The Colorado Avalanche entered the second round of the NHL playoffs on fire. They ran into a goaltender in Game 1 that was almost as hot. Almost. St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington made 51 saves, but needed one more. The first playoff goal of Josh Manson’s career proved to be the difference, lifting the Avalanche to a 3-2 overtime victory. The Blues had won their last four playoff games on the road before Tuesday’s loss.
Here are three takeaways from Colorado’s Game 1 win:
Manson Delivers in Overtime
Manson came to the Avalanche at the trade deadline. He made team president Joe Sakic look like a genius on Tuesday. Manson scored the game-winning goal in overtime, whipping a seeing-eye shot from the point past Binnington for the win. It was his first goal of the playoffs, and only the third goal he’s scored with Colorado since arriving on March 14 in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks.
Manson also added an assist in the game. It was his first multi-point game since Jan. 16, 2020 – a span of 126 games including the playoffs. Manson wasn’t brought in for his offense, though. He had just one point in the first round and has never scored more than seven goals in a season. Tuesday’s goal was clearly a big one, as the Avalanche struggled to solve Binnington all game long.
After playing his first seven-plus seasons in Anaheim, Manson struggled a bit upon coming to Colorado. He played 22 games with the Avs in 2021-22, scoring a couple of goals and five assists. But he was minus-11 in those 22 games and struggled to find his place early on. He finally settled in when paired alongside Samuel Girard, and delivered one of Colorado’s biggest goals of the season on Tuesday.
Girard Comes Up With Big Goal
Colorado needed Manson’s goal more than anything, but Girard got a goal he needed pretty badly, too. He scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period, scoring on a long shot along the left boards through traffic. It came midway through a second stanza where Colorado outshot the Blues 19-9, which gave his team the lead until Jordan Kyrou tied things up for the Blues late in the third.
The goal was Girard’s first of the postseason and just the second playoff goal of his career. It was also his first goal since Jan. 26. After a fine 2020-21 season where he scored 32 points in 48 games, Girard followed it up with a somewhat disappointing 2021-22 campaign. He scored 28 points, but that was over 67 games, and he was the only Colorado regular to finish negative in the plus-minus column (minus-4).
Scoring a big goal in the opening game of a playoff series appeared to be a big confidence booster for the defenseman. He had a great game at both ends of the ice. Girard had seven shots on goal – tying a career-high – and had some quality minutes on special teams. If the rest of this series is going to be as close as Game 1, the Avs are going to need more performances like this one.
Kuemper Returns in Style
There was some concern as to whether Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper would even be able to play in Tuesday’s contest after getting injured in Game 3 of their first-round series against the Nashville Predators. The Avalanche goaltender looked like his old self in his return, stopping 23 shots in the victory.
Kuemper was injured in Game 3 on a fluke play when Ryan Johansen’s stick poked through the gaps in his face mask, jabbing him in the eye. Pavel Francouz came on in relief, helping the Avs win Game 3, and was also in net for the Game 4 victory that closed out the series. There was substantial swelling around Kuemper’s eye for days after the injury, but he was cleared to play earlier in the week after the swelling subsided.
Ryan O’Reilly slid the first goal of the game past Kuemper midway through the first period, and Kyrou added the equalizer late, but Kuemper was still pretty sharp throughout the contest. He did not have to make a save in overtime. After winning their first five games of this postseason, Colorado hosts the Blues for Game 2 on Thursday.
Lifelong storyteller and experienced hockey reporter that has covered everything from major juniors to the NHL. Worked for various newspapers across Minnesota and North Dakota, and now covering the Colorado Avalanche for THW.