Colorado already knew it couldn’t catch the Anaheim Ducks for the top spot in the Western Conference, and now the Avalanche don’t have to worry about chasing down the Central Division title, either.
Hours after being handed the division crown, the visiting Avalanche can use their regular-season finale as just a playoff tuneup but might like to bounce back from their first regulation defeat in three weeks Sunday against the Ducks.
Anaheim (53-20-8) secured the top seed in the West with a third straight victory Saturday, 4-3 in a shootout at Los Angeles. The Ducks, who have won six of eight, will face Dallas in the first round.
"The main goal hasn’t been achieved yet," Anaheim defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "We’ve achieved two big goals (winning the Pacific Division and earning the No. 1 seed) that we wanted to accomplish this year. Now we’re going for the big one. That’s when the fun is going to begin."
Colorado (52-22-7), meanwhile, had to wait to see if it needed a win Sunday night.
Though the Avalanche and St. Louis each have 111 points, Colorado holds the tiebreaker and by owning more regulation and overtime victories. The Blues’ 3-0 home loss to Detroit early Sunday gave Colorado its first division title since 2002-03 and the No. 2 seed in the West.
"We are always playing to win," coach Patrick Roy told the Avalanche’s official website, but that was before Sunday afternoon’s result.
Colorado failed to clinch the division Friday when its 8-0-1 stretch ended with a 5-1 loss at San Jose.
Roy opted to start third-stringer Reto Berra, who was pulled after allowing two goals on five shots in that contest.
Semyon Varlamov, whose NHL-leading 41 wins also broke Roy’s single-season franchise record, is expected to be back in net for the finale.
Varlamov has a 1.79 goals-against average during a career-best six-game road winning streak. He posted a 3.92 GAA while the Avs split two home meetings with the Ducks this season. Varlamov was pulled after allowing three goals on nine shots in his only start at Anaheim, a 7-6 win with Washington on Feb. 16, 2011.
The Avs and Ducks have combined for 17 goals in their two meetings this season and each scored six to win a game.
Colorado’s Jamie McGinn has scored four of his 19 goals against the Ducks this season.
With no playoff implications facing Anaheim on Sunday, coach Bruce Boudreau could rest some of his top players.
Devante Smith-Pelly likely won’t be one of them after he scored in regulation and had the lone tally in the fourth round of the shootout Saturday.
"It’s not about personal statistics," said Smith, who was recalled from the AHL last Sunday and has two goals and seven assists in 18 games with the Ducks this season.
"I’m just trying to come in and help out, whether that’s on the scoresheet or not. It’s always nice to contribute."
Anaheim’s Nick Bonino snapped a five-game point drought with a goal against the Kings. He has three assists versus Colorado this season.