DENVER | Josh Manson was simply trying to hold his ground near the blueline with players flying at him.
Not on the winning goal — he was that open — but from the group of teammates charging his way.
Manson scored his first career playoff goal 8:02 into overtime, Darcy Kuemper made 23 saves in his return to the net from an eye injury, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 on Tuesday night in Game 1 of their second-round series.
“I was just looking out because there’s a lot of guys coming at me with a lot of speed,” Manson said of the group hug. “It feels good to get that (win) with your team.”
The play was set up by captain Gabriel Landeskog, who was down low and dished the puck out to Manson. From there, the defenseman sent a liner through a sea of players that went in just over the shoulder of Jordan Binnington.
Valeri Nichushkin and Samuel Girard also scored for an Avalanche team that had a weeklong layoff after sweeping Nashville. It showed early on, too, before they found their stride. They outshot the Blues by a 54-25 margin, including 13-0 in OT. The Avalanche also hit three posts and two crossbars.
“We were a real resilient group,” said Landeskog, who had two assists. “We just stressed just keep playing, just keep playing, keep doing what we were doing, creating a lot and it’s just a matter of time. We were able to hem them in and (Manson) put it top shelf.”
Ryan O’Reilly had a first-period goal and Jordan Kyrou tied it late for St. Louis.
Binnington kept the Blues close with one sprawling save after another. He stopped 51 shots to become the fourth different goaltender in Blues history to record 50 or more saves in a postseason game, according to NHL Stats.
“He played unbelievable, gave us a chance to win,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. “They have a good team. They’re fast. We have a good team. We’ve been a good team all season long. I expect there to be a lot of close games.”
Game 2 is Thursday.
Kuemper suffered a scary eye mishap in Game 3 of the Predators series when a stick blade went through his mask and caught him around his eyelid. It took a few days for the swelling to subside.
“Thought he was good,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “He came up big when he needed to.”
Kyrou scored on the power play to tie the game with 3:14 remaining. The Blues have been potent on the power play, going 9 for 27 during the playoffs.
Girard staked Colorado a 2-1 lead midway through the second period on a shot that went through Binnington’s pads. Defenseman Erik Johnson nearly scored moments earlier with a wide-open net, but couldn’t get speed on his shot. Binnington reached out with his glove while on the ground to stop the rolling puck.
O’Reilly took advantage of Cale Makar’s miscue to score early in the first period. O’Reilly has a goal in five straight playoff games, matching the longest playoff goal streak in Blues history. He tied the mark held by Phil Roberto (1972) and Joe Mullen (1982), according to NHL Stats.
The Avalanche didn’t look particularly sharp in the opening 20 minutes. Artturi Lehkonen hit the post, while Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen had shots clang off the crossbar.
But Landeskog, who’s coming off late-season knee surgery, refused to buy into the rust argument.
“We played a pretty good game, to be honest,” Landeskog said.
It was the eighth straight playoff win over the Blues in a streak that dates to Game 4 of the 2001 conference finals. The Avalanche swept St. Louis in the playoffs last season.
PLAYING NO FAVORITES
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he didn’t fill out a playoff bracket.
“If it turned out to be true, people would be saying bad things or questioning things that you have no need to question,” said Bettman, who attended the game Tuesday. “I’m probably not a very good prognosticator.”
Blues defenseman Justin Faulk took a hit to the head from Kadri in Game 2 last season and didn’t return in a series that Colorado swept. Kadri drew an eight-game suspension for the hit, missing the final two games against the Blues and all six games against Vegas as Colorado was ousted.
Asked if things were settled, Faulk responded: “We’re here to play hockey and play a series and that’s our focus.”
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
There remain fans who still show up wearing O’Reilly’s Avalanche sweater. O’Reilly was the 33rd overall pick by Colorado in 2009, scoring 90 goals in 427 career games with the Avalanche.
“Had a great time here,” O’Reilly said. “It’s always nice to see see people appreciate it.”