DENVER – Tyler Bozak scored 3:38 into overtime and the St. Louis Blues fended off elimination in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals, overcoming a three-goal deficit in a 5-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.
Bozak unleashed a shot from near the blueline that got past Darcy Kuemper, capping a remarkable comeback for St. Louis.
Robert Thomas had two goals, including the tying tally with 56 seconds left in regulation, for a resilient Blues team. It’s the latest game-tying goal for the Blues when facing elimination, according to NHL Stats. Vladimir Tarasenko and Justin Faulk also scored, Nick Leddy had four assists and Pavel Buchnevich had two.
The comeback offset a hat trick from Nathan MacKinnon, who looked like he might have just turned in a signature moment with goal No. 3. He went end-to-end, working his way around Blues defenseman Leddy with nifty stick work and lifting a shot over goaltender Ville Husso for a 4-3 lead. It was his second career postseason hat trick.
Hats hit the ice. It wouldn’t be enough.
Thomas tied it up with Husso on the bench for an extra skater, setting the stage for Bozak.
Game 6 is Friday in St. Louis.
The Blues have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take a playoff series twice in their history – 1999 against Phoenix and 1991 versus Detroit.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog also scored and Bowen Byram had two assists for the Avalanche, who were on the verge of advancing to the Western Conference final for the first time since 2002.
Instead, they have to wait – and wonder. The second round has proven to be a big hurdle for the Avalanche. They’ve been eliminated at this stage in each of the last three postseasons.
Husso made 30 saves for St. Louis. He took over in Game 3 when Jordan Binnington was injured following a collision between Nazem Kadri and Blues defenseman Calle Rosen that caused Kadri to crash into Binnington.
Afterward, Kadri received racist death threats on social media, which led to increased security to protect him. He responded in Game 4 with a hat trick. On Wednesday, fans along the boards held up signs that read “Stand with Naz.”
Kuemper stopped 25 shots.
MacKinnon came out flying in the first period, taking five shots and scoring twice to give Colorado an early 2-0 lead. Those were the first two goals of the series for MacKinnon, who has seven in the postseason.
The speedy MacKinnon also had an assist to give him 82 career playoff points. He became the fourth player in franchise history with 80 or more postseason points, joining the company of Sakic (188), Peter Forsberg (159) and Peter Stastny (81).
Even more, he tied his friend and training partner Sidney Crosby for the fourth-fewest games (59) to reach the 80-point plateau, according to NHL Stats. The only ones to accomplish the feat faster were Wayne Gretzky (37), Mario Lemieux (40) and Jari Kurri (57).
After Landeskog made it 3-0 just over 4 minutes into the second period, Tarasenko knocked in his first goal of the series 101/2 minutes later to jumpstart the Blues.
Blues coach Craig Berube opened his pregame talk with reporters Wednesday by condemning the racist threats made toward Kadri.
“In no way is it acceptable by the St. Louis Blues or anybody else, for him to go through that,” Berube said. “Being a Native American myself, I’ve heard it all. I’ve been around it. It’s not a good thing.”
Blues defenseman Marco Scandella returned to the lineup after leaving the Minnesota series with an injury.
“You work all year to get to this point, get to the playoffs, earn a spot in the playoffs and to not be a part of that, obviously, it’s not easy,” Scandella said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism