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National Hockey League
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ST. LOUIS -- After a couple of years of trying to get Vladimir Sobotka back from the Kontinental Hockey League, he was in the lineup for the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night and immediately made his presence known, just in time for the playoffs.

Sobotka, playing his first game in the NHL since the end of the 2014 season, scored the tying goal 3:20 into the third period and his good friend Vladimir Tarasenko scored the game-winner just 1:19 later to give the Blues a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in the final game of the regular season.

Picking up a player such as Sobotka on the cusp of the playoffs could provide a major boost to the Blues as they prepare for a first-round matchup against the Minnesota Wild.

"We were missing him the last couple of years," Tarasenko said. "He's a great guy and a good player. He will help us a lot."

Tarasenko's goal was his 39th of the season and he just missed No. 40 as he fired wide toward an empty net in the closing seconds of the game.

That wasn't Tarasenko's focus after the game, however, as he already had turned his attention to the Wild, who knocked the Blues out in the first round of the playoffs two years ago.

Tarasenko hopes adding a player such as Sobotka will change the result.

"He's a really skilled and competitive player," Tarasenko said. "We used to play with each other a lot. I'm really happy to get him back."

Sobotka already is familiar to many players on the Blues from his first stint with the team before he left to play in Russia. He joined the team on Friday after his KHL contract expired and he signed a new contract with the Blues, who had retained his rights since his departure.

"I was a little nervous," said Sobotka, who received a nice ovation the first time he stepped on the ice but an ever louder response from the crowd when he scored his first goal with his former team, converted a pass from Jori Lehtera.

"On the way here I was kind of thinking about when I played here," Sobotka said. "Everything came back."

Sobotka had not skated for about 10 days until practicing with the Blues on Saturday, and Sunday night marked his first game in about three weeks.

Considering that layoff and how he was stepping back into a new environment, St. Louis coach Mike Yeo liked what he saw from Sobotka, who was used on different lines and at both left wing and center during the game.

"Pretty impressive for me," Yeo said. "The goal aside, we bounced him around and he seemed to adjust fine. I thought it was a real strong game from him. You can see his hockey sense, his competitiveness, and the skill set to go along with it.

"We're playing a team (Minnesota) that is a deep team. We're going to be challenged every time we're on the ice. It's going to make us better from top to bottom. Wherever we put him in the lineup it's going to give us flexibility. He's also going to be a big factor on special teams."

The Blues already knew their playoff assignment before Sunday's game, which Yeo thought was still important for a couple of reasons -- getting Sobotka acclimated to his teammates and trying to avoid getting anybody hurt.

Yeo did get a scare midway through the second period when Jaden Schwartz limped to the bench after colliding with a Colorado player, but he was able to return to the ice a few minutes later.

The Blues scored the first goal of the game with just 23 seconds left in the first period when another of their newer players, Zach Sanford, scored his second goal since being acquired from Washington in late February in the trade for Kevin Shattenkirk.

The Avalanche responded with a pair of goals in the second period, one each from Francois Beauchemin and Mikko Rentanen, his 20th of the season, before the Blues rallied in the third period.

The loss ended Colorado's woeful season. They finished with the worst record in the league, and won only one game on the road after Dec. 23.

"It's going to be good for all of us to get away and regroup here," said center Matt Duchene. "That was a really disappointing year all around, it was not fun. We have a good group of guys in here and I think we all enjoyed each other's company and being around each other and I can honestly say we never packed it in or we didn't compete. But everybody competes in this league, it's not just enough to show up and work hard."

Coach Jared Bednar was not ready to look back and reflect on the season so soon after the final game.

"Right now my emotions are with this particular hockey game," Bednar said. "We did a lot of good things and we went through our lineup twice at the start of the third period and couldn't get out of our zone and they scored two goals. We had a five-minute lapse. So we did a lot of good things, but that five minute lapse cost us the hockey game."

NOTES: LW Vladimir Sobotka last played for the Blues on April 27, 2014, the final game of a playoff series against Chicago. He rejoined the team on Friday after his contract in the KHL expired. ... The Blues rested D Alex Pietrangelo, C Kyle Brodziak and LW Scottie Upshall. ... The only Blues to play in all 82 games this season were C Patrik Berglund, RW David Perron and RW Vladimir Tarasenko. ... The only player to appear in all 82 games for the Avalanche was C Nathan MacKinnon. ... Colorado finished the season with a 9-30-2 road record. Their only road win since Dec. 23 came on Feb. 17 at Carolina.
Top Game Performances
 
Colorado   St. Louis
Francois Beauchemin 1 Points Zach Sanford 1
Francois Beauchemin 1 Goals Zach Sanford 1
Sven Andrighetto 1 Assists Ivan Barbashev 1
N/A Power Play Goals N/A
N/A Short Handed Goals N/A
Calvin Pickard .889 Save Percentage Jake Allen .941
Calvin Pickard 24 Saves Jake Allen 32
Team Stats Summary
 
Team Shots Goals Power Play Penalty Kill Penalty Mins Face Offs Won
Colorado 34 2 0-2 4-4 8 29
St. Louis 27 3 0-4 2-2 4 32
Upcoming Games
  • St. Louis will play their next game on the road against Minnesota. The Blues have a W/L % of .543 after a win and .583 after a loss.