They were known as the Comeback Kids last year for a reason, and the Colorado Avalanche channeled that inner child again on Saturday night in a Central Division battle against the St. Louis Blues.
The Avs got off to an enervated start at Scottrade Center, fighting the biscuit and the Blues for a chance to get a shot off in the opening stanza. Meanwhile, St. Louis was pouring pucks on Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who was again stellar in between the pipes.
The Avalanche, which finished the frame with only two shots to the Blues’ 11, fell to an early deficit after Vladimir Tarasenko potted the first of his two goals with three and a half minutes remaining in the first period. Colorado needed a big adjustment during the intermission, something the team discussed in the dressing room.
“We actually did talk about it tonight. Didn’t have many shots. Part of that is our ‘D’ responsibility,” said blue liner Erik Johnson. “We’ve got to do a better job getting the puck out of the zone. Our forwards are so good, we’ve got to get them in motion, we’ve got to get the puck on their tape. When they get it with speed they’re tough to defend.”
The Avs did just that in the middle of the match, outshooting St. Louis 12-11 while keeping the game close for the start of the third period.
Colorado had an inauspicious beginning to the final 20 minutes as Tarasenko scored his second of the night just 46 seconds into the frame on a drive-by, tip-in tally off of an Alex Pietrangelo shot from outside.
That’s where the rally started for the Avalanche. Moments after dropping down 2-0, Blues forward Magnus Paajarvi got called for holding Jamie McGinn, opening Colorado up for its second power play of the night.
It wasn’t long after the call that center-turned-winger Ryan O'Reilly got the Avs on the board with a power-play point. O’Reilly sailed through the slot, scooped up the rebound of a Nathan Mackinnon shot on goaltender Brian Elliott and let the puck fly into the net.
The goal gave a big boost to the surging Avalanche, which would score another power-play goal less than three minutes later. This time MacKinnon ripped a shot from the high slot that floated up and into the top corner of the net to tie the contest.
“It was a hard fought game. They had the momentum in the first, and in the third I thought we played really well. We had our chances. We hit the post on that last power play, and I thought that it was a great third period from our team,” head coach Patrick Roy said after the match. “I liked the urgency we showed in the third period, and we didn’t give up. We kept going at these guys and we scored two power play goals, and it put us back at 2-2.”
Both teams buttoned up after the fourth goal, and Elliott survived an Avalanche onslaught to force bonus hockey and the ensuing shootout in St. Louis. The Avs looked to string together back-to-back wins, and momentum was on their side as they finished the game tied at 29 shots.
“This is a team that played well defensively,” said Roy. “It was hard to get our scoring chances, and I thought we did a good job finding ways.”
St. Louis had other plans for the ending, and a lone shootout tally from Joakim Lindstrom sealed the 3-2 loss for Colorado.
Despite the overtime point—Colorado now has at least one point in six consecutive contests—Roy isn’t happy that his club is leaving points on the table in extra-minutes play.
“Five losses in overtime and shootout, total,” said Roy. “We haven’t scored one in our shootout.
“We’re going to have to put some in if we want to win those games.”
The Avalanche returns home to Denver to face the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. at Pepsi Center. Semyon Varlamov will start in net again, according to Roy.A Special Game
The Avalanche penalty kill continued its dominance on Saturday night in St. Louis, shutting down all three man-advantage chances for the Blues. Colorado has now staved off 20 straight power plays.
Going the other way, the Avs made the most of their chances as the power play went 2-for-4, with both goals coming with an extra skater.
O’Reilly (goal, assist), MacKinnon (goal, assist) and Erik Johnson (two assists) each had a multi-point game, and every point was a power-play point.