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Avalanche gain on Blues with 50th win of season

Saturday, 04.05.2014 / 7:57 PM

ST. LOUIS -- The Colorado Avalanche aren't ready to concede the Central Division title to the St. Louis Blues.

But just in case the Avalanche do, in fact, play the Chicago Blackhawks in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, home ice would be a nice reward.

Three goals in the first 10:25 of the second period, scored by Paul Stastny, Nathan MacKinnon and Nick Holden, gave the Avalanche the lead, and Semyon Varlamov made 31 saves in a 4-0 victory against the Blues on Saturday afternoon.

The Avalanche (50-21-6) won a 50th game for the second time in franchise history (they won 52 in 2000-01). They are within five points (111-106) of the first-place Blues (52-18-7) with five games remaining.

"I'm very happy," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "Like I’ve said before, records are there to be broken and I'm just happy to be part of it."

Stastny had a goal and two assists, and MacKinnon had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche, who defeated the Blues for the first time in four games this season.

"Our power play was sharp, penalty kill was rock solid, goaltending was phenomenal again," Roy said. "I just felt like we dominated them."

The Blues, who play at the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, ended a five-game homestand 3-2-0. In the final three games, they scored two goals (against the Buffalo Sabres).

After defeating the Minnesota Wild 5-1 to open the homestand, the Blues finished with four goals in the final four games.

"For me, it's inactivity on the power play," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after this 0-for-4 game. "When you're not scoring goals, it puts a lot of pressure on a lot of areas. To me, it's getting our best players, helping them along to get them to play better at this time of year.

"We look slow offensively and we've got to get more energy built up there. Our top players are on the power play; we've got to get them playing better. We've got to look and be a lot more creative than we are from a goal-scoring standpoint. It puts a lot of pressure in other areas."

Blues captain David Backes said, "It's nothing that's unfixable. It's bearing down and making sure with five games left we need to get in playoff mode. Let's start to play the way we need to be successful and start bearing down. You take a game like tonight in the playoffs and all of a sudden it can be a difference-maker in a series. That's a playoff team."

Stastny, who's had his way against the team in the city where he grew up, scored for the 11th time in 24 games against St. Louis (30 points) when he knocked in a rebound at the side of the goal past Ryan Miller 1:14 into the second period after Vladimir Sobotka received an extra minor at the end of the first period for cross-checking Gabriel Landeskog.

"That first period, we had a couple big kills, and then the second period we had a power play and we took advantage of it," Stastny said. "After that, I think it really kick-started our team."

The Avalanche made it 2-0 off another rebound goal, when MacKinnon one-timed a shot from the left circle past Miller 6:20 into the second period, following up Jamie McGinn's shot from the top of the right circle.

Holden completed the three-goal period when he crashed the net and knocked the puck into the net with his skate at 10:25. The play went to review, and although there was a distinct kicking motion, the goal counted because, as Rule 49.2 explains, "a kicked puck that deflects off the stick of any player (excluding the goalie's stick) shall be ruled a good goal."

Ryan O'Reilly scored a power-play goal off a Stastny feed at 15:55 of the third.

The Blues had 99 penalty minutes, 91 in the third period following multiple on-ice altercations. The Avalanche finished with 68 penalty minutes.

"It's one thing to release [tension], but you can't let it to continue to boil and get away from your game," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. "It's something ... it happened. We should have focused energy on going to their net hard and banging their top players instead of maybe reacting too much.

"I think we went silent [Saturday]. They were playing us hard. They came at us with the fight that they wanted the two points. I think when things went tough, we got stuck in our zone because we weren't talking to each other. We kind of got off the page of moving the puck short little distances and working as a team to get it out. We were a little more as individuals tonight and that's not going to win you games."

Varlamov came into the game with a .936 save percentage against the Blues and a 4-4-1 record.

"Varly's been our best player, he's been phenomenal from the get-go," Roy said. "It's biased a bit by me, but he deserves to be part of the Hart Trophy [conversation]."

The Blues outscored the Avalanche 13-5 in three prior games.

"Every game we play against them has been better and better against them," Stastny said. "It's one of the teams we haven't beaten, so for us, it was kind of a big game. We played our game and then it got chippy at the end.

"For us, we just wanted to get the win. That's the most important thing."

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