Avalanche continue to await first-round opponent following 5-3 victory over St. Louis

Apr 26, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Darren Helm (43) flips the puck up ice against St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55) and center Logan Brown (22) in the second period at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t a must-win for the Avalanche but it certainly was a much-needed bounce back following a bad week.

Colorado defeated the red hot St. Louis Blues 5-3 on Tuesday to end a season-long four-game losing streak. The Blues’ 14-0-2 run came to an end despite a late push to tie the game.

“It’s important because You don’t want to let it linger,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of getting back in the win column.

Listen to “Losing Streak” on Spreaker.

The Avs pulled within two points of the Florida Panthers in the Presidents’ Trophy race with two games remaining. Colorado holds the regulation wins tiebreaker (45-41) on the Panthers, who lost their second consecutive game.

“We were just thinking about tonight honestly,” defenseman Josh Manson said. We wanted to get back on track and we’ll take a look at the standings when we get done with this.”

While the Blues are locked into a first-round series against the Minnesota Wild, the Avs still aren’t sure who their opponent will be — albeit they have a much clearer idea. The Dallas Stars defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in the shootout and Nashville earned a point in their overtime loss.

The Predators and Stars, who currently occupy the wildcard spots in the Western Conference, both jumped to 95 points while Vegas trails by four points. Each of the three teams has two games remaining. The Preds and L.A. Kings both clinched a playoff berth on Tuesday.

Colorado could still see either of the three opponents in the first round but Vegas’ chances of survival suffered immensely following its defeat. The Golden Knights need to go 2-0 in their last two games and Dallas has to lose twice in regulation for Vegas to clinch the final spot.

Valeri Nichushkin, Manson, Erik Johnson and Artturi Lehkonen scored for the Avalanche, who welcomed back defenseman Devon Toews to the lineup following a five-game absence. Colorado was 1-4 without their top-pair defenseman.

Toews recorded three shots and was a plus-2 in 24:07.

Tazer brings us stability. I think still he’s probably a little underappreciated around the league,” Johnson said. “He’s a top-10 defenseman in the league and he brings all the pairings kind of where they’re supposed to be. He’s one of our MVPs for sure this year.”

Nichushkin’s goal was his 25th of the season and eight in 13 games. The 26-year-old has 15 points in that stretch after also assisting on Lehkonen’s tally nine seconds into the third period.

“I thought he was a beast tonight. He was on pucks all over the ice,” Bednar said of Nichushkin. “That’s the sort of tenaciousness that we need and he’s been bringing it even through the slump.

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Aarif Deen is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.

Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

Listen to “Losing Streak” on Spreaker.

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