The St. Louis Blues elevated their play to earn a split following their first two games of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avalanche will look for a better performance in Game 3 on Saturday in St. Louis.
Colorado claimed a 3-2 overtime win in the series opener on Tuesday before the Blues responded with a 4-1 victory on Thursday.
“They were better, and we were worse,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said following his team’s Game 2 defeat.
“We were bad. We were really bad (Thursday),” Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We just didn’t have our jump (Thursday). Our execution was off. Just weren’t feeling it. Just fighting it out there.”
MacKinnon is looking for a better performance from his team on Saturday.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s 1-1,” MacKinnon said. “We get to go on the road and hopefully steal one there, hopefully two, and we got to forget about it and move on and get back to the way we can play. We still feel like we’re a great team. We have to forget about it and move on.”
Colorado registered 54 shots on goal in Game 1, with St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington making 51 saves to keep his team in the contest. Binnington, however, turned aside 30 of 31 shots in Game 2, and his teammates helped him by blocking 18 others before they made it on net.
St. Louis made dramatic improvement in the faceoff circle, winning 60.7 percent of its draws in Game 2 after winning just 35.8 percent in Game 1. That improved the team’s puck possession.
“Well, I’ve seen it all year,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “We’re a good team. We played good hockey all year. It’s a good group of guys that want to win.
“They know Game 1 they didn’t do well enough, and all year they’ve responded. You go over things, and you tell them why and you show them why, and they respond.”
Berube stuck with the same lineup for Game 2, using 11 forwards and seven defensemen with veterans Marco Scandella and Torey Krug still missing from the blue line.
But he shuffled his forward lines, moving Pavel Buchnevich up to play with captain Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron on the top line. Buchnevich also ran the point on a 5-on-5 power play, which was another new wrinkle.
Perron scored twice in Game 2 and Buchnevich had two assists.
“We were pretty comfortable,” Perron said. “Made some good plays. We also can be even better, which is a good sign when you play a good game.”
The Avalanche received a power-play goal from captain Gabriel Landeskog on Thursday, but they were not able to get into their usual fast-paced game during 5-on-5 play.
“Our biggest issue, especially early on, was that no one wanted to skate with the puck,” Bednar said. “They did a nice job in the neutral zone, but we didn’t move.”
Now they must get up to speed or risk making their fourth straight second-round exit.
“I think, years past, we might dwell on it and get down on ourselves and each other,” MacKinnon said. “We just got to pick each other up and move on and stay positive. We still believe we can get this thing done and win the series.”
–Field Level Media