Avalanche, Kings jockeying for wild-card spot

The Colorado Avalanche will try to move ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for the first wild-card spot from the Western Conference when they play Monday night at Staples Center.

The Avalanche (42-28-9) missed a chance to pull even in points with the Kings (43-28-8) when they let a 3-1 lead slip away in the third period Sunday night at the Anaheim Ducks and lost 4-3 in overtime.

Colorado enters Monday one point behind the Kings and three points behind the Minnesota Wild for third in the Central Division with three games remaining.

“The only time the standings matter is Saturday,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “It’s disappointing we didn’t get two (points) because we played OK for a lot of that game.”

Kings forward Alex Iafallo, who had been playing wing on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, was a late scratch Friday night against the Ducks because of an upper-body injury, and top-four defenseman Jake Muzzin has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury.

Iafallo did not practice on Sunday and Muzzin came on the ice at the end of practice.

The Kings matched their biggest margin of victory against the Avalanche on March 22, cruising to a 7-1 victory in Colorado.

Los Angeles coach John Stevens told Fox Sports West after practice Sunday that the loss should be fresh in the minds of the Avalanche.

“I’m sure they’ll be reminded of it and, if anything, it’ll be a little bit of a motivator for them,” Stevens said. “With the schedule, the way it is, you’re going to get games where you’re caught a little off-guard, things don’t go quite your way. … They know that they’re going to have to play better than they did in that game.”

The Kings are 20 for 20 on the penalty kill over the past eight games to raise their league-leading rate to 85.1. Stevens said that’s a big reason Los Angeles is also No. 1 in the league in goals-against average (2.44).

“The big key for us is goals-against, keeping it down,” Stevens told Fox Sports West. “It’s funny how that works with our penalty kill. When our penalty kill slipped, our goals-against climbed. I know it’s obvious it’s directly related, but it’s a reflection of our commitment without the puck.”

Colorado went 3 for 3 on the power play in a 5-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday and 1 for 4 against the Ducks.

Bednar said he plans to come back with Jonathan Bernier as the starting goalie.

Bernier took over for Semyon Varlamov, who sustained a season-ending lower-body injury on Friday and made 38 saves against Anaheim.

Bednar has also been pleased with the line of Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher and Alexander Kerfoot, who combined for all three goals against the Ducks and another in the win against the Blackhawks.

“That line has stepped up two games in a row,” he said.