ST. LOUIS — Darren Helm’s goal with 5.6 seconds left in the third period gave the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 win to eliminate the Blues in Game 6 on Friday night in St. Louis.
The Avalanche will advance to face the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Finals which begin Tuesday night in Denver. It’s the Avalanche’s first conference final appearance since 2002.
Helm, a 35-year-old fourth line, scored his first of the playoffs on a strike that beat Blues goaltender Ville Husso (36 saves). The seconds ticked away until what seemed like an inevitable overtime. Helm’s goal plunged the Avalanche bench into celebration and the Enterprise Center crowd into stunned silence.
So far, Game 6 has seen the Avalanche continue to play at times while the Blues counter-hit effectively.
The Avalanche had the best of the game at 5 on 5 in the first period, Husso making key saves on Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. But it was the Blues who left the period with the advantage of one goal. Defenseman Niko Mikkola kept the puck in the Avalanche’s zone at the point and fed it to Robert Thomas. The Blues center, who scored twice in Game 5 for his first two points of the series, found defenseman Justin Faulk open throughout the area. Faulk fired a shot over the shoulder of goaltender Darcy Kuemper to take a 1-0 lead with a minute left in the first period.
The Blues started the second period with sloppy, uninspired play, and the Avalanche made them pay. Forward JT Compher followed a shot from Josh Manson by placing the puck behind Husso at the slot gate at 5:19 of the second period. It was Compher’s first in the playoffs.
St. Louis regained the lead thanks to an error by Colorado defenseman Jack Johnson, who entered the series in Game 4 after a season-ending injury to defenseman Samuel Girard. Johnson tried to keep the puck on the St. Louis blue line, but fumbled it off Brayden Schenn to trigger a 2-on-1 for the Blues. With Manson sliding for pass protection, Schenn still found winger Jordan Kyrou for his seventh goal of the playoffs at 9:34.
The Blues squandered a few opportunities to build their lead, including an open net on the power play that saw Manson save a goal and a breakaway chance for Kyrou that he missed. The second period ended with St. Louis up 2-1.
In the third period, Husso continued his solid play, but defenseman Colton Parayko – who had a gaffe-filled game – tossed the puck into the crowd for a late game penalty at 8:19. The Blues’ shorthanded worked hard to kill the Avalanche’s power play, but with a second remaining, Compher scored his second of the game past Husso to tie the game 2-2 at 10:18.
Then Helm played the hero, sending the Avalanche to the Conference Finals.