Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon was direct in his assessment of his team’s effort in a 4-1 Game 2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
“We were bad. We were really bad tonight,” MacKinnon said with the Western Conference second-round series now tied 1-1. “We just didn’t have our jump tonight. But we still feel like we’re a great team. We have to forget about it and move on.”
Although Colorado needed overtime to win Game 1 against St. Louis, the Avalanche controlled that game. They pumped 54 shots on Blues goalie Jordan Binnington and had 106 shot attempts on the night. In Game 2, they managed 31 shots and only 60 total shot attempts.
“We got outworked and outsked,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “They were better, and we were worse. Our biggest issue, especially early on, was that no one wanted to skate with the puck. They did a nice job in the neutral zone, but we didn’t move.”
When they did have the puck, the Avalanche couldn’t make much happen at 5-on-5. Their lone goal in the game came from captain Gabriel Landeskog on the power play early in the third period. Perron added another goal to make it 3-1 before Brandon Saad ended it with an empty netter.
“Our execution was off. We weren’t feeling it. Just fighting it out there,” MacKinnon said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s 1-1. We get to go on the road and hopefully steal one there. Hopefully two. We’ve gotta forget about it and move on and get back to the way that we play.”
The Blues entered Game 2 with a completely different approach than in the previous game. They didn’t overcommit on their forecheck, leaving defenders back to clog the neutral zone and offer puck support in the defensive zone. They also managed the puck better. Once they entered the Colorado zone, they made the Avalanche defend more than they did in Game 1.
More importantly, St. Louis added to its lead when it had the opportunity, going up 2-0 on a David Perron 5-on-3 power-play goal late in the second period.
“I’ve seen it all year. We’re a good team. They know in Game 1 they didn’t do well enough, and all year they’ve responded,” Blues coach Craig Berube said.
Now the pressure falls on the Avalanche, and some of it is the pressure of recent history.
Colorado has been eliminated in the second round in three straight seasons. In the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Avalanche swept the Blues in the first round, dominated the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the second round, and then ended up losing in six games.
This postseason, they swept the Nashville Predators, controlled Game 1 of the second round and then saw the Blues flip the script and even the series ahead of Game 3 on Saturday night in St. louis
MacKinnon said the Avalanche are determined not to let history repeat itself.
“I think, years past, we might dwell on it and get down on ourselves and each other. We just got to pick each other up and move on and stay positive,” MacKinnon said. “We have a great team. We still believe we can get this thing done and win the series. We’re not going to sweep every round. It’s fine.”