Jordan Bennington put in a stunning performance, but even the massive effort of the St. Louis Blues guard wasn’t enough to stop Josh Manson from playing the unlikely champ in overtime.
In this way, one of the acquisitions General Manager Joe Sakic made at the Colorado Avalanche before the NHL trade deadline reached, was there to step up when his team needed an offensive boost in a game where Binnington was the biggest reason he ended up. Being nail-biting rather than a potential explosion.
Acquired from prospective Anaheim Ducks defending Drew Helleson and another in the 2023 second round on March 14, Manson provided one of those unforgettable moments that will last a lifetime. Running through the offensive blue line and showing great patience, Manson waited for the touchline to open up very slightly before a shot of sight through traffic found its way into the back of the net at 8:02 of first overtime on Tuesday in the conference semi-final opener. western.
“Yes, I think so,” Manson told reporters in Denver when asked if that goal was the biggest moment of his eight-year National Hockey League career. “My first goal is in the playoff game. The winner is in overtime. It was great. It’s not about the way I feel, it’s how the whole team feels about me (after I scored). This is the best part.”
Match 2 is scheduled for Thursday night at the Ball Arena.
Regarding the winner, several of the Blues players were trying to get into the shooting lane along with Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog, who got the disc to Manson on point and then made a key screen in the play.
“(Manson) had a fake pump on the top first and he didn’t get much credit for that, but that was really cool,” Landeskog said. “He encouraged them to bite and was able to get a shooting lane. From that point on, I try to stand up front and get out (out of the way) at the last minute. It happens very quickly, but there is a certain sound, I think. There is no sound, as it gently hits the net and then you hear the eruption of the crowd. It’s an exciting feeling, for sure, in overtime.”
The Blues got on the plate first with a goal from Ryan O’Reilly, but the avalanche found another level in the second half to gain a 2-1 advantage after goals by Valerie Neshochkin and Sam Gerrard, Manson’s defense partner.
Insulting from the back end is typical of an avalanche, but on this night, the headlines – Norris candidate Cal Makar and partner Devon Toews – were aggressively held back.
However, every member of this second pairing managed to score.
“This team has done it all year. Defense has contributed all year and that’s part of the identity of this team,” Manson said. “Obviously, if you get D points, it helps you win games.”
Gerrard was also a force on both ends of the ice, finishing with seven shots on target, 11 shot attempts, four blocking shots, and two hits.
It’s fair to say that Manson’s transition to an avalanche after the trade included some rugged moments, but he’s struggled through them and upped his game in time.
“He was great. If you watch his defense, he was heavy and he was good at a puck, his gaps were big. He played his ass all night. He played the right way all night and in the end he got a chance to put the disc in the back of the net. Great goal in turning. “I am happy to see him rewarded,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar. “He has gotten better and better since he has been with us. If you talk to Josh about his arrival here and the differences in our structure and the way we play and the things we stress. It’s neither right nor wrong, but it has been there (in Anaheim) for a long time and plays the same way.
He’s been thinking a lot. He’s a real curious guy and loves to be trained and wants to see things. He comes (to the coach’s office) all the time and wants to be really clear about things. It’s part of what makes him so good. The structure in his game is part of what makes him so successful and because he’s He’s getting more and more clear on that, he’s more dangerous offensively and he’s become a better defender for us and he’s counting on him. Now we see exactly why we got him and he was a piece we needed so badly.”
Thanks to Binnington, the Blues were able to hold out long enough for Jordan Kyrou to score on a strength-playing mark that came in a poor streak change by avalanche with 3:14 to interfere with regulation.
“We were there, you’re one shot away in the OT. That’s the point,” said Blues coach Craig Behrop. “We will regroup and prepare for game two. We will be better in the next game. We need more players to perform. That’s really what it boils down to and again, we have to make more play with tweaks.”
Neither of them bothered a late goal against avalanche, not being able to take advantage of a late power game that stretched into 41 seconds into the fourth inning opener.
During the overtime session, Avalanche’s 13-0 lopsided advantage in shots on goal, finished with a 54-25 lead in this section while firing 106 shot attempts at Binnington while only allowing 45.
“The truth is that sometimes you’re going to play really well and feel like you deserve to win, but you don’t,” said Landeskog, who finished with assists. “We were a real tough group there. The goalkeeper played really well for them. He made some saves which felt like we had an empty net and he took out a leg or a hand or something else. But in the extra time we had just made sure to keep going. Playing and continuing to do what we were doing. We were making a lot and it was just a matter of time.”
Despite all the talk of the Blues’ championship pedigree as something they can count on in the series even when things don’t go smoothly, Tuesday’s efforts were another significant step in the process of building Avalanche – who won five games in a row to start these Stanley Cup playoffs.
“All the experiences I had during the year, they remember when you are frustrated and you come back, they remember when you lose the lead. That is the purpose of the regular season, it teaches you how to win,” Bednar said. “But you have to be consistent and focused. Faith is really what drives it. Our guys have a really good understanding and are number one, they have faith in what we do.
“If you have that and you keep working on it, you will not be shaken by the ebb and flow of a game or bad bounces and you will continue to do what makes you successful.”