DENVER – Manny Legace was pelted with more shots than he cared to recall.
“They kept coming and coming,” he said. And Legace kept saving and saving. Legace turned back 39 shots and Ryan Johnson scored St. Louis’ second short-handed goal of the season, lifting the Blues to a 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. Legace improved to 13-2-0 lifetime against the Avalanche with a 1.88 goals-against average. Could he be inside the Avalanche’s heads now?
“You don’t think of that,” Legace said. “You have to watch every bounce of the puck and every pass against them. You can’t take anything for granted against them.”
Especially after Legace gave up five goals against Colorado on Feb. 2.
“I didn’t need to be reminded,” said Legace, who’s 6-0 at the Pepsi Center. “I brought my ‘D’ game the last time we played them. They buried me.”
This time, it was Jose Theodore who got buried. Johnson scored his short-handed goal 95 seconds into the second period, staking the Blues to a 3-0 lead and ending the night of Theodore, who was pulled in favour of Peter Budaj.
Theodore stopped only four shots in seven chances while Budaj turned back all 16 shots he faced in a relief appearance.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep those games tight,” Theodore said. “Obviously, as a goalie, you don’t want to let three goals in quickly. My job is to make sure you give your team a chance to win.”
Paul Kariya and Jay McClement scored first-period goals for the Blues, who’ve won two in a row.
David Backes added an empty-net goal with 1:27 remaining, his ninth goal of the season.
“Wins are tough at this time of the year,” said McClement, who’s scored four of his seven goals this season against the Avalanche. “I think we are there (being a good team), or getting close to being there.”
Colorado’s home mystique has suddenly vanished. Colorado fell to 3-7-2 at home over its past 12 games. The Avalanche still remain one of the top home teams in the league.
“We’re certainly disappointed with the record the last stretch here at home,” Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t have the start we were looking for.”
The Blues were last in the league with only one short-handed goal before Thursday. But Johnson grabbed a loose puck, made a nifty move to skate past Wojtek Wolski and beat Theodore for his second goal this season.
“I reminded Ryan that every goal of his didn’t have to be a highlight goal,” Blues coach Andy Murray said. “He’s allowed to score more than just highlight goals.”
Johnson’s goal deflated the Avalanche.
“Every time you get a goal like that, it’s always a backbreaker,” Ian Laperriere said. “It’s something we can’t afford right now. They had a great start and they trapped the hell out of us in the end. We just need to be in a better position.”
Ryan Smyth returned Thursday after missing 18 games with a fractured ankle. He had five shots on goal and drew a 2-minute penalty for roughing in more than 19 minutes of ice time.
“He worked, he had a lot of plays around the net, he had a lot of chances, too,” Quenneville said. “He had a couple of tips that didn’t go in.”
That’s because Legace was on top of his game. The Avalanche fired 40 shots at him and only Ben Guite’s blast early in the third period slipped by him.
“Manny was very good when we needed him,” Murray said.
He usually is against the Avalanche.
Notes: Avalanche F Milan Hejduk turned 32 on Valentine’s Day. … Colorado is 0-for-8 on the power play over the past two games. … St. Louis and Colorado have combined for 34 goals in four games this season. … Avalanche D Brett Clark will be sidelined for an indefinite amount of time after he dislocated his shoulder against Anaheim on Tuesday.