Bring on the Blues.

In the finale of the abbreviated 56-game season, the Avalanche stormed back from an early deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Kings, 5-1, at Ball Arena on Thursday night.

A five-goal second period sparked Colorado’s fifth consecutive victory to finish the regular season and first President’s Trophy in 20 years as the NHL’s best regular-season team.

The win sets up a first-round playoff series with the St. Louis Blues — the 2019 Stanley Cup champions.

“We achieved the first goal we had this year: Get the home-ice advantage whole playoffs,” Avs star right winger Mikko Rantanen said. “We checked the one box. Everybody knows what the next box is. We just have to start working on that, and I believe in this group.”

The Avs, who improved to 16-0-1 in their past 17 home games, finish 39-13-4 with 82 points, tying the West Division rival Vegas Golden Knights (40-14-2) in points. Colorado claimed the division title and Presidents’ Trophy with an NHL-most 35 regulation wins — the tiebreaker. Vegas has 30 regulation wins.

The No. 1 Avs and No. 4-seeded Blues will meet at Ball Arena for Game 1 of their series at 8 p.m. Monday. The second-seeded Golden Knights and No. 3 Minnesota begin their series Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas. The first-round winners meet in the second round before the NHL cross-brackets for the semifinals and Stanley Cup Final.

“The playoffs is a totally different animal,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said postgame. “No one is going to look at us and say, ‘Yeah, they won the Presidents’ Trophy, we’re going to roll over.’ It’s just not going to happen. It’s going to be a tough grind.

“It can put a target on your back but I think we have to be comfortable with that. We set high expectations. I don’t think we should shy away from trying to achieve them. The Presidents’ Trophy is one of them. The pressure — no one is going to put any more pressure on us than we put on ourselves.”

Colorado is the Presidents’ Trophy champion for the third time, and first since 2001 when it went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Avs, who claimed their 10th divisional title, will make their 17th playoff appearance — fourth consecutive — in their 25th anniversary season. They lost in Game 7 of the second round in each of the last two seasons.

“Everybody knows the last two years. We went out in the exact same spot — (losing) Game 7 second round. Our goal is to go past that and all the way to the end,” Rantanen said. “We have the group right now. We just have to get to work. But the experience, for sure, helps.”

First-line center Tyson Jost, again replacing leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon on Thursday, scored the first two goals midway through the second frame to open the floodgates. Forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky added goals late in the period as Colorado cruised to its eighth win in its past nine games.

- Advertisement -
Boatsetter