DENVER – – With players flying at him, Josh Manson was merely attempting to maintain his position near the blueline.
Not on the winning goal – he was that open — but from the oncoming pack of teammates.
Manson scored his first career playoff goal 8:02 into overtime, Darcy Kuemper made 23 stops in return from an eye injury, and the Colorado Avalanche defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in Game 1 of their second-round series on Tuesday night.
“I was simply looking out because there’s a lot of guys rushing at me at a high pace,” Manson explained of the group embrace. “It’s satisfying to get that (victory) with your squad.”
Captain Gabriel Landeskog set up the play by dropping low and passing the puck to Manson. The defenceman then blasted a liner through a sea of guys that went in barely over Jordan Binnington’s shoulder.
Valeri Nichushkin and Samuel Girard scored for the Avalanche, who were on a week’s rest after sweeping Nashville. It was also evident early on before they established their stride. They outshot the Blues 54-25, including 13-0 in overtime. In addition, the Avalanche struck three posts and two crossbars.
Landeskog, who earned two assists, stated, “We were a resilient squad.” “We simply emphasized that we needed to keep playing, keep doing what we were doing, generating a lot, and it’s just a question of time.” We could contain them, and (Manson) placed it on the highest shelf.”
For St. Louis, Ryan O’Reilly scored in the first period, and Jordan Kyrou knotted it late. Binnington kept the Blues in the game by making one huge save after another. According to NHL Stats, he saved 51 shots from becoming the fourth different goalkeeper in Blues history to make 50 or more saves in a postseason game.
“He played amazing and gave us a chance to win,” said Blues defenseman Colton Parayko. “They have a strong team.” They’re quick. We have a strong team. We’ve been a solid club all season. I anticipate a lot more close games.”
The second game is on Thursday.
In-Game 3 of the Predators series, Kuemper had a nasty eye incident when a stick blade went through his mask and grabbed him around his eyelid. The swelling went down after a few days.
“I thought he was good,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar. “He stepped up when he needed to.”
With 3:14 remaining, Kyrou scored on the power play to tie the game. The Blues have been effective on the power play in the postseason, going 9 for 27.
Girard’s blast past Binnington’s pads gave Colorado a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Erik Johnson, a defenseman, nearly scored minutes earlier with a wide-open net but couldn’t gather enough speed on his attempt. While on the ground, Binnington lunged out with his glove to stop the puck from rolling.
O’Reilly capitalized on Cale Makar’s gaffe to score early in the first period. O’Reilly has scored in five consecutive playoff games, tying the Blues’ greatest postseason goal run. According to NHL Stats, he tied the record set by Phil Roberto (1972) and Joe Mullen (1982).
In the first 20 minutes, the Avalanche didn’t seem very crisp. Artturi Lehkonen struck the post, and Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen also hit the crossbar.
But Landeskog, who had late-season knee surgery, refused to believe the rust theory.
“To be honest, we played a fairly nice game.” “Landeskog explained.
The Blues’ eighth straight playoff victory dated back to Game 4 of the 2001 conference finals. Last season, the Avalanche swept St. Louis in the playoffs.
PLAYING NO FAVORITES
Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, stated that he did not fill out a playoff bracket.
“If that turned out to be true, people would be saying awful things or questioning things that you don’t need to question,” Bettman said at the game Tuesday. “I’m probably not a very good forecaster.”
Last season, Blues defenseman Justin Faulk was struck by Kadri in Game 2 and did not return in a series that Colorado won. Kadri was suspended for eight games for the hit, missing the last two games against the Blues and all six games against Vegas as Colorado was eliminated.
“We’re here to play hockey and play a series, and that’s our focus,” Faulk said when asked whether things were settled.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
There are still fans that come up in O’Reilly’s Avalanche sweater. O’Reilly was Colorado’s 33rd overall choice in 2009, and he scored 90 goals in 427 games with the Avalanche.
“I’ve had a fantastic experience here,” O’Reilly added. “It’s always good to have people appreciate what you do.”