The Colorado Avalanche created enough scoring chances against the St. Louis Blues, but the club had to fight for every puck that found the back of the net. Even then, the Avs needed some bounces to go their way against the Central Division leaders.
Colorado finished with a 41-28 edge in shots on goal and rallied in the third period, but the team still lost 4-3 to St. Louis on Thursday night at Pepsi Center.
"It's hard right now because we lose three in a row, and we wanted to really win that one and break that slide, especially in front of our home fans," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "Guys laid their hearts on the line, and I think we deserved a little better tonight."
A slow start in the first period and defensive mistakes in the second haunted the Avalanche in its return home after dropping games at Dallas and Nashville. Colorado outshot St. Louis 16-8 in the opening frame, but 10 of those shots came in the final 7:20.
In the middle stanza, the Blues took advantage of their opportunities, tallying three times on 17 shots while the Avalanche was scoreless on its 14 pucks it sent to the net.
"We had a handful of shifts in the second where we made some poor decisions and just weren't competitive enough on the puck in the D-zone," Bednar said. "They get their scoring chances and score on them."
Those breakdowns were what really irked Bednar after the contest.
"A couple of those handful of plays for me is what costs you," Bednar said. "Those weren't really young mistakes. They were made by guys that have been here."
Video: Coach Bednar's postgame press conference
Colorado's goals might have come from the fortunate variety, but they were also a testament that the harder you work, the luckier you get.
Alexander Kerfoot scored once on a rebound off goalie Carter Hutton and then again after the puck caromed off the end wall and right to him with an open net to shoot at. Blake Comeau also had a gaping cage for his early third-period goal after Hutton got tangled up in the corner with teammate Robert Bortuzzo, who happened to score the game-winner later in the stanza.
Video: Nathan MacKinnon after Avs loss to Blues
However, the luck ran out in the end. The Avs thought they had tied the game off Mikko Rantanen's one-timer in the closing minutes, but the Blues challenged for offside and won. The play wasn't close as replay showed the puck had clearly crossed the blue line to leave the zone.
"It was some fluky bounces. I guess we were hoping the fourth one would count, but it was clearly offside… The other two were nice bounces, but we deserved them," said Nathan MacKinnon. "We had a lot of chances in the second. We were buzzing. It is just too bad that we had some mental breakdowns."
Bednar has preached this season about holding his players accountable, and he followed through with that during the 60 minutes against the Blues as not everyone played in the final frame.
"We had a couple passengers that we stopped playing," Bednar said. "It hurts you. A couple bonehead plays, you can't make them. You're playing the best team in the division for a tie for the division lead, and we had a couple guys that didn't show up to play. You can't do it."
This time Alexander Kerfoot was able to score using his stick.
After tallying his first NHL goal on Oct. 11 against the Boston Bruins by redirecting the puck with his leg, Kerfoot scored twice against the Blues using the blade of his stick. It was part of a career-high, three-point night for the rookie, who also had an assist.
"I just wanted to move my feet," he said following the contest. "The coaches talked to me after the Nashville game that I needed to be more intense and harder on pucks, and that's what I tried to do tonight."
Thursday marked Kerfoot's first career multi-point outing and gives him five points (three goals and two assists) on the season after eight games. He is now second in goals and tied for fifth in points among NHL freshmen.
Video: Alexander Kerfoot after the game against the Blues
The Avalanche didn't leave Thursday's outing unscathed, as Bednar revealed that three players were hurt against the Blues.
Forward Tyson Jost and defenseman Patrik Nemeth both suffered lower-body injuries, while forward J.T. Compher's ailment is more serious after he tried to block a shot midway through the second period.
"J.T. has a broken thumb. He is going to miss some time," Bednar said.
Compher is in his first full season with the Avalanche after appearing in the final 21 games last year with the club. He has four points (one goal and three assists) in eight games this season and assisted on Alexander Kerfoot's power-play goal in the first period.
Both Jost and Nemeth were returning from injuries, as Jost missed the team's games last Friday and Saturday with a bone bruise on his leg while Nemeth was out for Tuesday's contest with a shoulder injury.
Prior to game time, the Avalanche announced that it had reassigned defenseman Andrei Mironov to the San Antonio Rampage.
The Moscow, Russia, native made Colorado's opening-night roster and played in the season opener on Oct. 5 at the New York Rangers, but he hadn't played since, being a healthy scratch for the next six games.
Mironov is in his first season in North America after playing the last five years with Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League.