The Colorado Avalanche penalty kill has been incredible as of late.
Entering Tuesday’s game at the St. Louis Blues, the second of a back-to-back set against Central Division clubs on the road, the Avs had quieted 40 of the previous 42 (95.2 percent) man-advantage opportunities against them.
That 14-game stretch included 25 consecutive kills spanning Feb. 24 to March 12, pacing all NHL clubs over that time.
Some nights the PK was perfect, but that doesn’t mean it was unstoppable.
Special teams was ultimately the difference in Colorado’s 3-1 loss at the hands of the Blues on Tuesday night.
Colorado got called for delay of game just one minute into the match after a glass-high pass sailed over the partition and into the stands, and St. Louis tallied soon after while on the power play.
“I thought 5-on-5, our play was really solid, and unfortunately we had two penalties,” Mikhail Grigorenko said of opening frame. “So they kind of got a little bit of momentum at the beginning, but then we stayed out of the box and by the end of the period, we dominated them a little bit and then tied the game. So it was a good period overall.”
Grigorenko potted the equalizer, burying the puck into the yawning net moments after defenseman Tyson Barrie made a pretty deke to get past a St. Louis blueliner.
“I was just trying to skate my hardest and beat the guy to create a 4-on-3 down there,” the 21-year-old Russian said of the play. “Obviously, [Mikkel Boedker] and Tyson made an amazing play down there, and I only had to put it in the empty net.”
The tally ended a four-game shutout streak for the Blues, which ran 258 minutes and 29 seconds, and for goaltender Brian Elliott, who had personally seen the net stay empty for 198 minutes and 12 second of that stretch.
The play electrified the Avalanche, which took the momentum into the intermission and came out swinging to start the middle stanza, firing pucks fast and furious at Elliott. The Blues weathered the storm, though, and again capitalized on a man-advantage opportunity to regain the lead.
One more even-strength marker for St. Louis in the second, and the deficit proved too much for Colorado to overcome.
With leading scorers Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon out of the lineup with knee injuries, the Avs have been looking for secondary scoring from other players on the team. Grigorenko has been one of those pushing to fill the void.
“I think it’s going pretty good,” he said about playing center lately. “Would like to have more consistency, but overall it’s been a good season for me. Now it’s a really important time and with guys out of the lineup, I really need to step up my game.”
Despite the two extra-skater scores, the Avs have still been impressive while skating at a disadvantage, turning away 53 of the last 58 opportunities (91.4 percent) dating back to Feb. 12 and 41 of the previous 45 chances (91.1 percent) since Feb. 24.
With his assist on Mikhail Grigorenko’s lone goal, forward Mikkel Boedker upped his total since joining the Avalanche to 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 13 games. Boedker's 33 assists this year are a new career best, and he needs just three goals and two points to match his personal highs in those two categories as well (19 goals, 51 points set in 2013-14).
Tyson Barrie also added an assist to his impressive season totals. He leads all Colorado defensemen in points (48) and goals (13) and is second on the club in assists (35). Barrie’s 13 markers have already tied his career high set in 2013-14.
The Avs are five points behind of the Minnesota Wild again, as Minnesota topped the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. Both teams have five games remaining.