ST. LOUIS — Every time it seems the St. Louis Blues have had a chance to move into sole possession of first place in the Central Division, they look up and see that the Dallas Stars have won again.
“Welcome to the Central Division,” said David Backes. “It’s win and keep pace and lose and drop a step.”
The Blues kept pace on Tuesday night with a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at the same time the Stars were earning a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators. The teams increased their season point total to 101 as they remained tied for first, each with five games left in the regular season.
“That’s just the way it’s been in the Central Division for four or five years now,” Backes said. “If you’re not at 105 to 110 points in the Central Division you’re starting the playoffs on the road. If you want to be the best you have to beat the best.”
The win was the fifth in a row for the Blues and 11th in their last 13 games and dealt a major blow to the playoff hopes of the Avalanche, who fell five points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild-card spot in the West after the Wild won 4-1 over the Blackhawks. Both teams also have five games left.
“They (the Wild) are playing good hockey and unfortunately now we’re five points back and have to find a way,” said Avalanche coach Patrick Roy. “That’s what we’ve been doing all year. We never give up and there’s no reason for us not to keep pushing and keep going. It’s up to us to try to do some good things.”
The Blues got power-play goals from Backes just 1:48 into the game and from Troy Brouwer midway through the second period before Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 36th goal of the season at 12:28 of the middle period.
Colorado’s only goal came from Mikhail Grigorenko with 1:48 to play in the first period. That goal snapped the Blues’ bid for a fifth consecutive shutout. It was the first allowed by the Blues in 258:29, the third-longest streak in the NHL since 1987.
That goal was into an empty net, making Grigorenko’s goal the first the Blues had allowed with the goalie on the ice in 280:02. Brian Elliott had stopped 74 consecutive shots before the goal.
Despite the shutout streak ending, what mattered more to the Blues was the victory and what it meant in the standings and what it will mean in the playoffs.
“Home ice is important,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “It can be a difference maker. You look at the eight teams that are going to be there, it’s tough sledding for anybody. There are going to be some really good teams that don’t get to the second round, so every little advantage you can get you’ve got to take. We want to keep pushing.”
The Avalanche, with a different goal, will keep pushing as well.
“You can’t look at the big picture, we have to focus on the next game, and really the first period even of that game,” said Chris Bigras. “Just break it down to small segments and see where it goes from there — just do your best and try to compete in those segments.”
The game marked the return of the Blues’ Alexander Steen, who earned assists on both of the power-play goals in his first game in more than a month.
“I’m actually kind of mad at him that he looks that good after missing 15 games,” Backes said. “Everything is so fluid and he sees the game so well. He makes everyone around him look better every night and tonight was no exception.”
Forward Robby Fabbri had to leave the game early in the third period when he limped off the ice with an apparent injury to his left leg. Hitchcock said he was day to day and more would be known about his status on Thursday.
NOTES: C Alexander Steen was back in the Blues’ lineup for the first time since Feb. 20. He missed the previous 15 games because of an upper-body injury. … Blues D Jay Bouwmeester missed his third consecutive game as he deals with a possible concussion. … RW Dmitrij Jaskin was scratched from the Blues’ lineup to make way for Steen’s return. … The Avalanche were without their two leading scorers, C Matt Duchene and C Nathan MacKinnon, both of whom are dealing with knee injuries. Duchene has 29 goals and 27 assists, while MacKinnon has 21 goals and 31 assists. … Both the Blues and Capitals are off until Friday, when the Blues host the Boston Bruins and the Avalanche host the league-leading Washington Capitals.