Avalanche Endure Second-Half Push from Blues

Avalanche forward Artturi Lehkonen taking a shot while Blues defender Justin Faulk attempts to check him
Photo credit: Jeff Roberson/The Associated Press

Two Western Conference teams on opposite trajectories collided Saturday afternoon in Denver and nearly experienced a reversal of fortunes. The defending champion Colorado Avalanche beat the trade-seeking St. Louis Blues 4-2. The Avalanche are now 7-1 in the last 14 days with a 33-15 advantage in goals. The Blues have lost four straight games and have been outscored 19-8 in those losses.

A frantic finish followed Colorado’s early dominance. Colorado had controlled play for most of the first period, outshooting the Blues 6-2 after Torey Krug’s first attempt on Alexandar Georgiev 51 seconds into the game. The Avalanche scored twice in slightly over two minutes in the middle of the first period. Alex Newhook stashed the puck past Jordan Binnington off a boards pass from Logan O’Connor, then J.T. Compher put in a rebound from the verge of the crease.

Five minutes into the second period, Evan Rodrigues extended the Avalanche lead to 3-0. The Avalanche pushed hard for a fourth goal in the next ten minutes. Colorado trapped the Blues’ defenders in their own zone for over a minute without a shift change. The Blues finally got their first shot of the period with 12:38 left before intermission.

With 4:47 left, Binnington attempted to engage O’Connor after the forward jabbed for the puck at his pads. Five penalties came from the scrum, and the Blues got a power play. O’Connor took an extra minor for slashing against Binnington. Brayden Schenn scored on the power play with 3:33 left in the period. The Blues had a second late power play after x lifted the puck over the glass, but St. Louis did not generate a shot on net and remained down 3-1.

The Blues carried confidence into the third period. Their forwards won 11 consecutive faceoffs after Schenn’s middle-period mark. The Avalanche did not record a shot on goal until 11:46 remained in the game. They had last gotten a puck to Binnington with 2:38 left in the second period.

Ivan Barbashev singlehandedly brought the Blues within one goal with 10:20 left. He forced a turnover at his own blueline and claimed the puck before defender Brad Hunt could recover. His wrist shot from the left circle beat Georgiev high. Barbashev is one of the potential trade options for the Blues. He has scored three goals in his last four games for nine this season.

St. Louis maintained pressure for the next 10 minutes with a 19-9 shot attempt advantage in the period. Binnington came off with 1:26 left, and Matt Nieto guaranteed the Avalanche win with an empty net goal in the last three seconds of action. It was Nieto’s first goal since January 10th, when he was still a member of the San Jose Sharks. The Avalanche acquired him along with Ryan Merkley in exchange for Jacob MacDonald and Martin Kaut on the 25th.

The Blues have one more game before the All-Star break, a visit to Winnipeg, which is currently second in the Central Division, six points ahead of Colorado. The Avalanche will not play again until February 7th, when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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