Between vaccination reactions, a canceled morning skate and their would-be starting goaltender testing positive for COVID-19, the prep for the Avalanche’s game Wednesday in St. Louis was suboptimal.
“As the coach of this team, I was nervous about this one,” coach Jared Bednar said.
Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves in a surprise start — his first with Colorado since Saturday’s trade — and a second-period surge gave the Avalanche enough in reserve for an eventual 4-3 win over the Blues, who pressed hard for overtime at the end.
The Blues hadn’t played since Saturday while the Avalanche won Monday, then traveled. The team was vaccinated after its last game.
Bednar said he had concerns about his group's energy level.
“This hasn’t been an easy building for us to win in over the years, and to come in tonight under these circumstances and get the job done, I’m really proud of the guys,” he said.
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer joined defenseman Bowen Byram on the protocol list Wednesday and Dubnyk went in for his new team. He earned his first win since March 12, when he was with the San Jose Sharks.
“A little sloppy at the start, some rebounds sitting around. Obviously there were a few nerves for me with a new team,” Dubnyk said. “Got away with it and felt a little better, settled in as the game went on.
“Seeing how well the guys played in front of me lets me just relax back there, and feel good about reading plays.”
After Colorado built a 4-1 lead, the Blues closed in with a pair of third-period goals from Mike Hoffman.
The Avalanche killed Tyson Jost’s late delay-of-game penalty and hunkered down to weather the extra-attacker storm. The Blues maintained possession for most of the remaining two minutes before Colorado was able to chip away at the time on the clock.
“I haven’t been with this group very long but you can just kind of tell, when the games get tight, there’s a lot of character in that room,” forward Liam O’Brien, who had two assists, said. “A lot of leadership too.”
O’Brien was on the fourth line that chipped in the Avalanche’s first two goals. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare buried a feed from O’Brien, then J.T. Compher picked up a rebound of a deft O’Brien deflection.
Mikko Rantanen added a power-play goal and Brandon Saad had the insurance tally that wound up being the difference in the game.