DENVER - The 2021 Avalanche season opener was one to forget as three ugly turnovers wound up in the back of the Colorado net in a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues at nearly empty Ball Arena.
Both teams were tasked with coming together during a nine-day training camp but the Blues came out of it sharper. They found every tasty morsel left for them Wednesday and put the game out of reach in the third period on successive gaffes behind the Avs’ cage.
“I think we got outcompeted in a lot of areas today,” goaltender Philipp Grubauer said. “It was a short camp but that’s no excuse.”
On the Blues’ third goal Ivan Barbashev pressured Sam Girard into a bad pass behind the net. Barbashev centered to Kyle Clifford, who scored. The fourth was similar with Grubauer going back to play the puck. He wound up tapping it to Robert Thomas and barely returning in time to have Oskar Sundqvist (two goals) put a shot off his leg pad and then in.
Coach Jared Bednar estimated “over half the team” did not compete hard enough in his first opener loss with Colorado.
“To me, we just got outworked right from the start,” Bednar said.
Trailing 6-1 in shots on goal five minutes in, the Avalanche needed life from the power play. J.T. Compher got the puck loose off the boards and it slid through Nazem Kadri’s legs and straight to Andre Burakovsky at the hashmarks. Burakovsky one-timed it past Jordan Binnington (26 saves) to open the season scoring.
It didn’t last as Thomas no-look passed back to former Colorado College star Jaden Schwartz, who had a step on the defense along with Sundqvist. Sundqvist sent the puck over Grubauer’s (28 saves) glove, tied the game and went feet-first into the referee.
Four minutes later, the Avs turned the puck over at the blue line, leaving Conor Timmins as the lone man back. Tyler Bozak fed Jordan Kyrou for a 2-1 lead that lasted into the third period.
“Especially the first period, I feel like we didn’t have our legs,” forward Mikko Rantanen said. “We were losing too many battles, giving up too many chances.”
Colorado trailed 17-5 in shots after the first period before closing it to two in the third. The power play was 1 of 4.
The teams will meet again Friday. Rantanen kept it in perspective after the game.
“Short camp and the first game,” he said. “We just have to learn from it now.”
Timmins got into the lineup because veteran defenseman Erik Johnson tested positive for COVID-19, Bednar announced earlier Wednesday. If all goes according to plan, Johnson will be able to resume working out Saturday.
“He’s almost through that,” Bednar said. “So I think he’ll be entering the building here soon.”