DENVER — The two-hour flight to St. Louis must have felt familiar.
Nearly a week after the Colorado Avalanche mourned their 4-1 loss to the Blues in Game 2 before heading to St. Louis for the third and fourth games of their second-round series, Jared Bednar’s team left Denver again on Thursday. This time, the escape followed a 5-4 overtime loss in Wednesday’s Game 5 as the Avalanche squandered a 3-0 lead and gave up a goal in the last minute of regulation.
“We were done with ourselves after the second game,” Bednar said from the airport on Thursday. “We didn’t play well and you know we had to go to St. Louis and do our best and be resilient and mentally strong and we’re going to get back to our game. We made it. We did it twice and we did it very well. Well, of course we’re going to be unhappy with last night’s game, especially with its ending. We need to regroup and prepare to go back and play them again and do what we did there in games 3 and 4.
The Avalanche surpassed the Blues in their first trip to the Enterprise Center this postseason with a combined 11-5 score and went 3-1 up on Wednesday. St. Louis staved off an away exit in Game 5 but must give Colorado its first road loss of the postseason to force a Game 7 that would take place at Ball Arena on Sunday.
“I feel like we’re a resilient group and if we continue to play our game and remain resilient as the game progresses, we will thrive,” Avalanche defender Cale Makar said. “So it just sticks to it and doesn’t get on your heels.”
Makar said that was a problem in Wednesday’s loss, echoed sentiment teammate Darren Helm.
“We had opportunities to get pucks out in the last game, but we just couldn’t do it,” Helm said. “You know, St. Louis is a great team. They fought for their lives and found a way to win. Tomorrow we must do the same.”
If the Avalanche can repeat their previous performances, Colorado will make the Conference Finals for the first time since 2002. While the Avs missed a chance to get some rest before the next round, Nathan MacKinnon scored his first three goals of the series, including a coast-to-coast effort that gave the Avalanche a lead in the third period.
“We let him down as an individual with how well he played,” Makar said. “That’s playoff Nate right there. We expect no less. That’s for sure.”
At the other end of the ice, Colorado’s penalty went 3-3 on Wednesday. The Blues scored a few man advantage goals to make Game 4 more competitive after the Avalanche started 4-1.
“Guys went all out and sacrificed their bodies to deflect shots,” Helm said. “I think that’s what we need to move forward.”
The Avalanche awaits another unfriendly audience in St. Louis. Blues fans wore T-shirts that read “Kroenke Sucks” and chanted the same after the same ownership group that owns the Avalanche moved the city’s NFL team to Los Angeles. The crowd also booed Nazem Kadri throughout, but Colorado returned home with a few wins. The Avalanche return to town confident they can do it again.
“We prepare to play our best game every night and we have to be really, really good to win the hockey game,” Bednar said. “I feel like we’ve done that in the past and we can do it again. We must use last night as fuel.”