Sundqvist scores twice as Blues defeat Avalanche 4-1 in season opener

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DENVER — Elevated to the second line on short notice, Oskar Sundqvist just wanted to do his part.

He certainly did that and more — with a bruise to show for it.

Sundqvist scored twice and blocked four shots, Jordan Binnington made 26 saves and the St. Louis Blues beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.

The Blues had to juggle things around when they found out forward Mike Hoffman couldn’t play due to visa issues. The team was looking forward to having him in the lineup, too. He signed a one-year contract Monday after signing a professional tryout agreement with St. Louis on Dec. 27.

No problem. Sundqvist was there to step up.

“It’s guys like that that make your team so good,” said Robert Thomas, who was paired with Sundqvist and had two assists. “They can jump up, jump down, play any role that’s given to them.”

Not only did Sundqvist score in the first and third periods, but he also absorbed some bumps and bruises along the way.

Sundqvist briefly limped off after blocking a shot with his leg in the first period. He later got up slowly after crashing into the boards while trying to score.

“A bruise tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll be fine.”

Jordan Kyrou also found the net after being recalled from the taxi squad, and new addition Kyle Clifford added another goal as the Blues scored four unanswered.

Andre Burakovsky scored early in the first period for the Avalanche, whose streak of season-opening wins was halted at four.

“To me, we just got outworked right from the start,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “We just showed up hoping we were going to win.”

It was a surreal start to the season inside a mostly empty Ball Arena, where artificial noise was pumped in and on occasion would suddenly cut out. There were good-luck signs from fans lining the glass near the net before the game.

Binnington was brilliant all night, including a stop of Nathan MacKinnon’s shot in the second period after the Colorado forward sped coast-to-coast, weaving through traffic.

Kyrou was recalled from the taxi squad Wednesday morning after making the trip with the team. His goal at 13:15 of the first gave the Blues a 2-1 lead. It was a nifty bit of passing that set up the score, as Kyrou sent the puck to Tyler Bozak, who sent it right back to Kyrou for the goal.

Philipp Grubauer stopped 28 of 32 shots in a rough start for Colorado.

“We got outcompeted in a lot of areas,” Grubauer said. “It was a short camp, but that’s not an excuse.”

The Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights enter the season as favorites to win the West Division. But don’t discount the Blues — as they demonstrated.

“We’re fine being where we’re at,” coach Craig Berube said of the preseason hype. “We’ll go and show them on the ice. That’s all we can do.”

AROUND THE RINK

The Blues placed forward Vladimir Tarasenko (upper body) on long-term injured reserve. … Colorado was 1 for 4 on the power play.

HONORING LACROIX

Before the game, the Avalanche held a ceremony and moment of silence to honor former general manager Pierre Lacroix, who died on Dec. 13 at 72. Lacroix was the driving force in turning the Avalanche into a power after the team relocated from Quebec to Denver for the 1995-96 season. The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in ’96 and ’01 under his leadership.

COVID ABSENCE

Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson recently tested positive for COVID-19. The team hopes he will be able to return Saturday.

OH, CAPTAIN

Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog was pleased to see Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly promoted to the role of captain this season. The two were once teammates on the Avalanche.

“Very hard-working guy and a really good teammate. Puts the team first,” explained the 28-year-old Landeskog, who’s been Colorado’s captain since 2012.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Blues stay in Denver to play Colorado again on Friday.

“It kind of reminds us a bit of like the playoffs, when you go away to play those first two games of a series,” O’Reilly said.

Last season, the Avs and Blues split their four meetings, with the home team winning every matchup.