ST. LOUIS– The St. Louis Blues appeared to have all the momentum on their side before a sudden turn of events left them without their ‘heart and soul’ player against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round at Enterprise Center on Saturday.
The shift occurred when Blues goalie Jordan Binnington sustained a lower body injury at 6:45 of the first period. At the time of the injury, St. Louis, which was coming off a 4-1 win in Game 2, was already leading 1-0.
“It’s always tough,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “Obviously, ‘Binner’ is the heart and soul, playing unbelievable, but I think it kind of took the momentum away and took us a little too long to kind of get it back going again. Things like that happen. We’re a deep team, and we could have done a better job of getting the momentum back and adjusting.”
They didn’t. Instead, the Avalanche scored three consecutive goals before going on to win 5-2 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 4 is here Monday, and Binnington’s status for it is still uncertain.
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Binnington suffered the injury after being knocked over by teammate Calle Rosen and Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri, who was skating hard for a rebound. Although he tried to shake off the injury, he eventually skated off the ice with the help of trainer Ray Barile. His replacement, City Hussoallowed four goals on 23 shots.
“I think there was a little bit of a momentum swing there, but I think even before that, we felt our game coming a little more,” Colorado forward Logan O’Connor said “We weathered it early. They were hard on us to begin, closing down in the defensive zone, and then I think we started to roll things over a little more, getting a little more confidence with the puck.
“Everyone was going after that, and we were sort of coming in waves. Our game was trending in a good direction at that point.”
The loss of Binnington also seemed to drain any energy that was inside an arena that was loud and boisterous from the get-go.
“Maybe [the crowd was upset] a little bit at the start, but then as soon as Ville came in, it ramped right back up,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. “I don’t know. We have two real good goalies, and Husso’s been unbelievable for us all year long. That’s the beauty of those two. Two great goalies keep us in every single game, give us a chance to win, and that’s all we can ask for.”
Video: Kadri nets 2 point night in a 5-2 Game 3 victory
Husso had taken the No. 1 job from Binnington down the stretch in the regular season, when he was 25-7-6 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. Binnington was 9-8-1 with a 3.45 GAA and .891 save percentage from Jan. 1 through the end of the season.
However, Binnington reclaimed his starting role with a strong performance against the Minnesota Wild in the first round, replacing Husso in Game 4 and winning the next three games to help the Blues eliminate the Wild in six.
Prior to his injury, Binnington was 4-1 with a 1.75 GAA and .948 save percentage, which was second to Dallas Stars goalie Jake Oettinger (.954, minimum four games) among goalies this postseason. In his one loss, in Game 1 of this series, he made 51 saves. In Game 2, he made 30 to help the Blues tie the series.
Husso appeared to be confused late in the game on Saturday when he was caught between staying in net and skating to the bench for an extra attacker, giving Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog and easy shot into the open net for a 4-2 lead at 17:52 of the third period.
“I think anytime a goalie comes in after maybe not playing for a little bit, you just want to get pucks on net, get traffic,” O’Connor said. “No goalie likes traffic, so we tried to do that as much as we could. We’ll probably reassess [Sunday], depending on what happens with their goaltending situation. We’ll look a little deeper into the strengths and weaknesses of [Husso’s] game.”