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Nate MacKinnon scored two goals as the Avs beat the Blues 4-1 in St. Louis Thursday night

Posted: 10:47 PM, Mar 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-03-16 04:47:31Z

ST. LOUIS --  Nathan MacKinnon  thought back to the  Colorado Avalanche 's struggles last season and couldn't help but chuckle.

"We were out of the (playoff chase) with 30 games left," he said.

Thanks in part to MacKinnon, it's a much different story this season.

MacKinnon had two goals and an assist,  Semyon Varlamov  stopped 44 shots and the Avalanche beat the  St. Louis Blues  4-1 on Thursday night.

Mikko Rantanen  also scored twice and  Gabriel Landeskog  had three assists to help the Avalanche win their third straight to move into the first wild card spot in the Western Conference, one point ahead of idle Dallas -- and five ahead of St. Louis. The Avalanche, who won 10 in a row from Dec. 29-Jan. 22, are 6-0-3 in their last nine games.

"Right now every point matters, every point counts," Varlamov said. "Every game is like a playoff for us. This feels great just to be part of this."

Colorado finished with an NHL-worst 48 points last year, which makes this year's turnaround even more enjoyable.

"That's a playoff-type game, as close as you get to the playoffs without getting in there," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "Our guys played with great urgency, commitment and intensity. You play like that -- good things will happen to you."

Joel Edmundson  scored for St. Louis, and  Jake Allen  finished with 19 saves. The Blues were coming off road wins at Los Angeles and Anaheim, but couldn't keep the momentum going at home where they fell to 20-15-0.

"We definitely haven't played our best at home," Allen said.

The Blues are now on the outside looking in as far as the playoff chase is concerned.

"Absolutely we have lots of time, lots of hockey left to be played," St. Louis center  Brayden Schenn  said. "Obviously we're going to need some help, but we have to do our part and get the wins."

MacKinnon scored twice in a span of 2:53 in the first period to give Colorado a 2-0 lead with just under seven minutes remaining. He has 11 goals and 13 assists in 13 games since returning from a shoulder injury on Feb. 18.

MacKinnon, who leads the team with 35 goals, had his 24 multipoint game, the most by a Colorado player since  Joe Sakic  posted 28 in the 2006-07 season.

"He's playing great, one of the best players in the league right now," Rantanen said. "Speed is his thing. It's fun to watch."