ST. LOUIS — You didn’t think the Avalanche would go away quietly, did you? Of course not. Colorado avenged Thursday’s home loss to the Blues, defeating St. Louis, 5-2, Saturday in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series.
They are now halfway home to advancing to the Western Conference finals, up two games to one in the best-of-seven playoff series. Call it a case of the Empire Strikes Back. Stanley Cup favorites since really the start of the season, the Avalanche have retaken control of the series.
Game 4 is Monday at Enterprise Center, with an 8:35 p.m. start.
It was an intense, hotly-contested game, with Colorado scoring the equivalent of two empty-net goals in the final two minutes in what was essentially a 3-2 game. The big question for the Blues heading into Game 4 becomes: What happens with Jordan Binnington, the now-injured Blues goalie?
Almost a year ago to the day, Nazem Kadri knocked Justin Faulk out of Game 2 of the Blues’ opening-round series with Colorado with an illegal check to the head. Faulk was done for the series; Kadri was suspended eight games.
Kadri was at it again Saturday, knocking Binnington out of the game with 13 minutes, 15 seconds left in the opening period. Kadri and Calle Rosen both were racing for a loose puck heading dead on at Binnington.
Kadri, making no attempt to slow down, lowered his shoulder and leaned into Rosen — causing Rosen to crash into Binnington. Kadri also fell on top of Binnington on the play. There was no penalty called.
Binnington stayed down on the ice and head athletic trainer Ray Barile was out on the ice quickly. Binnington was slow to get up and then was helped off the ice and down the tunnel to the locker room. Enter Ville Husso, last seen in Game 3 of the Minnesota Wild series.
Just 2 minutes, 18 seconds after Binnington left, Colorado tied the game on the second shot on goal against Husso. Logan O’Connor, inserted into the Avalanche lineup for Game 3, scored his first career playoff goal.
O’Connor corralled a high pass right at the blueline, and skated in tight to beat Husso, making it a 1-1 game. But was he offside on the play? The Blues took a long look — it was very close — but decided not to challenge. So it was a goal and a tie game.
There were some crunching hits in game, including one by Ivan Barbashev on Sam Girard less than two minutes into play. Girard was very slow to get up, and was holding his nose when he did. He was done for the game, and according to the Avalanche was sent to a local hospital.
The Blues came out strong and took a 1-0 lead on a 98-mph slap shot by Colton Parayko just 3:55 into the game. Parakyo’s shot appeared to break the stick of Devon Toews in half before getting past Darcy Kuemper.
There were plenty of chances for the Blues in the second period, and more tough luck. Maybe a second before the Blues appeared to score, Pavel Buchnevich was penalized for interference. Buchnevich was positioned in the slot with his stick down looking for the puck when called for interfering with Colorado’s Josh Manson.
Just six seconds after the Blues had killed off the Buchnevich penalty, Kadri scored on a net front tip-in of a Cale Makar shot from distance. The assist was Makar’s first point of the series.
Less than four minutes later, with the period winding down, the Avs stretched their lead to 3-1. The Blues were pressuring Kuemper, Brayden Schenn had a couple of chances, but Colorado broke the other way on a 2-on-1 rush with Rosen the only Blues player back.
Artturi Lehkonen raced down left wing and kept the puck. Rosen slid early to no avail, and Lehkonen fired a perfectly-placed shot in the upper near corner. So it was a two-goal lead — Colorado’s largest of the series, and with just 2:45 to play in the second, the rowdy crowd at Enterprise grew very silent.
But with the period winding down, Nick Leddy fired a shot from distance. Kuemper couldn’t quite control the rebound, and in swooped Ryan O’Reilly for the rebound and a greasy goal. So with just 29.7 seconds left in the period it was a 3-2 game.
It was O’Reilly’s seventh goal of the postseason, tying him for the team lead with David Perron, and gave him points in seven straight postseason games.
The play was pretty even for much of the third period. The Blues had some good opportunities, including a point-blank shot from Robert Thomas in the slot that Kuemper stopped. But with the clock ticking down under the five-minute mark, Colorado held its 3-2 lead.
They played “Country Roads,” the fans sang along, and still 3-2 Colorado.
With just over two minutes to play, and Husso heading off the ice, Colorado came up with the puck in the neutral zone and raced back the other way on a 2-on-1 break. Husso was caught in no man’s land. He couldn’t get back in position on time and Gabriel Landeskog scored his second goal of the series to make it a 4-2 game with 2:08 to play.
Then came a traditional empty-netter by Lehkonen with 57.5 seconds to play.©2022 STLtoday.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.