- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
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 advance to face the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference finals starting Tuesday night in Denver. It marks the first appearance in the conference finals for the Avalanche since 2002.
Helm, a 35-year-old fourth liner, scored his first of the playoffs on a blast that beat Blues goalie Ville Husso (36 saves). The seconds were ticking down to what seemed like an inevitable overtime. Helm’s goal sent the Avalanche bench into celebration and the Enterprise Center crowd into stunned silence.
Until that point, Game 6 saw the Avalanche carry play at times while the Blues effectively counterpunched.
The Avalanche had the better of the play at 5-on-5 in the first period, with Husso coming up with key stops on Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. But it was the Blues that left the period with the one-goal advantage. Defenseman Niko Mikkola kept the puck in the Avalanche zone at the point and sent it over to Robert Thomas. The Blues center, who had two goals in Game 5 for his first two points of the series, found defenseman Justin Faulk open across the zone. Faulk snapped a shot over goalie Darcy Kuemper’s shoulder for the 1-0 lead with a minute left in the first period.
The Blues opened the second period with sloppy and uninspired play, and the Avalanche made them pay. Forward J.T. Compher followed up a Josh Manson shot by tucking the puck past Husso on the doorstep of the crease at 5:19 of the second period. It was Compher’s first of the postseason.
St. Louis regained the lead thanks to a misplay by Colorado defenseman Jack Johnson, who entered the series in Game 4 after a season-ending injury to defenseman Samuel Girard. Johnson attempted to keep the puck at the St. Louis blueline but fumbled it away to Brayden Schenn to spark a 2-on-1 for the Blues. With Manson sliding to protect against the pass, Schenn still found winger Jordan Kyrou for this seventh of the postseason at 9:34.
The Blues had a couple of chances to build the lead that they squandered, 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 strong play but defenseman Colton Parayko — who had a gaffe-filled game — put the puck into the crowd for a delay of game penalty at 8:19. The Blues’ penalty worked hard to kill off the Avalanche power play, but with one second remaining on it Compher scored his second of the net past Husso to tie the game 2-2 at 10:18.
Then Helm played the hero, sending the Avalanche to the conference finals.
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