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Avs prevent Blues from clinching playoff berth

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- Riding a hot goalie, the St. Louis Blues were poised to clinch a postseason berth Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche.

However, even goaltender Brian Elliott couldn't break St. Louis' funk in Denver and get the Blues into the playoffs.

Jamie McGinn had two goals and an assist, and the Avalanche continued their home dominance against St. Louis with a 5-3 win over the Blues on Sunday night.

Cody McLeod, Matt Duchene and Chuck Kobasew also had goals for Colorado, which has beaten the Blues eight straight times at Pepsi Center. The latest result prevented St. Louis (26-17-2) from clinching a postseason berth.

"Those guys are obviously trying to lock up a playoff spot. We talked about that before the game started, trying to put that on hold for a little while, maybe not here on our home ice," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "I really like the way we played against some of the better teams."

David Backes, Jaden Schwartz and Kevin Shattenkirk scored for St. Louis, which missed an opportunity move past the San Jose Sharks into fifth place in the Western Conference.

"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 (when the Colorado plays at St. Louis."

The Blue had won their past three games behind the strong play of Elliott. He entered Sunday 8-1-0 in April with a 1.01 goals-against average and three shutouts, but the Avalanche (15-23-7) stopped that momentum by scoring four goals against him on 19 shots. He was replaced by Jake Allen after Duchene's goal with 2:37 left in the second period.

It was the most goals Elliott has allowed since a 4-1 loss to Dallas on March 3, a span of 10 games.

"We just didn't play as good as a team," Elliott said. "That's not how we want to play. Obviously it's frustrating not getting the win and clinching a playoff spot like we had a chance to do tonight."

Jean-Sebastien Giguere had 29 saves as the Avalanche improved to 3-1-2 in their past six games.

Colorado took a 1-0 lead when Aaron Palushaj's pass to the front of the net hit off McGinn's skate and passed Elliott. After a video review, the goal stood.

The goal ended Elliott's road shutout streak at 201 minutes, 19 seconds.

The Blues tied it up on Backes' goal 56 seconds later, but McLeod tipped in Stefan Elliott's shot in the final minute of the first to give Colorado a 2-1 lead.

"That was a nice goal right before the end of the period. It was a momentum-shifter, booster for the locker room," McGinn said. "We could feel the energy in here, and we wanted to build off it. We want to make it tough for these guys to get into the playoffs."

McGinn scored his 11th early in the second before Schwartz made it 3-2 at 6:49. Duchene made it a two-goal game with his 17th late in the middle period.

The Blues tried to rally in the third, getting a goal from Shattenkirk midway through, but Kobasew answered with his fifth of the season.

"We played two very poor games here," Shattenkirk said. "The way they play, they're a very offensive team, they play a very open style and we get trapped in that. We try to match that and that's never been our game from the start. We give up scoring chances, and you see how we lose games here."

The Blues don't have to wait long to get another crack at the Avalanche, but they can't end their losing streak in Colorado until next year.

"If we knew that, we'd probably write it down and prepare for it," Elliott said of finding the solution to winning in Denver. "I don't know what it is, but from the start of the game, they came at us, and I don't think we had a good response. We have a good opportunity when we play them in our home rink."

NOTES: Avalanche forwards David Jones and Milan Hejduk were healthy scratches. Jones, who is in the midst of a four-year, $16 million contract, has three goals in 33 games after scoring 27 and 20 goals the previous two seasons. ... Hitchcock was vying to become the ninth coach in Blues history to win 70 games. He remains at 69 victories. ... Colorado has allowed just one power-play goal in 23 chances over the last seven games. The Avalanche have killed off the last 16 penalties at home and are first in the NHL on the penalty kill at home at 92.1 percent. ... Colorado hosted Military Appreciation Night at Pepsi Center.
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