- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
Tyler Bozak’s goal at 3:38 of overtime gave the St. Louis Blues a 5-4 comeback victory in Game 5 on Wednesday night, avoiding elimination and forcing a Game 6 of this second-round series back in St. Louis Friday.
The Blues, who now trail, 3-2, rallied twice to stun the Avalanche, who were 56 seconds away their first Western Conference final appearance since 2002 when St. Louis forward Robert Thomas scored to force overtime.
Bozak second his second of the playoffs on a long slapshot that beat goaltender Darcy Kuemper. The veteran center had just 7:16 seconds of ice time in the game.
The Avalanche lost despite a four-point night from star center Nathan MacKinnon that included his second career playoff hat trick.
After scoring five goals in their opening-round sweep of the Nashville Predators, MacKinnon had yet to score a goal against the Blues. He corrected that with his first goal of the series just 3:51 into the game, taking a pass from Artturi Lehkonen and snapping a shot from the slot past Blues goalie Ville Husso (30 saves), playing his third game in place of injured starter Jordan Binnington.
He added a power-play goal at 18:23 of the first period on a shot in tight on Husso. And the Avalanche extended their lead to 3-0 as Gabriel Landeskog tipped home a shot from defenseman Devon Toews.
The Blues finally found some life courtesy of forward Vladimir Tarasenko, on a blast from the left circle to cut the deficit to 3-1 at 14:42 of the second period. They chipped away a little more at 9:57 of the third period, as Robert Thomas finally found the back of the net in his 11th game of the playoffs, on a nifty setup from linemate Pavel Buchnevich.
Blues defenseman Justin Faulk tied the game at 15:14 of the third period, jamming the puck past Kuemper on a scramble in front.
But then it was MacKinnon, breaking the tie and completing his hat trick at 17:14 of the third with one of the best goals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, speeding through all three zones and beating defenseman Nick Leddy to shoot the puck past Husso.
It was the second-straight game the Avalanche had a player tally a hat trick, after center Nazem Kadri scored three goals in their Game 4 win. This was Kadri’s first game back in Denver after his collision with Binnington, who suffered a series-ending injury on the play. Kadri, who is Muslim and of Lebanese descent, was the subject of racist comments and threats that required additional police presence at Colorado’s hotel and Enterprise Center in St. Louis for Game 4.
In Denver on Wednesday, fans carried signs that read “Stand With Naz” and plastered the glass with homemade signs in support of Kadri.
The arena was vibrating with excitement after that MacKinnon goal, but the Blues found another comeback, as Tarasenko’s shot bounced off of Kuemper and was knocked in by Thomas for his second of the game to force overtime.
Then it was Bozak in overtime, to force Game 6 and leave the home team stunned.
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