were not going to come back.

Final thoughts

This was a big win for Colorado. Getting ahead now means this series could be over in five games if they can win the next two. It was also important from a morale perspective. They were able to adapt to the situation and come back from a really challenging first few minutes, showing why they are such a difficult team to play against. Not to mention the fact that they were playing in a fairly hostile environment with a really loud and active crowd.

The injury to Sam Girard is definitely a concern. He’s shown his value this series, particularly in the first game. This is where the depth of the team really becomes an advantage, as we know that line-up changes can be made and there are players available to step in to fill those spots, though it is still not an ideal situation by any means.

Finally, I anticipate there being some pretty lively discussion about the penalties which were called and those that could have been but weren’t. Undoubtedly there will be talk about whether Kadri should have been called for his collision with Binnington, but from my perspective it was an unfortunate yet clean situation. Binnington doesn’t seem to agree, going as far as to throw his water bottle at Kadri during the postgame interview.

Upcoming

The Avalanche face the Blues again at the Enterprise Center for Game 4 on Monday, May 23rd at 7:30 p.m. MT.