Josh Manson scored 8:02 into overtime, Darcy Kuemper made 23 saves in his return to the net from an eye injury, and the Colorado Avalanche overcame a sluggish start to beat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 on Tuesday night in Game 1 of their second-round series.
Manson sent a shot from near the blue line through a sea of players that went in just over the shoulder of Jordan Binnington.
Valeri Nichushkin and Samuel Girard also scored for an Avalanche team that had a week-long layoff after sweeping Nashville. It showed early on, too, before they found their stride. They outshot the Blues by a 54-25 margin, including 13-0 in OT. The Avalanche also hit three posts and two crossbars.
Ryan O’Reilly had a first-period goal and Jordan Kyrou tied it late for St. Louis. Binnington kept the Blues close with one sprawling save after another. He stopped 51 shots.
Game 2 is Thursday.
Kuemper suffered a scary eye mishap in Game 3 of the Predators series when a stick blade went through his mask and caught him around his eyelid. It took a few days for the swelling to subside.
Kyrou scored on the power play to tie the game with 3:14 remaining. The Blues have been potent on the power play, going 9 for 27 during the playoffs.
Girard staked Colorado a 2-1 lead midway through the second period on a shot that went through Binnington’s pads. Defenceman Erik Johnson nearly had another moments earlier with a wide-open net, but couldn’t get anything on his shot. Binnington reached out with his glove while on the ground to stop the rolling puck.
O’Reilly took advantage of a Cale Makar turnover to score early in the first period. O’Reilly has a goal in five straight playoff games, matching the longest playoff goal streak in Blues history. He tied the mark held by Phil Roberto (1972) and Joe Mullen (1982), according to NHL Stats.
The Avalanche didn’t look sharp in the opening 20 minutes. Artturi Lehkonen hit the post, while Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen had shots clang off the crossbar.
Leading into the game, Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s coming off late-season knee surgery, wasn’t buying the rust argument.
“Everybody wants to make that into a thing,” Landeskog said. “Having that rest in the bank will be good.”
It was the eighth straight playoff win over the Blues in a streak that dates to Game 4 of the 2001 conference finals. The Avalanche swept St. Louis in the playoffs last season.
Playing no favourites
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he didn’t fill out a playoff bracket.
“If it turned out to be true, people would be saying bad things or questioning things that you have no need to question,” said Bettman, who attended the game Tuesday. “I’m probably not a very good prognosticator.”
Blues defenceman Justin Faulk took a hit to the head from Kadri in Game 2 last season and didn’t return in a series that Colorado swept. Kadri drew an eight-game suspension for the hit, missing the final two games against the Blues and all six games against Vegas as Colorado was ousted.
Asked if things were settled, Faulk responded: “We’re here to play hockey and play a series and that’s our focus.”
Gone but not forgotten
There remain fans who still show up wearing O’Reilly’s Avalanche sweater. O’Reilly was the 33rd overall pick by Colorado in 2009, scoring 90 goals in 427 career games with the Avalanche.
“Had a great time here,” O’Reilly said. “It’s always nice to see people appreciate it.”