ST. LOUIS — After 20 years, Colorado is at last back in the Western Conference finals.
Fourth-line center Darren Helm scored with 5.6 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the Avalanche to a 3-2 victory over the Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals here Friday night. Skating down the left side, Helm lifted the puck over the left side of goalie Ville Husso.
The Avs, who entered Game 6 with just one goal from their bottom-six forwards, got all three goals from depth guys. Third-line center J.T. Compher scored Colorado’s first two goals.
Colorado, now 5-0 on the road in the postseason, will host Edmonton for Game 1 of the conference finals on Tuesday at Ball Arena.
Compher tied it at 2-2 at 10:18 of the third period. On a rush into the Blues’ zone, rookie defenseman Bo Byram swung the puck wide to Compher on the right wing, and the third-line center beat Husso with a wrist shot inside the near post.
Compher scored his first of the game to tie it 1-1 at 5:19 of the second period. From just outside the crease, he chipped a rebound past Husso. It was just the second tally of the series for the bottom six, and it was aided by two Blues icing calls that forced defenseman Nick Leddy into a 3:22 shift.
But the Blues regained the lead about four minutes later. Avs defenseman Jack Johnson turned the puck over on the offensive blue line and St. Louis forwards Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou created a 2-on-1 against lone defenseman Josh Manson. Schenn made a circle-to-circle pass to Kyrou, who buried the one-timer past Darcy Kuemper.
Manson prevented another Blues goal late in the period. Kuemper lost his balance while sliding to his left to confront a shot by Kyrou, and slid out of the crease. But Manson stepped in for the goalie, going to his knees and knocking Kyrou’s shot down.
The Avalanche played to its identity from the outset, producing 10 of the first 12 shots until Manson was sent to the penalty box for interference. The Blues didn’t generate much on the power play but it seemed to interfere with Colorado’s flow.
Shortly after Manson was released, St. Louis defenseman Justin Faulk found open ice between the circles and accepted a pass from winger Robert Thomas and beat Kuemper with a wrist shot.
The first goal of the game hasn’t meant much in this series as the team that scored first lost each game.
Footnotes. Compher’s goals were the first tallies of the postseason. … The Avs made one lineup change: Forward Andre Burakovsky replaced Alex Newhook on the third line. Newhook stepped in for Burakovsky the two previous games. … Colorado’s other scratches were forward Nico Sturm and defensemen Ryan Murray and Kurtis MacDermid.
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