Arms outstretched while giving the home crowd bad news, you could forgive NHL referee Graham Skiliter if those arms were looking for a hug after a controversy-marred night at the Pepsi Center. In that moment, Skiliter was informing the announced crowd of 13,890 the Colorado Avalanche had not tied the game as the play in question was offsides.

That call, which comes with plenty of questions of its own based on how the rules are written, essentially sealed the fate of the Avalanche as they fell to the visiting St. Louis Blues, 4-3. Colorado mounted a spirited rally after entering the game’s final frame down 3-1 but couldn’t get it done in the end and the Avs lost their third consecutive game.

“A lot of chances,” Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon said. “They had a good second and we fell behind. We played well in the third and just couldn’t get it done.”

Colorado scored the opening tally on the night, a power-play goal from Alexander Kerfoot, in the first period and finished the period up a goal while leading 16-8 in shots. The fun quickly ended as the Blues made the second period their own, outshooting Colorado 17-14 and scoring three times, including a Paul Stastny goal that gave him his 600th career point.

“We switched up the units a little bit,” MacKinnon explained of Colorado’s dangerous power play. “I think we just got too passive in the last few games. We only had two tonight. Tonight would have been a good night to have four or five like we usually do but that’s the way it is. [Kerfoot] is a good passer and [Erik Johnson] can shoot it and obviously, Mikko [Rantanen] is good and smart down low.”

The big difference between this early version of the Avalanche and last year’s lethargic entity came in the third period when they actually mounted a comeback that began with a Blake Comeau goal about as bizarre as you’ll ever see. Comeau carried the puck and cut to the front of the net with Blues defender Robert Bortuzzo draped over him but lost the handle while Bortuzzo took out Blues goaltender Carton Hutton and then laid on him for several seconds while the Avalanche regained possession of the puck and it found its way back to Comeau for a tap-in to a vacated net.

“Usually when we get down 3-1 the past couple seasons we just fold up,” MacKinnon admitted. “But when we got down 3-1 in the second, we really pushed and it was nice to do that.”

St. Louis challenged the play for goaltender interference but replays showed Bortuzzo initiated the contact with Hutton, then laid on him for several seconds before getting up and allowing Hutton to try to get back into the net and make a save. The challenge was reviewed extensively and ultimately determined to be a good goal, bringing the Avalanche within one goal.

Bortuzzo would find redemption with a goal of his own just minutes later and seemingly put the game out of reach as his goal made it 4-2 in favor of St. Louis but the nightmare wasn’t over for Hutton quite yet.

A crazy bounce off the back boards on a dump in from Matt Duchene created another empty-net goal for the Avalanche as Kerfoot put his second of the night in while Hutton, who had left to play the puck behind the net, desperately scrambled to get back into position, and suddenly the Avalanche were down just one goal with four minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the game thanks to a gift from the hockey gods.

“[Comeau’s] goal was really funny,” MacKinnon said with a chuckle. “We were laughing about it on the bench. Kerfoot’s was another lucky one. Even our power play goal was kind of a lucky one, it just kind of ping-ponged in.”

Then came a play that only made Skiliter and crew’s night even longer as the Avalanche tied the game on a one-timer by Mikko Rantanen off a beautiful feed from Sven Andrighetto but replays showed Andrighetto had initially received the puck from Nikita Zadorov before clearing the offensive zone, making him offsides. The Blues utilized the new rules this year marking a difference between offsides challenges and other kinds of challenges to their advantage and successfully had the game-tying goal overturned.

Despite consistent zone pressure and multiple attempts in close in the final two minutes, Hutton ultimately slammed the door shut and the Blues walked away with the two points.

For Skiliter, that much-needed hug may remain ever elusive while he’s in Colorado.

AJ Haefele

This Aurora, Colorado native moved to Katy, Texas at a young age but found himself right back at home in 2009 and would begin covering the Avalanche a year later.

Before joining BSN Denver, A.J. had been writing for and briefly managed the popular Avalanche blog, Mile High Hockey. A.J. has been providing detailed practice reports, training camp coverage, and in-depth looks at the Avalanche and their divisional foes since 2010.

  • jpwheels

    What a weird game. I’m quite happy the Avs didn’t pack it in after falling behind.
    I think the Avs should have gotten at least one point out of it though. The refs first missed the call on Andrighetto being offside. And then they missed that he cleared the zone before the scoring play. There shouldn’t have been a coache’s challenge allowed. And we most likely would have been treated to OT.

