Their last matchup was another afternoon game on the road. At the time, a struggling Avalanche team pulled out a 3-2 OT victory thanks to Mikko Rantanen’s hat trick heroics.
Today, Colorado hosted the St. Louis Blue for another day of hockey. After the disappointing loss of the Anaheim game, Colorado was hungry to leave the failures of that last third period in the rearview before enjoying a week-long break.
Alexandar Georgiev was back in net for his 34th start of the season.
In the opening minutes, Denis Malgin had a chance on the breakaway but wasn’t able to put enough power behind the shot.
Shortly after, Colton Parayko was called for cross-checking and the Avs went on the powerplay. J.T. Compher had shot from the slot, but it went high and St. Louis was back to full strength.
At 10:34, the play began with a stretch pass to Andrew Cogliano in the neutral zone. Cogliano battled along the boards to try and retrieve it, but the Blues were able to slip it out of the zone. Brad Hunt was outside and sent to Logan O’Connor. It was a selfless play, O’Connor absorbed the hit to draw in skaters and was able to set Alex Newhook up on entry.
Newhook entered the slot and lifted the puck on net. He collected his own rebound to put Colorado on the board first. He scored on his birthday for the second year in a row.
Almost two minutes later, another great shift from Colorado’s depth. Newhook stayed strong on his skates in an entanglement with Jake Neighbors. Newhook passed to Ben Meyers coming down the slot. Meyers’ shot was interrupted and he had to fight along the boards to retrieve it. O’Connor came to his rescue (similar to how he did seconds earlier with Newhook) and passed it to Sam Girard at the blueline.
Girard fired a shot to the net. Jordan Binnington almost gloved it, but it slipped from his fingers and Compher was there to clean it up.
Colorado closed out the period outshooting St. Louis 14-9. They controlled possession and generated seven high-danger chances to the Blues’ three. The strong play on the puck in the offensive zone allowed both goals to happen.
Twenty-four seconds into its start, Torey Krug and Matt Nieto exchanged words and blows. It wasn’t quite a proper fight and both were assessed minors for roughing. Krug appeared injured after the fight, but he did return to the game.
At 15:12, Cale Makar sent the breakout pass up ice to Nathan MacKinnon nearing the offensive blueline. With a quick flick of the wrists he got the pass through the slot to Evan Rodrigues who fired it in.
With about five minutes remaining, O’Connor took a liberty at the netfront and Binnington left the crease to confront him. Both took minor penalties along with Kurtis MacDermid, Alexey Toropchenko, and Nikita Alexandrov for their involvement. Logan O’Connor was given two (slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct), so the Avs went on the penalty kill.
On the resulting powerplay, Krug fired a shot from the top of the right circle. It dribbled away from Georgiev and Brayden Schenn cleaned up the rebound to make it 3-1.
Late in the period, Sam Girard tipped the puck over the glass in his own end and the Avs went back on the penalty kill.
The Avs escaped the period with the two-goal lead, but the antics of the first half gave St. Louis some life back. Colorado still out chanced and outshot the Blues, so they just needed to hang on.
MacKinnon had a breakaway chance seven minutes in, but the puck slipped away from him before he could release a shot.
Just after, Niko Mikkola took a tripping penalty and Colorado had a powerplay. They were unable to convert.
About a minute after, Ivan Barbashev forced Meyers to turn over the puck at the offensive blueline and went dashing down the ice. Hunt tried to cut back, but Barbashev earned inside ice and wristed the puck top corner. Georgiev had pulled out to meet the play, but the shot beat him cleanly.
With five minutes remaining, the Avs were outshot 8-3 in this period after an excellent first and decent second period. The Blues were clearly trying to claw back into this one. St. Louis benefitted from some luck and good puck management and spent a lot of time in the Avs’ end.
Colorado hung on.
The net was empty. There were 15 seconds left on the clock, and Georgiev gloved down Jordan Kyrou’s point-blank shot. With three seconds left on the lock, Matt Nieto netted his first goal with the Colorado Avalanche on St. Louis’ vacant net.
The final score was 4-2, and the Avs could enter the break on a high note.
Georgiev’s outing: He admitted his other goalie fights consisted of a little wrestling when he was a kid. His decision to pull up to center ice in the face of Jordan Binnington’s antics will be remembered.
“I think that’s the right thing to do and everybody would do the same thing,” he said. “No big deal. It’s a little dirty of the goalie if you’re untouchable.”
Georgiev also reached a new milestone recently: he has achieved the most career starts within a season. The organization took a gamble in net this season, but being a starter was exactly what he came here for.
“I don’t really think about it,” he admitted. “It’s been so much fun playing a lot for the first time in years. I just try to enjoy it every day, get us wins, give us a good chance to win every night, and just keep going. We got important games coming up. We’re in a pretty good spot right now.”
And he’s building a relationship with this current Avalanche group along the way.
“Definitely,” he answered when asked if he’s established a connection with his teammates. “I feel the guys trust me and we understand each other’s game pretty well. It’s been awesome. Everyone is supportive. The defensemen give me tips on how to play the puck, so it’s been easy to adjust.”
“I thought he was great tonight,” said Bednar. “He made all the saves he needed to.”
Bednar admitted he wasn’t paying close attention when Georgiev left the crease in the second because he was too focused on the plays that would come next.
Alex Newhook’s growth: In five games, Newhook has notched three goals and an assist. His goal tonight opened the scoring for the Avs. It came about through hard work and strong play. The improvement is palatable ever since he’s played between Andrew Cogliano and Logan O’Connor. Three of his shots on net today were in dangerous areas.
He’s battling to keep possession and unafraid to skate through traffic to complete the play – a commitment from start to finish as soon as he begins a shift.
“I think he’s been outstanding for us recently,” said Bednar. “You see it again late in the game, they’re making some hard pushes, keeping pucks alive in the offensive zone, (and) he was heavy down low, getting into people, physical, (and) coming up with pucks. (He) still finds a way to get up the ice on the forecheck to disrupt things and give us some time in the offensive zone. He’s playing a real nice 200-foot game right now in the middle of the ice, which is good to see.”
Not lost in this is the way that his linemates’ style of play complements the things he is doing well. On two goals tonight, Logan O’Connor’s aid in board battles helped to keep play alive. The third-fourth line habits of two grinders has had a positive, tenacious influence on him.