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Avalanche tally another home win against Blues

by Rick Sadowski /

DENVER – The St. Louis Blues remain very much in the hunt for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they didn't do themselves any favors Sunday.

Needing a win against the 29th-place Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center to clinch a postseason spot, the Blues lost 5-3 for their eighth consecutive defeat in the Mile High City.

The Blues have three games remaining -- all at home -- starting with a rematch against the Avalanche on Tuesday.

"We didn't have one of our better games today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We just have to regroup and get ready for Tuesday. Wasn't one of our better games. I thought our first 10 minutes were good. After that, not very good. We made too many errors in our own zone, too many mistakes with the puck in our own zone that ended up in our net."

Jamie McGinn had two goals and an assist for the Avalanche, who haven't lost at home to the Blues since a 1-0 setback on April 12, 2009.

"We have a chance to play a spoiler role and we want to make it tough for these guys to get into the playoffs," said McGinn, whose three points matched his career high.

Hitchcock replaced goalie Brian Elliott, who faced 19 shots, with Jake Allen after Matt Duchene scored at 17:23 of the second period to give the Avalanche a 4-2 lead. Elliott had shutouts in each of his three previous road games and allowed one goal in each of his previous three starts overall.

"We just didn't play good as a team," Elliott said. "That's not how we wanted to play, and obviously it's frustrating not getting a win and clinching a playoff spot like we had a chance to do tonight. We didn't come to play from the start of the game. They kind of came at us and I don't think we had a good response."

The Avalanche have gone 3-1-2 since goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere criticized his teammates' effort and attitude after a 3-1 home loss to Calgary on April 8; Semyon Varlamov was in net for the only regulation defeat in that stretch, a 4-1 loss to Edmonton on Friday.

Along with the Blues, the Avalanche has beaten Anaheim and Vancouver in the six-game span, with a shootout loss to Los Angeles and an overtime loss to Columbus.

"All it means is that we can play against anybody in this League if we put our minds to it, if we skate, if we play the system the way it's supposed to be and we're all on the same page," said Giguere, who made 29 saves against the Blues for his 251st NHL win to move ahead of Johnny Bower into sole possession of 45th place on the all-time list." It's something that we should be excited about, something we should build on.

"If you ask me, everybody is better than us this year, so there's no excuse to play good against the teams that are higher and good, and the teams that are not so high. Teams that are consistently good, they don't care who they play against. That's something that we need to learn."

The Avalanche too often have hung their collective heads in frustration following goals by opponents, but that wasn't the case Sunday. They responded in a positive way every time the Blues closed to within a goal.

Chuck Kobasew scored at 11:54 of the third period to give the Avalanche their 5-3 lead a little more than three minutes after Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk put a wrist shot from the right point behind Giguere to pull within 4-3.

Jaden Schwartz's goal at 6:49 of the second period cut the Avalanche's lead to 3-2, but Duchene got that one back after spinning around Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold near the bottom of the left circle.

"Those are big goals," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "Dutchie's goal was a big goal, especially at the end of the second period because they had established some momentum. Obviously the fifth goal was a huge goal. Those are timely goals. We've been trying to talk about the importance of the next shift after a goal, how important it is to have a good shift to keep the momentum that you had or to try and recapture that momentum. Our shifts after a goal have been good lately."

Duchene's goal came 23 seconds after Giguere robbed Alexander Steen with a save with his left pad.

"It probably wasn't my best game this year, but I thought we played really well in front of me, especially in the third period," Giguere said. "We came out jumping and we were all over them. After they scored that third goal, sometimes we have a tendency to get on our heels, but we went right back on the attack and scored that (fifth) goal that sealed it for us."

McGinn gave the Avalanche a 3-1 lead with a power-play goal at 3:10 of the second period. Ryan O'Reilly poked the puck away from David Perron in the right circle and it slid to McGinn alone in front for a point-blank shot.

Cody McLeod continued his late-season scoring spree with his fourth goal in four games and seventh overall with 55 seconds left in the first period to give the Avalanche a 2-1 lead. He batted the puck inside the right post after Stefan Elliott took a shot from the right circle.

The Avalanche took a 1-0 lead at 11:48 when Aaron Palushaj's shot from the bottom of the left circle caromed into the net off McGinn's left skate. Backes tied the game at 12:42 during a four-on-four skating situation off a long lead pass from Jay Bouwmeester.

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