ST. LOUIS (AP) – Vladimir Sobotka felt as though he never left St. Louis.
The Blues winger, who spent the last three seasons playing in Russia, scored in his first game back to lift the Blues over the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Sunday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The Blues have won 15 of their last 19 games. They’ll open the postseason with a best-of-seven series against Minnesota.
Colorado finished the season with an NHL-low 48 points. The Avs have lost 11 of their last 13 games in St. Louis.
Sobotka played in the NHL for the first time since April 27, 2014. He spent the last three years with Omsk Avangard of the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League. His last NHL goal came on April 6, 2014 as a member of the Blues.
Sobotka scored at 3:20 of the third period to tie it at 2. Vladimir Tarasenko scored the winner 79 seconds later.
“On the way here, I was thinking (back) to when I played here,” Sobotka said. “Everything came back (to me). It was a really nice feeling.”
Sobotka received a large ovation during his first shift and an even bigger applause after his goal.
“It was a lot of crowd yelling, so it must have been a big deal,” said Colorado wing Mikko Rantanen, who scored his 20th goal.
Sobotka signed a three year, $10.5 million contract on Thursday and met the team in Carolina on Saturday.
Coach Mike Yeo inserted him into the game on Sunday and says Sobotka will play a key role in the postseason.
“He was impressive,” Yeo said. “We moved him around on a couple of different lines and he adjusted to that well.”
Tarasenko, who leads the team with 39 goals, is overjoyed that Sobotka has returned
“He’s a really skilled and competitive player,” Tarasenko said.
Francois Beauchemin also scored for the Avalanche, who closed the season on a 3-12-1 skid.
“We did a lot of good things, but we had a five-minute lapse that cost us the hockey game,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said.
St. Louis goalie Jake Allen made 32 saves, and Zach Sanford also scored for the Blues, who will be facing the Wild for the second time in three postseasons. Minnesota beat St. Louis in six games in a first-round series in 2014-2015.
“All parts of our game are ready to go,” Yeo said. “Our goal is to have a long run. You need depth and options and we have that.”
Calvin Pickard made 24 saves for Colorado.
NOTES: LW David Perron, C Vladimir Tarasenko and C Patrik Berglund played in all 82 games for the Blues this season. St. Louis rested D Alex Pietrangelo, C Kyle Brodziak and RW Scottie Upshall.
Blues: Take on the Wild in a best-of-seven series beginning Wednesday in Minnesota.
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