They made the Avalanche earn it, and considering the circumstances, that is admirable, but earn it the Avalanche did in the end.

The Blues’ magic from their unforgettable Game 5 comeback in this second-round series against Colorado officially expired Friday night during the final six ticks of the clock.

A game-winner from Darren Helm — as no one but Helm's family and close friends could have predicted — made it 3-2, sent Blues fans grumbling toward the exits and rewarded the Avalanche for all of that ice they tilted toward the Blues for so much of this series.

The wackiness of overtime didn't get a chance to intervene this time. That cold, hard math finally added up. 

The lesson: When you give a team this dangerous so many chances over a best-of-seven series, a team this dangerous is going to beat you.

The Avalanche, predicted by many to lift the Stanley Cup since before the puck dropped on the regular season, move forward no longer carrying that heavy baggage about their second-round flops of the past. 

If future Colorado opponents don't do a better job of attacking beatable goalie Darcy Kuemper, don't be surprised if there is a parade in Denver. 

Usually, that would make Blues fans feel a little better. Considering the Avalanche's ownership, probably not.

The Blues will stay home, where they will fairly wonder about what could have been.

But they have more to ponder than a controversial injury to their postseason MVP goalie and the absence of defenseman Torey Krug. 

Blues boss Doug Armstrong has to get to work figuring out how to close the gap with the Avalanche a little bit more.

Blues boss Doug Armstrong has to get to work figuring out how to close the gap with the Avalanche a little bit more.

This series was a step in the right direction, after last season's first-round sweep. But another step is needed, and Colorado, unlike Minnesota, is built to last, for one more season at least.

Injuries to Binnington and Krug can only soften a hard truth. The Blues too often let Colorado’s high-powered offense dictate the pace and speed of play, and they paid for it in what became a 4-2 series loss.They were outshot 222-158 in the series, and by more than 15 shots in three of the six games, all of which were losses.

Tied 2-2 with less than 10 seconds left in Game 6 despite being outshot nearly two to one in a game they had spent most of the time trying to hold by the tail despite holding a lead, the Blues were held accountable for asking goalie Ville Husso to do too much.Husso played great Friday up until he got beat on his short side once again, this time on J.T. Compher’s game-tying third-period goal. Compher's first goal was earned.

 The second, Husso should have stopped. The second, Binnington would have stopped. Husso went from hero to a reminder of Binnington's absence in the third period, in what was likely his last game with the Blues. Cruel.Husso won't be the only Blues player starting the offseason with a sour taste in his mouth, though.  Colton Parayko had been such a marathon man in this postseason, but his delay of game penalty on a puck sent over the glass in the third period proved oh so costly.    

It set up Compher’s game-tying power-play goal. The goal came one second away from becoming a successful Blues penalty kill. Brutal. This was one of Parayko's worst games.Jordan Kyrou gave the Blues the lead in the second period, after Compher’s first goal answered Justin Faulk’s first period score,but the young forward could have had a game-breaking hat trick in that same period.

 Seriously.  Less than five minutes after Compher’s first goal, Kyrou hammered home a beautiful pass from Brayden Schenn on a breakaway. Schenn set it up perfectly.He swiped the puck from Erik Johnson and took off, pulling Josh Manson toward him until he committed to a slide too early, reaching for Schenn with his stick.  

 Schenn immediately found Kyrou, who buried the one-timer over top of Kuemper’s skate.  “Let’s go!” shouted Kyrou to the crowd.  The crowd was more than ready to go.  The Enterprise Center roof was threatening to pop off.  The moment and the momentum slipped away.Kyrou had another look after a sequence of pretty passing left Kuemper, looking ripe by then, out of position and doing his best snow angel impression.

But Manson got the best of Kyrou on that chance, taking advantage of perhaps one fancy move too many to scramble in front of the net and block Kyrou’s shot, saving Kuemper’s bacon. And then Kyrou shot wide, grazing Kuemper it seemed, on one final great look as the period neared its end.Binnington was playing better than Husso, and it was not close. Kadri knew what he was doing, 

even if he didn’t know what the outcome would be, when he piled into those two Blues, and no whining of Colorado will change that fact. Yes, we can -- and let's be honest, we probably always will -- wonder what would and could have happened had Kadri's crash into defenseman Calle Rosen and Binnington not altered this series in Game 3. Perhaps Krug's presence would have helped gum up the Avalanche a bit more.

Just don't forget Colorado lost key defenseman Sam Girard in this series, too.And yes, we can applaud and appreciate the Blues’ resiliency once Binnington went down, including the forcing of a Game 6 by roaring back from a three-goal deficit for an overtime road win in Game 5.A Blues offense that had sizzled so often this season, thanks to so many different 20-plus goal scorers, did not do enough often enough to overpower the high-octane Avalanche.

Three of the Blues' nine 20-goal forwards (Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad) scored once a piece in these six games. Two (Ivan Barbashev and Brayden Schenn) were shut out.But whether it was Binnington or Husso in the net, the Blues were always going to have to score to beat these guys, and goals were not going to come from the goalies.