Jordan Binnington confronts Avalanche enforcer in Avs’ win over Blues


One underrated attribute of a spicy rivalry is an eerie sense of déjà vu.

When any moment can remind a fanbase of its best, worst or angriest memories against the opponent, the friction must be flourishing. By that virtue, the Avalanche and Blues might form the NHL’s fiercest rivalry going right now.

They picked up this season where they left off in the playoffs. From the Avs’ three-goal collapse in May to their series-ending buzzer beater the next game, from a desperate 6-on-3 thwarted by a nemesis netminder in November to another Colorado buzzer beater in December, there was every reason to expect more great theater between the enemies Saturday at Ball Arena. The visiting team triumphed in each of those four most recent thrillers.

This time, the drama in a 4-2 Avalanche win started with extracurriculars and ended with edge-of-your-seat defensive zone escapades. The antics between whistles could have been predicted as easily as the tense finish, seeing as it involved water-bottle-throwing St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington.

“I love it,” Binnington said. “It’s a fun atmosphere. That was loud, 18,000 people hating on you. I don’t mind that.”

The Avalanche (27-18-3) dispatched the sinking Blues with newcomer Matt Nieto’s empty-netter to get back on track after a late meltdown against Anaheim. The defending champions enter the NHL All-Star break locked in a battle with Minnesota for third place in the Central. They have won seven of the last eight.

“We’re just trying to weather the storms of injuries,” center Nathan MacKinnon said. “And we’re confident if we can just get in, we’ll have a good chance.”

Binnington’s only relevance for most of two periods was his propensity for surrendering rebounds. The Blues’ defense didn’t protect against them. Alex Newhook and J.T. Compher cashed in for the first two goals, and it was 3-0 Colorado when another blocker save bounced to an Avalanche stick. Logan O’Connor tried to stuff the rebound past Binnington, which provoked the goaltender to abandon his crease and confront O’Connor.

As St. Louis’ Alexei Toropchenko subdued O’Connor against the boards, Binnington went after Avalanche enforcer Kurtis MacDermid. A scrum ensued, and Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev even skated to center ice before the incident subsided.

Binnington, often at his boldest this season when trailing by three or four goals, waved to the jeering Avalanche fans to egg them on as he skated to the bench for a drink.

“I just felt like the game could use some energy,” he said. “I just try to do everything I can to win.”

The high jinx — which have been condemned by St. Louis coach Craig Berube this season — did earn the Blues a power play. O’Connor was penalized for a slash to accompany offsetting roughing calls, which “shocked” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar.

“I didn’t know if it was like a media timeout, or what was going on,” Cale Makar said. “And then we somehow come out with the extra penalty.”

Brayden Schenn took advantage with the first goal against Georgiev, breathing life back into the visitors by second intermission.

They continued to pick up steam in the third. Colorado failed to convert a power play, then Brad Hunt was unable to keep up with an Ivan Barbashev counterattack after an Avalanche giveaway. Barbashev’s snipe trimmed the lead with 10:20 left. Three minutes later, Evan Rodrigues, who was credited with the game-winning goal, needed to kick a loose puck out of the crease to avoid an equalizer.

“Pretty good hockey game from us,” Bednar said. “In the third period, I would say we checked hard, played hard. But coming out of our zone … probably some soft plays, some light plays under pressure.”

It all evoked déjà vu of a more frightening variety for the home fans: Before clinching the second-round playoff series last season, Colorado blew a 3-0 lead in Game 5 at Ball Arena.

“I think when you’re facing a team come playoff time, and someone’s going to win, someone’s going to lose, you get your fanbases fully invested in it,” Bednar said. “We’ve run into them multiple times now. I think that’s what builds the rivalry.”

No such heartache this time — only another last laugh for the 18,000 fans hating on Binnington.


Source link