Avalanche top Sharks, gain first playoff berth since 2010

Denver, CO ( - John Mitchell recorded the eventual game winner in the second period and Semyon Varlamov stopped a season-high 47 shots, as the Colorado Avalanche clinched a postseason berth with a 3-2 decision over San Jose at Pepsi Center.

"I thought I played well today. We're excited and have been waiting for this moment for a long time," Varlamov said. "I played in the playoffs a long time ago (2011 in Washington). It's totally different here and I'm sure it will be fun."

Paul Stastny and Cody McLeod also lit the lamp for the Avalanche, who earned their first playoff trip since 2010 with their third straight win.

Colorado ended its longest playoff drought since moving to Denver and its longest since the Quebec Nordiques failed to qualify five consecutive years from 1988-92.

Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle tallied for the Sharks, with Alex Stalock making only 19 saves in defeat for the Pacific Division leaders.

It was 3-1 for the hosts on the front end of a power play, as Mitchell's one- timer from the top of the right circle came after Jamie McGinn's shot went wide but caromed off the back boards at 6:32 of the middle stanza.

San Jose pulled within a goal a little more than two minutes later on Boyle's strike from the right wing, but Varlamov shut the door for the remainder of the contest.

The Sharks threw 20 pucks his way in the third period to no avail, helping the Avalanche lock up the win and vaulting over idle Chicago for second place in the Central Division.

"We had our chances. Our PK was winning a lot of games early, but we can't give up a lot of penalties, especially against them," offered Pavelski. "They were committed tonight, but so were we. Our guys did better and better as the game went on, but it wasn't enough."

Stastny opened the scoring just 93 seconds in by sneaking one home from the left post, but Pavelski responded on the power play at 3:07 on a redirection of Joe Thornton's centering feed in the slot.

Colorado took the lead while shorthanded, as McLeod broke in alone on Stalock from the left wing and scored through the five hole with 9:26 left in the first.

Things weren't all rosy for the Avs despite the first-period lead. Forward Matt Duchene suffered an apparent left knee injury when hit accidentally by McGinn. He left after the first period and did not return.

"He should have an MRI tomorrow morning and we should know more after that. He's played so well, and it's disappointing for him and us," noted Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy.

Game Notes

Colorado improved to 31-0-2 when leading after two periods this season ... The Avalanche reached the 100-point plateau for the first time since 2004, and the seventh time in franchise history (1992-93 in Quebec, six times in Denver) ... Varlamov turned aside 46 shots in a 3-2 win at Chicago on Jan. 14.