Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) skates behind the Blues' goal as Blues defenseman Nick Leddy (4) defends.

DENVER — For the Avalanche, it was a night of unlikely heroes. 

Defensemen Samuel Girard and Josh Manson saved the day for the Avs Tuesday at Ball Arena, coming up with two clutch goals to beat the Blues 3-2 in overtime of Game 1 and give Colorado a 1-0 series lead over St. Louis. And Manson was the ultimate hero for the Avs, scoring the game-winner at the 11:58 mark in overtime. It was his first career playoff goal.

"First playoff goal. First overtime winner," Manson said. "It was great. It's not about how I feel, it's about the way the whole team feels."

But for the Avalanche, the story of the night is that its second-round series against St. Louis will certainly be a much more difficult one than its first-round matchup with the Predators, and that was clear Tuesday night as the Blues hung with the Avs all evening. The Avalanche had plenty of chances to put the Blues away Tuesday, including 13 shots on goal in overtime before Manson found the back of the net on a wrist shot. 

Still, the Avs escaped what could have been a devastating Game 1 loss, knowing they're in for a tough series. 

"Tonight, we were a real resilient team in there," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "Felt a lot like Game 2 against Nashville where we felt like we out-played them, created a lot of scoring chances, goalie played really good for them tonight and made some saves that we felt like we had some empty nets... We stressed, 'just keep playing, just keep playing.' It was just a matter of time." 

But it was the Blues that scored first, after a turnover by Cale Makar that led to a goal from former Avalanche forward and now-St. Louis Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly, giving the Blues a 1-0 at the end of the first period. It was only the second time Colorado has trailed this postseason, having not trailed until the third period in Game 4 against the Predators in the first round. The Avs had plenty of good chances at goal in the first, with eight shots on goal, including three that went off the post. 

The Avalanche stormed back in the second period, asserting their dominance offensively. Valeri Nichushkin scored Colorado's first goal at the 16:46 mark in the second on an assist from Miko Rantanen. It was Nichushkin's second goal of the playoffs. And at the 8:28 mark, Girard scored his first goal of the playoffs on assists from Gabriel Landeskog and Manson, who set the goal up with a beautiful pass out to the blue line. After a first period in which they out-shot the Blues 8-7, the Avalanche suffocated St. Louis in the second, outshooting its opponent 19-9, taking a 2-1 lead into the third period. 

"I think this team's done it all year," Manson said. "The defense has contributed all year. That's a part of this team's identity and obviously when you get (defense) scoring, it helps win games."

Colorado had several opportunities to put the Blues away in the third, including a breakaway from Darren Helm, a shot off the post from Andrew Cogliano and an impressive save from Blues goalie Jordan Binnington on Arturri Lehkonen. And those missed opportunities ended up hurting the Avs, as Blues forward Jordan Kyrou scored on the power play with only 3:14 remaining, which eventually sent the game to overtime.

"It was maybe a bit of a sloppy change on the (penalty kill)," Landeskog said. "We just felt like if we made them earn their scoring chances in overtime and we kept playing with the juice we had in the offensive zone, we would keep creating and eventually you hope one is just going to sneak in."

The goal came after a poorly-time line change by Colorado, giving St. Louis a clear look at the net. And for the Avalanche, this isn't a new issue, as they gave up two similar goals in the Nashville series. 

"Trust me, we've talked about that a lot," coach Jared Bednar said. "It's discpline. I know you're tired. In this situation, we're killing a penalty, penalty kill is doing a great job, you're tired, you're trying to make sure you're doing the right thing, getting fresh bodies on, but that puck's their possession... We have to have a couple guys on the weak side."

Manson was able to sneak one in overtime, in large part thanks to Landeskog, who was blocking Binnington's line of sight. 

While the Avalanche dominated the game in terms of scoring chances with 54-25 shots on goal, it was abundantly obvious this series will be a much more difficult task than Colorado's first round sweep of the Predators. The Blues are a deeper and more talented team than Nashville, boasting nine 20-plus goal scorers this season and a solid goalie in Binnington, who finished with 51 saves Tuesday. And they showed that depth Tuesday, creating good opportunities on all four lines. 

"They're a good team over there," Landeskog said. "They're going to keep coming and that's the way this series is going to be. It's going to be tough." 

Game 2 between the Avalanche and Blues will take place at Ball Arena Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. 

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