Blues hope to spring another surprise on Avalanche

NHL Hockey

After a comeback win Saturday night, the St. Louis Blues hope to carry that same late-breaking momentum into their late-season playoff hunt, beginning Monday with another game against the visiting Colorado Avalanche.

The Blues entered Saturday’s game on a three-game losing streak, and were 0-5-0 in five previous meetings with Colorado. It seemed like both streaks would continue when the Avalanche gained a 2-0 lead after the first three minutes, but the Blues rallied to lead 3-2 at the first intermission and then regained the lead in the third period for a 5-3 victory.

St. Louis (20-19-6, 46 points) sits one point behind the Arizona Coyotes for the fourth and final West Division playoff spot. The Blues have three games in hand over Arizona.

The second-place Avalanche (31-10-4, 66 points) are four points behind the Vegas Golden Knights in the West and one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild.

The loss ended the Avalanche’s five-game winning streak, pinning them with just their second regulation loss (18-2-2) in 22 games.

Saturday’s game underscored two persistent issues facing the clubs. The Blues have been outscored 55-36 in the second periods of games this season, and they were held to only five shots in Saturday’s second frame.

“We still have to figure out our second periods,” Blues forward Brayden Schenn said. “It’s almost like we forget how to play correctly sometimes, and that’s when we get playing a lot of defense and running around in our own end.”

However, Mike Hoffman scored during a two-man advantage 11:19 into the third period to put St. Louis back in front for good.

Colorado has allowed 11 goals during 32 opposing power plays over its last eight games. Given that the Avalanche are one of the league leaders in preventing 5-on-5 goals, the struggling penalty-kill unit is suddenly a notable weakness.

“We take two or three dumb penalties (Saturday) and they end up costing us,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “We’re in a tie game in the third period on the road, it’s a good spot to be … we felt good about being there the way the second period went, and then the penalties killed us.”

In better special-teams news for the Avalanche, they went 2-for-5 on the power play. The Blues are near the bottom of the league in penalty-kill percentage, thanks in large part to the Avalanche’s 35.3 percent (12-for-34) success rate with the man advantage against St. Louis this season.

Stopping the high-scoring Avalanche might be even more difficult for the Blues if they’re short-handed on defense. Colton Parayko and Vince Dunn are both questionable for Monday after leaving Saturday’s game due to injuries.

St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington is the probable starter for Monday’s game.

Filling in for Philipp Grubauer, who just came off the COVID-19 list, Devan Dubnyk has started Colorado’s last three games and will likely be back in net on Monday.

Forwards Mikko Rantanen (protocols list) and Logan O’Connor (lower-body injury) are questionable for the Avalanche lineup.

Nathan MacKinnon has 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists) over a 13-game points streak.

Colorado has a 5-2-0 lead in the season series with the Blues.

–Field Level Media

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