The Avalanche was one minute from its first Western Conference finals in 20 years.
Instead, it’s back to St. Louis.
The Blues rallied from a 3-0 deficit to stun the Avalanche 5-4 in overtime in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinal series Wednesday night at Ball Arena.
Former University of Denver standout Tyler Bozak scored the winner at 3:39 into the extra period in a gut-punch loss for Colorado. The Avs were 56 seconds away from the series-clinching victory capped by an epic performance from superstar Nathan MacKinnon.
MacKinnon scored three goals in a rare playoff hat trick, the last one a spectacular end-to-end unassisted tally to give the Avs a 4-3 lead with 2:46 remaining in regulation. He had a hand in all four goals.
“It’s over with. We lost,” MacKinnon said. “The playoffs aren’t for points and attention or whatever. It’s just to get wins and that’s how everyone feels in our room. We’re all tugging on the same rope.”
Game 6 is Friday night in St. Louis with Colorado leading the series, 3-2. Game 7, if necessary, is at Ball Arena on Sunday.
MacKinnon scored twice and assisted on Gabe Landeskog’s goal to give the Avs a 3-0 lead early in the second period. But the Blues rallied for three consecutive scores, the last one by defenseman Justin Faulk at 15:14 of the third period.
Exactly two minutes later, MacKinnon completed an incredible end-to-end rush with the puck by lifting a shot over the shoulder of goalie Ville Husso as the Avs retook the lead with less than three minutes to play.
The crowd went crazy and hundreds of hats were thrown onto the ice. The Western Conference finals were near.
The Blues, however, pulled Husso for a sixth attacker and Robert Thomas scored his second goal of the game on a rebound off goalie Darcy Kuemper with 56 seconds to go.
“They played with more desperation than us in the second half of the game,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said.
MacKinnon, who had zero goals and only three assists in the first four games of the series, had two goals in the first period before assisting on the third one for a comfortable 3-0 lead.
The Blues got within 3-1 to begin the third period. Thomas scored at 9:57 before Faulk tied it.
The Avs had a flawless opening frame, taking total control.
MacKinnon scored at 3:51 and 18:23, the latter on the power play, as Colorado outshot the Blues 18-9. That dominance continued early in the second period and Landeskog got the third goal, a redirection off Devon Toews’ shot from the point at 4:03. MacKinnon gave the puck to Toews, who blasted the puck toward bodies in front of the net, where Landeskog got a stick on it.
St. Louis got within 3-1 late in the second period, shortly after the Avs improved to 3-of-3 on the penalty kill. There was a loose puck between the circles and Vladimir Trarsenko turned and fired, beating Kuemper high above his glove side.
Footnotes. The Avs used the same lineup from Game 4. The healthy scratches were again forward Andre Burakovsky and Nico Sturm and defensemen Ryan Murray and Kurtis MacDermid. Defenseman Sam Girard suffered a season-ending broken sternum in Game 3 but the Avs have no other injuries. … Blues defenseman Marco Scandella came off the injured list to make his debut in the series, replacing Calle Rosen.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism