DENVER - One more win and the Colorado Avalanche are the toast of the NHL regular season.
J.T. Compher finished his first career hat trick well after a consequential game turned into target practice at Ball Arena. The Avalanche thumped the Kings, who are not playoff-bound and one night away from the offseason, 6-0 Wednesday.
As Colorado poured it on, however, the Vegas Golden Knights kept pace in San Jose. They beat the Sharks 6-0, but their regular season is finished.
If the Avalanche top the Kings again Thursday night, they will tie Vegas for the most points in the NHL, but own the tiebreaker — more regulation wins. They’ll then attempt to become the first team to win the Presidents’ Trophy and go on to lift the Stanley Cup since the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.
“Our goal from training camp was to win the league, to win the Presidents’ Trophy and make sure we had home ice all the way through the playoffs,” captain Gabriel Landeskog said.
“To put ourselves in a position to win a hockey game tomorrow to do that would be a big step in the right direction, and take on the next challenge after that.”
Already three points behind the Avalanche in the standings, the Minnesota Wild were blown out by the St. Louis Blues and can no longer catch Colorado, which assures the Avs of a top-two seed and home-ice advantage in the first round.
Philipp Grubauer (18 saves) saw more action during the third period of his seventh shutout of the season. He’s tied for the NHL lead with former Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov.
Bednar let Grubauer finish up as the score grew lopsided, but will send in backup Jonas Johansson on Thursday.
“We haven’t played (Grubauer) in any back-to-backs all year,” Bednar said.
“He’s done his job. Now it’s time for someone else who will get us a win.”
Landeskog scored the fifth goal, his 20th of the season. He’s hit that threshold eight of 10 seasons in Colorado, where he’s spent his whole career.
Compher then tossed it back and forth with Valeri Nichushkin in front of the net. Compher roofed it over Cal Petersen (31 saves) for this third goal. That led to a steady trickle of hats, many of which didn’t make it past the first six rows of seats, which are roped off.
“It’s good for the confidence to see them go in, especially in an important time of the season,” Compher said. “I pride myself on playing big in big games and I want to be a big part of the run this year.”
Joonas Donskoi opened the scoring, catching an Andre Burakovsky rebound that came flying off Petersen’s pads. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare popped up after battling for the puck along the boards on all fours, went to the net and scored from close range to make it 2-0.
Compher scored his first two goals on either side of the period break. The first was a one-timer from Mikko Rantanen (three assists), the second a give-and-go with Devon Toews.
“All three goals were great plays by teammates,” Compher said.
“Great job by those guys. Made it real easy for me.”