Five points behind with four games remaining and facing the threat of elimination, the Colorado Avalanche had everything to play for coming out of the gate tonight as they hosted the St. Louis Blues. Instead, the Avalanche came out lethargic, a repeat performance of the almost helpless performance they put forth two days ago against the Washington Capitals.
An early delay of game penalty on Gabriel Landeskog gave the Blues the first power play of the night and despite Shawn Matthias and John Mitchell creating a golden scoring opportunity on the penalty kill, the Avalanche were unable to back track properly the other way and gave up a two-on-one chance that David Backes finished off from a perfect feed by Vladimir Tarasenko to make it 1-0 on a shot Semyon Varlamov never had a chance to stop.
Not satisfied with another ridiculously poor start, the Avalanche would dig themselves deeper into a hole after Chris Bigras turned the puck over at center ice and on the ensuing Blues possession, allowed Magnus Paajarvi three free shots at the net as he skated by watching and Paajarvi would finally get it past Varlamov on the third attempt to make it 2-0 before the ten minute mark of the first period.
Switching gears to giving mode, the Avalanche would help Colton Parayko's Calder Trophy bid when they successfully stopped another Blues 2-on-1 but couldn't handle Parayko sneaking in from the blue line to fire an uncontested shot past Varlamov, who reacted as if he never saw it, to make it 3-0 in the dying minutes of the first period.
Looking for a spark, the Avalanche tried switching goaltenders after the first period as Calvin Pickard started the second in net. With 1:27 remaining on a late Paul Stastny penalty, the Avs would have ample opportunity to turn the game around and get some momentum going. Instead, Jarome Iginla would negate the power play just seconds in with a high-sticking penalty, a microcosm of the entire Avalanche season as they consistently eschewed opportunities in favor of shooting themselves in the foot.
The Avalanche were determined to make this an embarrassing show, however, and Alex Pietrangelo would score off a faceoff just 3:20 into the period to make it 4-0 on a goal that Pickard certainly would like to have back. Mercifully, the Blues would take their foot off the gas for the rest of the period.
It would take almost 56 minutes but the Avalanche would score on a Matt Duchene deflection off aMikkel Boedker wrist shot past Anders Nilsson, who took over for an injured Jake Allen after the first period, giving him 30 goals for the season. It's the first 30-goal season by an Avalanche player since Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk did it in 2006-07.
An empty net goal by Troy Brouwer would make it 5-1 with 2:55 to play.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Paajarvi's goal would prove to be the game-winner and that's really all you need to know about this game.
The first goal of the game, just 5:30 into the first period, would set the tone for the entire game as the Avalanche were unable to finish off their scoring chances at one end and St. Louis cashed in at the other end.
BY THE NUMBERS
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"The thing I have a bit of a hard time is the reaction of Dutchy after he scores...it's a 4-0 goal. Big cheer. Are you kidding me? What is that?" - Patrick Roy on Matt Duchene's 30th goal celebration
The Minnesota Wild lost 4-1 today so the Avalanche somehow remain mathematically alive for a playoff spot despite playing some of their most uninspired hockey of the season. They remain five points behind with just three games to play and one game in hand. About the only bright spot was Duchene getting his 30th goal and breaking the franchise drought for 30-goal seasons.
Colorado's next game sees them hit the road as they head to Tennessee to take on the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, April 5. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 pm MST.