With the help of a controversial power-play goal in the second period Saturday night, the Colorado Avalanche became the last team to qualify for the NHL playoffs, dumping the St. Louis Blues 5-2 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Jonathan Bernier stopped 32 shots for Colorado, which finished with 95 points, one more than St. Louis. The Avalanche, who managed an NHL-worst 48 points last season, will travel to defending Western Conference champion Nashville for the first round of the playoffs next week.
It was a bitter and unexpected early end to the season for the Blues, who missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. They played most of the game without leading goal-scorer Vladimir Tarasenko, who left the contest in the first period with an upper-body injury and didn’t return.
St. Louis also appeared to get the short end on its challenge for offsides before Tyson Barrie’s man-advantage marker at 6:11 of the second period. Replay showed the puck barely crossing the blue line into the neutral zone as Barrie walked the line while quarterbacking the power play.
Seconds after the violation went uncalled, Barrie unloaded a one-timer from the point for his 14th goal. The NHL later said that it was determined that no definitive replays showed the puck left the attacking zone.
But Colorado did enough to win on its merit. Its top line of Nathan MacKinnon, captain Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen carried play all night. All three got on the scoresheet, with MacKinnon snapping a nine-game stretch without a goal on his 39th of the season at 16:58 of the second period.
Landeskog scored his 25th marker at 16:37 of the third period, just over a minute after St. Louis pulled goalie Jake Allen for a sixth skater in a desperate attempt to catch up.
The Avalanche initiated scoring at 19:14 of the first period. Rookie defenseman Samuel Girard, acquired from Nashville in a three-way trade in November that sent disgruntled center Matt Duchene to Ottawa, ripped a point blast just inside the right post for his fourth goal.
Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn scored goals for the Blues, Schenn’s coming at 19:22 of the third period. Colorado’s Matt Nieto potted an empty-netter to wrap up the scoring at 19:51.
Allen took the loss despite making 34 saves, many of the 10-bell variety.
—Field Level Media