Blues nail down playoff berth with victory over the Avalanche

News-DemocratApril 23, 2013 

— It's been one wild roller-coaster ride of a season for the St. Louis Blues, but they are back in the playoffs again.

The Blues qualified for the playoffs for the second straight season with a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, collecting their 10th win in 13 games and getting two power-play goals in one game for the first time since Feb. 15.

"It's good, but we can't rest like we've accomplished something," said Blues captain David Backes, who noted the team still has a shot at home-ice advantage in the playoffs with two games remaining. "We tried that five year ago in Vancouver and we got to go home pretty quick that year. Last season we thought we'd accomplished something after winning one playoff series and the same thing happened.

"Lessons have been learned and we'll use those to push s further and further in the playoffs."

Chris Stewart's 100th career goal put the Blues on top at 11:19 of the first period as he deflected in a shot from the point by defenseman Jordan Leopold during a power play.

Stewart later collected his 100th career assist and enjoyed reaching both milestones against his former team.

"It's obviously something I've known for a couple of days now and there's not a better team to get it against than the Avalanche," said Stewart, the Blues' top scorer with 18 goals and 33 points. "I played there for a few years so it almost seemed fitting."

The Blues had lost 5-3 to the same Avalanche team two days earlier in Colorado, but turned in a much more cohesive effort at Scottrade Center.

"We played more of a complete game throughout our full lineup from our goaltender on out," Blues winger Alexander Steen said. "We've been inconsistent in having everybody on the same page during the course of the year and I felt like tonight we took a big step.

"We played some playoff hockey and now we've got t continue it."

The Blues began the night just 1-for-24 on the power play in their previous nine games.

Leopold's assist on the play was his first point in 13 games with the Blues since coming over in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres.

The Blues scored their second power-play goal of the night early in the second period when Patrik Berglund deflected a shot by Jay Bouwmeester past Avalanche goaltending Sergei Varlamov.

Bouwmeester is in his 10th NHL season and will finally get his first taste of the NHL playoffs. He never made it in previous stints with the Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames, but agreed to join the Blues in a trade despite having a no-trade clause in his contract.

"I looked at this team and thought it was a good young team," Bouwmeester said. "I know from playing against them it's a hard team to play against. I knew at the time that nothing was guaranteed. But we got on a little bit of a roll and I'm happy it worked out the way it did."

It marked the first time the Blues had scored two power-play goals in a game since Feb. 15.

Andy McDonald made is 3-0 when he took a feed in front from Vladimir Sobotka and scored his sixth goal of the season on backhander.

Stewart picked up his 100th career assist on the pay, completion the rare century-night daily double.

Colorado broke up the shutout during a delayed penalty against McDonald, pushing the puck up ice as Cody McLeod scored on a hard shot that eluded Blues goalie Brian Elliott.

Blues defenseman Barret Jackman sat out the third period after blocking a shot during the second by Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog. The injury is not believed to be serious.

At any rate, the Blues can start scouting potential playoff opponents.

"The parity in the west is unbelievable from one through eight," Stewart said. "Anybody can beat anybody on a given night, so they're all going to be tough matchups. It's going to be exciting

"It's a great time of the year and we look forward to the challenge."

Backed said the Blues' turnaround occurred once the team realized it was much better playing as a team that as a locker room full of individual talents.

"Now we've got two games to build some momentum into the playoffs," he said. "It's a good feeling to be back there but it's one little item checked off our list. We've got a lot more to go."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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