ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling some of the top moments from the 2017-18 regular season. This segment looks back at the club's contest against the St. Louis Blues in the final game of the campaign, a must-win for the club to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It came down to a mega matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues in the last game of the regular season to decide which team would claim the final Western Conference spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With everything on the line, the Avalanche delivered a 5-2 victory.
Not only did Colorado need to win the game, but it had to do it in regulation to clinch a berth to the postseason.
"Ever since we put together that run in January to get ourselves into position, we have had a kind of do-or-die attitude every game," Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said before the contest. "We have been doing it for a long time now, and I think that has definitely helped us prepare for this. Guys have stepped up in different ways, whether it's big saves, big blocked shots or big goals or whatever, guys are stepping up, and we are looking to do that same thing tonight."
The two clubs traded places in the standings for more than a month at the end of the season, giving each game a "biggest of the year" feel, but the only time the standings really mattered was at the end of Game 82.
It was the first time since 2010 that two teams met in their final game of the season while competing for the only remaining Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the conference, and the Avs were glad that they got to play the game at Pepsi Center.
The triumph sealed Colorado's fate and gave the team a 28-11-2 mark on home ice, matching a franchise record for home wins in a season that was previously set by the 2000-01 Stanley Cup championship team.
Avalanche rookie defenseman Samuel Girard showed his raw emotion as he got Colorado on the scoreboard first with a shot from the point while Carl Soderberg was screening Blues goaltender Jake Allen in the final minute of the opening frame.
Video: STL@COL: Girard tees up slapper to beat Allen
"That's was a big goal, huge goal. We came out flying in the first period, we wanted to have a good start," said Landeskog. "We knew they played last night, and it just seems like whenever we have a good first period we can kind of feed off of that for the rest of the game. We felt like we kept pushing in the first period but we weren't getting rewarded for it, so when he put that one home with a great screen in front from Carl, it just kind of propelled us in the right direction."
Tyson Barrie scored the second goal of the night while the Avs were on the power play six minutes into the middle stanza, a moment that came with some pause for Colorado fans as St. Louis challenged it for offside, but the call was upheld after a video review.
The Blues' Jaden Schwartz cut the score to 2-1 midway through the second period but Nathan MacKinnon extended Colorado's lead with his 39th goal of the season before the frame was over. The tally stood as the eventual game-winner, the 12th of his Hart Memorial Trophy nominee campaign.
Video: STL@COL: MacKinnon picks the corner on Allen
St. Louis pulled its goalie for the extra attacker with 4:35 remaining in regulation with the score still 3-1. Shortly after, Landeskog sent the puck into the Blues empty net from inside the Avs' blue line to seal the win and a playoff berth for Colorado.
"Every night there seems to be a different hero, even though most nights it seems to be that top line of ours, and they really came through tonight," said Colorado defenseman Mark Barberio. "I thought our captain was just unbelievable, he played a great game. He was hitting, he was involved in offense and defense and just goes to show what kind of leader he is, and we just followed his lead."
Landeskog, who led the Avs in the win with three points (one goal, two assists) and 10 hits, was dog-piled by some of his teammates at center ice after the insurance goal as the taste of the playoffs was growing closer.
"What a night, this is one heck of a group. I don't think I have ever been part of a group with such team chemistry," Landeskog said after the win. "Whether we made it or not, I would still be really proud of this group. This is a big accomplishment to obviously make it after such a tough season last year."
Video: STL@COL: Landeskog buries empty-netter from own zone
Blues forward Brayden Schenn scored with 48 seconds remaining before Matt Nieto netted another empty-netter to give the Avs the 5-2 victory and a first-round matchup against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators.
Colorado ended the regular season with 95 points, an increase of 47 points from 2016-17. The Avalanche became the first NHL team to post a 40-plus point improvement from one season to the next (82-game seasons only) since the Pittsburgh Penguins also jumped 47 points from 2005-06 to 2006-07.
"I'm really proud of this team," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said after the victory. "I was really proud of this team before tonight, and then to see them step up the way they did and sort of finish the job of phase one of our season. I mean, I don't even know what to say, the leadership in our group, the dedication, the belief system from our team.
"From day one, they have been coachable, our young guys are getting better, they are playing big games. Throughout our lineup, it is pretty impressive… To be able to come home and respond the way we did, it's kind of what we have been doing all year and we did it on the big stage here tonight."