Defenseman turned goalie: Josh Manson’s epic save spurs Avalanche comeback win

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

ST. LOUIS — The Colorado Avalanche eliminated the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of their Western Conference series Friday night thanks to a critical save — not from goalie Darcy Kuemper but on a “heroic block” from defenseman Josh Manson.

“Manson’s save is one of the biggest of the game,” coach Jared Bednar said after the 3-2 win. “It kept us within striking distance. It’s the type of desperation and sacrifice that you need from your guys this time of year.”

With less than three minutes remaining in the second period, the Blues had a power play and all the momentum. They had taken a 2-1 lead and were looking for a critical cushion before the third period. Forward Pavel Buchnevich had the puck to the right of Kuemper and passed it across the zone to Blues forward Jordan Kyrou.

Kuemper quickly slid back to his left but Kyrou didn’t shoot. Instead, he carried the puck to the middle as Kuemper rolled over onto his back outside the goal crease. The Colorado net was abandoned. Kyrou had a chance to make it 3-1.

But then Manson saved the day.

“They threw it backdoor and Kyrou showed good patience,” Kuemper said. “I tried to get over there as quick as I could, but then he held onto it. [Manson] came up with the heroic block there.”

The shot bounced off Manson as he slid across the goal line, and the puck was covered by Kuemper.

“It was a bit of a panic, to be honest with you,” Manson said. “I knew he was a real patient player. I knew he was going to hold onto that thing. Once I saw him take the step, I [was] just hoping that it would hit me, and I guess it did.”

After the whistle, Kuemper got to his feet and tapped Manson on the chest twice, saying “thank you” to his defender.

“If that goes in … we’re a resilient team. I think we’re still going to bounce back,” Manson said. “But it was nice to get it.”

The Avalanche are in the Western Conference final for the first time since 2002, opening at home against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.

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