DENVER (AP) — Nathan MacKinnon scored the tiebreaking goal 30 seconds into the third period and wrapped it up with an empty-netter, Philipp Grubauer stopped 22 shots and the Colorado Avalanche beat the St. Louis Blues 4-1 on Monday night in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
Gabriel Landeskog also added a third-period goal by tipping in a blue-line blast from MacKinnon. Cale Makar got things started for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Avalanche with a power-play goal in the first period.
Game 2 is Wednesday.
Jordan Kyrou scored his first postseason goal for a Blues team missing leading scorer David Perron, who’s out due to the NHL’s virus protocols.
Colorado kept Jordan Binnington busy through the first two periods, outshooting the Blues by a 32-16 margin. They finally were able to solve him in the third with MacKinnon leading the way.
Binnington finished with 46 saves.
MacKinnon showed no signs of rust after missing four of the last five games with a lower-body injury. His three-point night gives the speedy forward 22 goals and 35 assists in 41 career playoff games.
His 1.39 points-per-game average is the fourth-highest in Stanley Cup playoff history (minimum 25 games). He trails only Wayne Gretzky (1.84), Mario Lemieux (1.61) and Barry Pederson (1.53).
Grubauer was sensational all game. He’s coming off a regular season in which he won a career-best 30 games.
Kyrou tied the game at 1-apiece with 3:29 remaining in the second period. He beat Grubauer on a one-timer to the stick side.
Before that, it was the period of top-notch saves, including one by a defenseman.
Binnington began the theatrics with an astonishing stop while down on the ice and with the puck on the stick of Mikko Rantanen down low. Rantanen tried to lift it over Binnington, who raised his left pad just in time to deflect Rantanen’s shot and keep it 1-0.
Moments later at the other end, Mike Hoffman had an open net on a wrap-around, only to have defenseman Ryan Graves slide over and poke the puck away with his stick.
Makar scored a power-play goal late in the first period as the young defenseman picked up where he left off last postseason. In 2020, Makar had 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) over 15 playoff games.
Vladimir Tarasenko returned from a lower-body injury that sidelined him for six games and nearly made an immediate impact. His snap shot early in the game clanged off the right post.
Midway through the first, there was an all-out brawl between Blues forward Brayden Schenn and Landeskog. The catalyst was an open-ice collision by Schenn on Rantanen that drew the wrath of Landeskog.
There was a another skirmish after the final horn.
The tension could be high all series after the Blues and Avalanche faced each other eight times in the regular season. Colorado won the season series 5-3.
The odds of the Blues capturing the Stanley Cup are +4100, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The Avalanche check in as a +450 favorite. Not that St. Louis coach Craig Berube wants to hear anything about his team’s underdog status.
“Don’t even talk about it, to be honest with you,” Berube said. “Just go play.”
TURNING UP THE NOISE
It felt and sounded crowded inside Ball Arena, with the facility recently being approved to increase capacity to 42.3% (7,750 fans).
The Blues have been permitted to increase attendance to 9,000 fans at Enterprise Center when they return.
THIS & THAT
In addition to Perron, St. Louis has two other players on the COVID-19 protocol list in forward Nathan Walker and defenseman Jake Walman. ... Avs F Alex Newhook made his NHL playoff debut. ... Rantanen had two assists.