The Colorado Avalanche got off to a slow start in Game 1 of their first-round series against St. Louis, but Gabriel Landeskog did what a captain should do for his team.
He gave them the spark.
Landeskog dropped the gloves with Brayden Schenn midway through the first period and it got the rest of the Avalanche going. They had 50 shots on goal and pulled away in the third period of Monday night’s 4-1 win.
Now Colorado goes for a 2-0 series lead on home ice when the teams meet in Game 2 on Wednesday night.
The Avalanche are one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, and with that comes pressure. It seemed to be an issue at the start of Monday’s game but after Schenn’s collision with Mikko Rantanen, Landeskog found a way out of the funk by fighting the St. Louis forward.
“Obviously here playing at home, I thought the first 10 minutes of that period, we were kind of tip-toeing our way into it a little bit,” Landeskog said after the game. “Some nerves, and adrenaline and whatever. I thought that was going to calm us down a little bit and get the crowd into it.”
Colorado’s victory was due in large part to the play of its top line of Landeskog (one goal, two assists), Rantanen (two assists) and Nathan MacKinnon (two goals and one assist). They combined for eight of the 10 points in the game despite being the focus of St. Louis’ defense.
“We have to be aggressive against them in the (defensive) zone and shut their speed down and from there we’ve got to make strong plays,” Blues center Ryan O’Reilly said.
The game got a little chippy at the end, which should set up for a more intense Game 2. St. Louis knows if it is going to steal a game in Denver it needs more offense and for goaltender Jordan Binnington to play at the same level. He finished with 46 saves on 49 shots and made several highlight-reel stops.
“Going into the third period, 1-1, the way he played we had a real good opportunity but we let it slip away,” Blues coach Craig Berube said.
St. Louis will again be without leading scorer David Perron, who is in the NHL COVID-19 protocol, but it did get Vladimir Tarasenko back for Game 1. Tarasenko missed the final six games of the regular season with a lower-body injury and logged 16:21 of ice time. He hit a post in the first period that would have given the Blues an early lead.
“He was skating well; he was strong as he always is. It’s tough after you’ve missed time to come back, especially in a playoff game, Game 1,” teammate Tyler Bozak said.
The Avalanche will have rookie defenseman Bo Byram available for Wednesday. He missed the last 24 games of the regular season and Game 1 with an upper-body injury.
Colorado thinks it can play better despite getting 50 shots on goal.
“We did a good job in terms of getting pucks to the net and allowing time for our forwards to get there,” defenseman Cale Makar said. “I think that will be a key in this series, making sure that we’re getting those pucks through and we’re battling to get to the net.”
–Field Level Media