5 takeaways from the Avalanche’s 2-1 victory over St. Louis – The Denver Post

Former Avalanche standout Ryan O’Reilly inadvertently contributed to the game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation Saturday night as the Avs defeated O’Reilly and the St. Louis Blues 2-1 at Ball Arena.

Colorado will not practice and only travel to Minnesota on Easter Sunday and begin a two-game set against the Wild on Monday in St. Paul, Minn.

Five takeaways from Saturday’s series-clinching win over the Blues:

Inadvertent assist. O’Reilly, the 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP for the Stanley Cup-winning Blues, collected a loose puck near the left wall in the defensive zone and tried to chip it off the boards and out of the zone. Instead, he threw it right at Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, who fired in the winning shot with 40.1 seconds left in regulation.

Different directions. Colorado swept the Blues in the two-game set and St. Louis has now lost six consecutive games, falling to 16-15-6 and tied for fifth in the West Division with San Jose. The Avalanche (25-8-4), meanwhile, extended its points streak to 14 games (12-0-2) and is now four points ahead of Vegas for first place in the West. The Golden Knights (24-10-2) are on a two-game losing skid and just 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.

Gru, Gru. Avs goalie Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves for his 23rd win of the season, tying Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy for the league-high. Grubauer leads the NHL with a 1.76 goals-against average and his .929 save percentage is second to Vasilevskiy (.932).

Clearly, the Avalanche likes its No. 1 goalie, and in comparison to his two backups this season — Hunter Miska and Jonas Johansson — “Gru” plays to a much different, effective beat.

Grubauer has now backstopped the Avs to at least a point in 12 consecutive games, tying a club record. Peter Budaj (2006-07) and Patrick Roy (1996-97) also played 12 consecutive games in leading Colorado to a win, tie, or overtime/shootout loss.

Liam the lion. Forward Liam O’Brien, 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds, played his second game with the Avs and fought Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo in the second period. O’Brien appeared to pick the fight, jawing at Bortuzzo on the ensuing faceoff. Bortuzzo tried to fight Avs forward Valeri Nichushkin in the first period.

Fighting isn’t for everyone. But the Avs might have found a forward willing to deter opponents from taking liberties against their skilled players.

“That’s part of it,” Bednar said when asked about O’Brien playing the enforcer role. “He’s highly competitive. Our pro scouts watched him and really like him. It’s that grit and determination and you can see the effect he’s having on the forecheck.”

MacKinnon and company. The Avs’ top line of center Nathan MacKinnon and wingers Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen have 60 points (25 goals) during the Avs’ 12-0-2 stretch, with seven game-winning goals.

MacKinnon had Colorado’s first goal in the first period on Saturday off a neutral-zone feed from Landeskog. It was MacKinnon’s third goal in four periods and Landeskog extended his points streak to four games (three goals, seven points).

MacKinnon has points in five straight games (three goals, eight points) and has 21 points (eight goals) in 14 outings since returning from injury on March 10. Rantanen, meanwhile, led the NHL with points (25) and goals (13) in March — the second-highest monthly totals in Avs history.