Varlamov, Top Line will the Avs to 4-1 victory over Blues

Mar 15, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov (1) makes a glove save as defenseman Samuel Girard (49) defends against St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz (17) during the second period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Avalanche slayed a demon tonight with a victory in St. Louis. They can thank their goaltender for that.

For the first time in 13 games, the Avalanche were able to beat the St. Louis Blues, heading into their barn and taking them down by a score of 4-1. They did so on the back of their starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who stopped 44 shots, including 22 in the final period alone. The win moved the Avalanche back into the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

Much like the game against Minnesota, Colorado came out slow, and Varlamov had to shut the door early and often. He made a tremendous save along the goal line on Brayden Schenn a few minutes in that had to be reviewed by the officials, but the puck never crossed the line. That save proved to be enormous for the team, and right on cue, the top line took over.

A little over ten minutes into the first, Nathan MacKinnon took a nice pass from Mikko Rantanen along the left dot and beat Jake Allen glove side to give the Avs a lead. Just three minutes later, Tyson Barrie floated a shot from the point that got through and Jake Allen could not handle. Nathan MacKinnon found himself all alone staring into an open net with the puck on his stick and was able to give the Avs a 2-0 lead heading into the intermission. The goals were MacKinnon’s 34th and 35th on the year.

The Blues came out gunning in the second period, putting a lot of pressure on the Avs defensive core. Nearly ten minutes into the period, the Blues finally solved Varlamov, as Joel Edmundson floated a shot through several bodies that somehow snuck in to cut the lead to one. Varlamov shut the door from there, and the team then got a heroic effort from their captain.

After getting his shot blocked in the offensive zone, Gabriel Landeskog worked his butt off on the backcheck to get the puck back. That hard work allowed him to catch the Blues on a change as he hit Mikko Rantanen with a home-run pass. Rantanen did the work from there, shielding off the much smaller Vince Dunn, and roofing the puck over Jake Allen’s glove, giving the Avs a two-goal lead going into the third.

The third period was the definition of bend-but-don’t-break hockey. The Avs rarely pushed the puck past center ice, electing to take shorter shifts and keep the team fresh to work hard in the defensive zone. Colorado gave up 22 shots, but Varlamov stood tall in his net, stopping them all, including a few of a spectacular variety. The Blues pulled their goalie with more than three minutes left, but never got close to scoring again. Mikko Rantanen closed the game out with an empty netter, giving him four points on the evening.

With back-to-back victories in Minnesota and St. Louis, the Avs have to be riding high. They’ve struggled mightily in both of those arenas in the past, and now head back to Colorado to take on the best team in the Western Conference in the Nashville Predators. Nashville has owned Colorado the last few years, so it’s another chance to slay a demon. The game starts at 7 p.m. MDT on Friday evening.

Five Observations

  • Already down Erik Johnson, it looked like the Avs may lose Nikita Zadorov long term in the second period. After taking a hit in the defensive zone, he found himself unable to put weight on his left arm, and soon after left the game. He actually came back for a brief period of time, only to leave again, leaving Avs fans to panic. But the big Russian could not be held down, as he returned late in the second period, and played an absurd 11 minutes in the third period alone. He managed to finish the game with a plus-3.
  • With the Avs playing again tomorrow night and Varlamov facing 45 shots, Spencer Martin may get his first start of the year in an effort to give the Avs number one goalie a night off. We will find out tomorrow afternoon if that’s the case.
  • Alexander Kerfoot has more or less vanished from the scoresheet, with no points in ten games and a permanent spot on the fourth line. The heavy schedule of the NHL seems to have caught up with him.
  • David Warsofsky led the Avs with four shots on goal. You typically won’t win games when that is the case, but tonight, you’ll take it.
  • The top line combined for ten points tonight on all four goals and has finally taken some of that mojo they have at home onto the road.
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