Saturday, April 20

Blues loss to Avalanche on late goal in Game 6 ‘tough way to end’ season


They surrendered a goal to forward Darren Helm with 5.6 seconds remaining in regulation and saw their season end in a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round at Enterprise Center on Friday.

While the Blues are going home, the Avalanche are heading to the Western Conference Final for the first time in 20 years.

“We have to find a way to get that one to overtime,” said St. Louis forward Brayden Schenn, who was on the ice for the winning goal.

 

[RELATED: Complete Avalanche vs. Blues series coverage]

 

Instead, Helm launched a speculative shot from the left wall that eluded several bodies and beat goalie Ville Husso cleanly.

“It’s a tough way to end it, but that is the way it goes,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “Our guys battled hard.”

Two nights earlier, in Game 5 at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado forward Nathan MacKinnon scored with 2:46 left in regulation to give the Avalanche a 4-3 lead and possibly put the game and the series away. Instead, Blues forward Robert Thomas scored the tying goal with 56 seconds left in regulation and forward Tyler Bozak won it 3:38 into overtime to give the Blues hope in Game 6.

It appeared Game 6 was heading for overtime as well, that is until Helm, in his 14th NHL season, stunned the crowd and handed the Blues their third home loss of the series.

For Helm, it was a signature moment in a long career as a bottom-six forward. In his first 91 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 35-year-old had scored 11 goals. Among them was the series clincher for the Detroit Red Wings in the 2009 Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks on May 27.  

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The 13-year gap, to the day, between series-clinching goals is the second-longest in NHL history behind Adam Oates (16 years).

For the Blues, Helm’s signature moment was a brutal and sudden ending to a season in which they finished with 107 points (49-22-11) and expected a deep playoff run. 

“It’s a really disappointing season,” captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “I think we are better than we showed against these guys. I thought we could get them to seven games.

“You know, obviously, this is a fresh reflection and there’s more to look at and such, but I do feel like we did underachieve this year. This is one of the best teams I have played on. It’s disappointing.”

Video: Helm’s buzzer beater advances Colorado

Though the Helm goal was the coup de grace, there were plenty of reasons the Blues are not flying to Denver for a winner-take-all game against an opponent that has lost its past five Games 7. 

Twice the Blues had the lead in Game 6 and twice they coughed it up, each time with a defensive-zone breakdown. 

Justin Faulk gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead when he beat Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper over the shoulder with 1:00 left in the first period.

St. Louis scored the first goal in five of the six games in the series but won one of those games.

Avalanche forward J.T. Compher tied the game at 5:19 of the second period, putting home a rebound to score for the first time in his past 16 postseason games. 

At 9:34 of the second period, Jordan Kyrou gave St. Louis its final lead of the series. Kyrou had two other golden opportunities to score after that, denied by defenseman Josh Manson when he shot at an empty net with Kuemper out of position and then missing the net on a breakaway.

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“Jordan Kyrou could have had three [goals] tonight,” Berube said. “Just the way it goes. We didn’t get the breaks.”

The Avalanche generated their own breaks, thanks in large part to a relentless forecheck that kept the Blues pinned in their own zone. 

“They’re a very dynamic team; their ‘D’ are extremely active,” O’Reilly said. “They’re a great skating team. They’re fast. At times, they seemed to hem us in there, lots of motion and creating that way. 

“At times we defended it well, but at times they got a lot of looks and when that momentum happens it’s tough to shift. At times I think we played in our end too much and it’s tough to win like that.”

As an example, defenseman Colton Parayko was harried into a delay of game penalty in the third period, clearing the puck over the glass. At 10:18 of the third period, Compher scored a power-play goal to tie it at 2-2.

On the first Compher goal, the Blues defensemen on the ice were extended beyond their limits because of an inability to clear the zone effectively, including two icing infractions.

Then, on the game-winner, the Blues got sloppy on their forecheck and allowed the Avalanche a last-ditch attack that delivered them the unlikeliest of victories, moving them one step closer to their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since defeating the New Jersey Devils in seven games in 2001.

They will play the Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-7 series, which begins Tuesday.

For the Blues it is their third straight series loss to the Avalanche, who swept them in the first round last season. It is also their third loss in four series since winning the Cup in 2019.

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“They were the better team,” O’Reilly said. “They won and it stings, it’s tough. Yeah, it doesn’t feel good by any means.”



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