A win is a win, even if they all are not pretty.
That was mantra of this matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues on Friday night. Alexandar Georgiev’s stellar performance in net, and a late winner from Miles Wood was enough to put the Avalanche over the top in a 2-1 final.
The win is great for the Avs to get back in the right mindset after blowing a 4-0 lead to the Arizona Coyotes just two nights ago. It also snaps a six-game road winless streak for Colorado. Plus, the win is enough to keep them at the top of the Central Division just one point over the Dallas Stars.
The Avs were put on the back foot early and often, becoming a theme for the period. It started with Josh Manson taking a roughing penalty after he didn’t like being hit. The league’s worst powerplay unit worked great on Colorado, but couldn’t find the twine.
It looked as though the Avs converted against the run of play early in the period when Frederik Olofsson found a rushing Manson in the slot with a great pass from the corner. But, the goal would be ruled out due to goaltender interference from Kurtis MacDermid.
After killing off a Miles Wood slashing penalty, Colorado continued to struggle moving forward. They only had one shot on net 15 minutes into the period, while the Blues were putting the pressure on Alexandar Georgiev.
But, Ryan Johansen would make sure to take his chance when he got it. Jonathan Drouin’s tight-angle shot rebounded off of Jordan Binnington, which Johansen lifted into the net on the backhand for his 200th career goal and the lead.
It looked as though the Avs could cause some trouble when Kasperi Kapanen took a holding penalty. But, Nathan MacKinnon would gift a pass to Robert Thomas, the hottest goal-scorer on the Blues and he would not miss to even it up heading into the intermission.
The entire second period was muddy, with little offense to come by in the frame. As a whole, the Avs’ best chance was on a great passing play between Valeri Nichushkin, Cale Makar, and Mikko Rantanen. It ended with Rantanen hitting the side of the net night at a tight angle, but he had a full 4x6 frame to shoot at.
For the Blues, their best chances would come on a pair of breakaways, one of them shorthanded, and another which was called back for offsides very late. But, they had a solid minute of powerplay time to end the period thanks to the Avs having too many men on the ice, and they looked to capitalize in the final minute of the man advantage in the third.
After killing off the penalty which carried over from the second, the Avs would have their best chance in a while. Rantanen rushed in and waited too long for Binnington to react, as the netminder was able to get enough of a short side shot to get it over the glass.
Hence, the Blues would use this crucial save as momentum moving forward. Alexi Toropchenko, Brandon Saad, Torey Krug, and Marco Scandella all had phenomenal chances within a matter of minutes, but Georgiev was up for the challenge.
Penalties then became the name of the game, when Makar earned a penalty shot due to MacKenzie MacEachern throwing his broken stick at him. But, the defenseman didn’t get a good shot off and it was stopped. Then, the Avs had their best penalty kill of the night after a Miles Wood holding penalty.
But yet again, offense was still a struggle for both sides. Colorado slowly grew into it more and more toward the end of the period. They stuck with it, and got a gusty, dirty goal and it was all they needed. Devon Toews’ shot was deflected by Wood, which was just enough to sneak behind Binnington to steal the win out of St. Louis.
This entire matchup was a grind, with little offense to be found for those wearing the ‘A’ Friday night. They only registered 23 shots on net, while conceding 29 at the other end. Regardless, you take the two points even if they won’t be the prettiest of wins across the entire season. This is likely the gutsiest and characteristic win of the season for the Avalanche, and just may hold that title for the rest of the season.
Part of the reason the team was able to pull through? The great goaltending from Georgiev. He was stellar, making 28 saves on 29 shots and kept the Avs in it when the Blues were pummeling the net with shots and chances. It is also great to see after the disappointment of giving up five unanswered goals in his last appearance against the Arizona Coyotes. He should have a steak dinner and beer bought for him for the performance he put on in the crease.
With offense tough to come by, it was just another example of how much the Avs are missing some of their key players in the lineup. The most recent person to sit out games is Ross Colton, who missed this matchup after blocking a shot in the last game against the Yotes. His ability to rush up the ice and force the issue was missed in the middle six. Plus, you still have the absences of Artturi Lehkonen and Sam Girard, but both are on track to return soon. With those three key additions to the lineup, it makes the team more capable on offense to grind out wins like this one.
Colorado wraps up 2023 with one final home game against the submerging San Jose Sharks. Puck drop on New Year's Eve on Sunday is at 6:00 p.m. MT.