It was ugly. It was grimy. It was not a pretty hockey game to watch, but in the end, the Colorado Avalanche don’t care. They were able to grind out their first road win in over a month and fly home a happy squad.
After registering just 11 shots on goal through two periods of hockey, the Avalanche dug deep in the third period to find another level, and scored a late game-winning goal to beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1. They don’t ask how, just how many, and while it wasn’t all that fun to watch, it’s a big road victory for a team that maybe needed a low event game to change their ways a bit. Nathan MacKinnon’s 19 game point streak was snapped, but I don’t think he cares all that much after his team pulled out the victory.
Ryan Johansen and Devon Toews scored the goals for Colorado, while Alexandar Georgiev bounced back in net with a strong performance, stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced.
After surrendering five straight goals against the Coyotes, you would have expected Colorado to come out with a bit more jump. That didn’t exactly happen. St. Louis controlled almost all of the first period in terms of possession, as the Avalanche were on their heels a bit and didn’t generate a whole lot of offense.
Penalties played a role in that as well. Josh Manson took an early roughing penalty, although I didn’t see a whole lot there, which allowed the Blues to generate some momentum. With no shots on goal and Manson out of the box, it looked like Colorado had taken the early lead, but a smart challenge by the Blues took that off the board.
Fredrik Olofsson did a great job finding Manson at the point, and the defenseman beat Binnington on the glove side with his shot. It was called a goal on the ice, but on the review, Kurtis MacDermid clearly interfered with Binnington on his way to the net, so it was rightfully disallowed. Soon after, Miles Wood took a penalty, but the Avalanche were able to kill that penalty off.
15 minutes into the game, and with just two shots on goal registered, the Avalanche finally did break through. Some nice puck movement by everyone on the ice spread out the Blues players, and Jonathan Drouin, coming into the zone fresh off the bench, had room to unleash a one-timer. His shot bounced off a few players in front of the net, then back in front of Binnington. Ryan Johansen reached out and backhanded it through the Blues goaltender, giving Colorado the 1-0 lead on his 200th career NHL goal.
With a late powerplay, it appeared Colorado might have a chance to extend their lead, but a huge turnover by their best player changed that.
Nathan MacKinnon corralled the puck along the left wall, and sent a blind pass to center point. No Avalanche players were there, but Robert Thomas of the Blues was, and he was given a clear breakaway in on Georgiev. The Blues forward deked to his backhand and beat Georgiev, tying the game at one, which changed the complexion of the game a bit heading into the intermission.
The Avalanche generated very little offense in period one. Period two wasn’t a whole lot better, but they at least cleaned some things up defensively.
Colorado probably had the best opportunity of the period, and it belonged to Mikko Rantanen. Off probably their best passing play of the evening, Cale Makar found Rantanen alone at the right circle. However, Makar’s pass wasn’t quite in Rantanen’s wheelhouse, and his one-time shot hit the side of the net, keeping the game tied.
At the other end, Georgiev stayed strong in the Avalanche net. The highlights might show a breakaway opportunity for Brayden Schenn where Georgiev gave him nothing to shoot at, but the play didn’t even technically happen, as the Blues were offsides.
With no goals, we entered the third period with the same score as we did the second.
With very little offense being generated, Jared Bednar made some slight changes to his lines. He moved Jonathan Drouin up to the top line, dropping Valeri Nichushkin down to play with Ryan Johansen and Miles Wood. That did result in the Avalanche having a little bit more pace in the third, although not by much. It was still generally the same game we saw through two periods.
Early in the final session, Cale Makar was awarded a penalty shot on one of the more bizarre plays you will see. Mackenzie Maceachern was called for throwing his stick at Makar, which you rarely see. Even the play itself didn’t really look like he threw it, but either way, the call was made. Makar’s penalty shot didn’t result in much, as he came down on Binnington and tried to beat him on the glove side, but instead, shot it right into his glove.
The Blues did get one more powerplay, but Colorado did a nice job of killing it off, blocking a handful of shots before they could get to Georgiev.
With only a few minutes remaining in the game, the Avalanche needed a hero. Who would it be?
For a second, it looked like Miles Wood. After further review, the hero was Devon Toews.
With three minutes left in regulation, Ryan Johansen won a face-off clean in the offensive zone, and Valeri Nichushkin did a nice job to beat his man to the puck. While falling down, he got it back to Toews at the blueline, who quickly shot the puck towards the net. While it looked like Wood deflected it home, it apparently just hit Justin Faulk in front, trickling through Binnington’s legs into the back of the net. Although it hadn’t been their prettiest game, Colorado had a 2-1 lead with just under three minutes left in the game.
And while the Blues did push late, they weren’t able to get one more past Georgiev, and the Avalanche walked out of St. Louis with their first road win since Nov. 18 in Dallas.
The Avalanche will look to close out the 2023 calendar year with a bang on Sunday night when they take on the San Jose Sharks. That game starts at 6:00 PM MST.