    It’s a shame about Compher getting injured and that he’ll be missing some time. That kid has non-stop motor and plays with an edge.

    • OCMS

      Yes, nice to see that they didn’t fold after going down. The back breaker, the Blues’ fourth goal, looked like a total defensive zone breakdown, however. That just cannot happen.

      RE: offsides call. He cleared the zone, but he already had the puck so unless the linesman calls a delay, I am not sure you can clear the zone when you have the puck. (although I would admit that I am not exactly sure) Also, the Blues were allowed to challenge because offside challenges are unlimited.

      The Avs could learn a thing or two from the Blues about how to play the second game of a back to back on the road. No scheduled loss there, that’s for sure.

      • Ryan James McManus

        Because Sven had brought the puck back on-sides without being whistled for off-sides the off-sides call becomes irrelevant. It’s like in a game of 21 once you bring the puck pass the blue line you are o.k. to enter back in as long as the refs don’t call it offside in the first place. Because Sven had brought the puck back onside without being whistled and the goal was scored after they were all on sides its a good goal and there is no way for it to be challenged as off-sides. Unless Mikko had gone off-sides before Sven brought the puck back in which he didn’t and therefore you have a good goal and a tie game with under 2 minutes left playing a team at elevation that had played the night before.

        • WorkingMan

          You have that wrong. Sven was offsides the moment he touched the puck before he cleared the zone. Unfortunately the refs got that call right on the review. It’s just too bad Sven didn’t wait the half second it would have taken him to clear the zone before he got the puck and turned back into the zone. Because otherwise that was a great pass. Although you could tell the Blues far side defensemen knew the play was offsides because he basically stopped playing on the goal. He put his arm up like a ref would and turned to tell him he had missed the call.

          • Ryan James McManus

            No no no. Sven was off-sides, we both can agree on this. The refs, however, never blew the whistle for an off-sides call. Had Sven NOT taken the puck on-sides before re entering the zone and the Avs scored then the review is acceptable and there is no goal.

            BECAUSE Sven went BACK ON-SIDE BEFORE re entering the zone that eventually led to a goal the off-sides play becomes irrelevant. The Goal did not come on an off-sides penalty because they all re-entered the zone ON-SIDE.

            Don’t tell me I’m wrong when you obviously have a bleak understanding of what your saying is wrong in the first place.

          • Ryan James McManus

            Note 1 of Rule 78.7 in the 2017-18 NHL Rule Book says, a play cannot be reviewed for off-sides when the player(s) successfully “tag up” before the puck re-enters the zone.

            Am i still Wrong WorkingMan??????

          • WorkingMan

            Yes, because Sven didn’t successfully tag up before he was offside.

          • Ryan James McManus

            well then you are a dumb cunt that’s not worth my time.

          • Ryan James McManus

            Yes he did successfully tag up before re-entering the offensive zone. Which by rule, ill explain since you cant seem to do any cognitive thinking of your own, is a non review-able play. You cannot go back and review a play that was before the successful entrance into the offensive zone. I really don’t know how else to explain this to you, your mind just doesn’t understand basic concepts and for that i feel sorry for you. I said Sven was off-sides but the refs never called it and Sven came back out into the neutral zone, SUCCESSFULLY TAGGED UP, and re entered before the goal was scored. I’m here to help you buddy whatever you don’t understand ill try my best to dumb it down for you.

          • OCMS

            Here’s the issue: He was off-sides initially. But the refs missed it. However, he entered the zone on sides and only that legal entry is a review-able play (not the original offsides). The original off-sides when he received the puck is not review-able. Ironically, and I think AJ captured this pretty well on the podcast, while the review was implemented incorrectly by the on ice officials, ultimately it actually negated a goal that should not have happened.

          • jpwheels

            I think RJM has explained it pretty well. But I’ll take a shot too.
            The offside that the refs missed is not a reviewable infraction. It was just a standard offside call that wasn’t whistled. The play reset when Andrghetto cleared the zone. And only a zone entry that directly leads to a goal (most recent) can be reviewed.
            The goal should have stood. The NHL has come out and admitted that the officials stuffed it up.

            Here’s a link:
            http://bsndenver.com/upon-further-review-nhl-admits-to-getting-critical-call-wrong-in-loss-to-blues/

            And directly from the NHL:
            https://www.nhl.com/news/situation-room-correction-avalanche-blues/c-292120660?tid=280504338