In trying to put a cosmic Game 5 collapse behind them, the Avalanche has at least one thing going for it:
Heading into a potential close-out Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues at The Enterprise Center on Friday night, the Avs are a perfect 4-0 on the road this postseason.
Of course, none of those wins were preceded by a historic meltdown with a trip to the Western Conference finals on the line — a 5-4 overtime loss that re-awakened ghosts of failed second round series past.
But Colorado coach Jared Bednar remained confident his team will be able to regroup, just as it did prior to Game 3 at The Enterprise Center.
The Avs swept both games at St. Louis after a poor showing in Game 2 at Ball Arena that evened the Western Conference semifinals 1-1. But St. Louis delivered a gut punch Wednesday night, as the Avs lost after going up 3-0 in a playoff game for the first time since their move to Colorado.
The Blues limited Colorado to just 11 shots in the second and third periods after the Avs had 18 in the opening frame.
“We were down on ourselves after Game 2. We did not play well. We needed to go into St. Louis and bring our best and be resilient and be mentally tough and get back to our game, and we did it,” Bednar told reporters at Denver International Airport on Thursday. “We did it twice and we did it very well.
“And now we’re obviously unhappy with last night’s game, especially the way it finished. We’ve got to regroup and do what we did in Games 3 and 4 there.”
If that doesn’t happen, Game 7 is Sunday night at Ball Arena. The Avs have lost five consecutive Game 7s — part of the reason they haven’t reached the Western Conference finals in 20 years.
After blowing the 3-0 lead the Avs were on the verge of victory thanks to a sensational end-to-end play from Nathan MacKinnon to give Colorado a 4-3 lead entering the final minute of regulation. Colorado was clearly the better team in the first half of the game and St. Louis dominated the final period.
MacKinnon, who had three goals and a hand in all four goals, couldn’t single-handily beat the Blues, who rallied to trim Colorado’s series lead to 3-2.
“I don’t have any different thoughts this morning on last night’s game than I had last night,” Bednar said. “I loved the better part of our game. We gave up a couple opportunities, they capitalized on them and they put on a push at the end. I didn’t think we handled it well. We had opportunities to get pucks out, didn’t stay on our toes and stay assertive and get after them enough, and seemed like what could go wrong did go wrong for us. Most of that I still think is on us.”
But it’s all behind them now, the coach insists. Bednar expects his team to play with confidence on Friday.
“It’s the best-of-seven series. If you sulk or you live in the past or you’re not staying in the moment, then you’re finished,” he said. “So I like that attitude of our guys.”
Avs defenseman Cale Makar didn’t have any problems sleeping after Game 5.
“The second I got off the ice, you just try to forget about it. You learn from it,” he said from DIA before boarding a charter flight to St. Louis. “I feel like that’s a valuable team experience that we took from that game and there’s not much else to say about it. It’s in the past now.”
Makar added: “We’re still in a good spot. We’re still up in the series. We have the ability to close it out now again, so you just can’t take for granted those opportunities to end a team’s season.”
Fourth-line Avs forward Darren Helm helped the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2008. This is his ninth postseason run, with 91 games of playoff experience.
“You can’t get too frustrated or down when things aren’t going well because there’s a lot more work to do,” he said. “We need some positive energy to get through this series. We got a good team and we just need to trust in each other and play hard and not worry about the results and just focus on what we need to do to win.”
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