Having already clinched the playoffs well before its 80th regular-season game Thursday night, the Avalanche learned 20 minutes into its game at Vancouver that beating the Canucks would be a big deal.

Big deal, as in looking at raising a banner to the rafters in Denver — in addition to holding hands with Colorado's 2001 Stanley Cup-winning team and making Semyon Varlamov the winningest goalie in franchise single-season history.

That all came true after Paul Stastny scored twice and Tyson Barrie broke a tie late in the third period and "Varlamous" made 38 saves in a 4-2 victory that cemented home-ice advantage to begin next week's first round of the playoffs. Game 1 against a to-be-determined opponent will be next Thursday at the Pepsi Center.

"I'm excited about it, I'm not going to lie," Varlamov said after his 41st win of the season, breaking coach Patrick Roy's record of 40 set in 2000-01. "I just want to say thanks to my team because without them, I can't break that record. It's a big deal for me."

From a team standpoint, the Avs moved into a tie with St. Louis for a Central Division-high 111 points, and their 52nd victory tied the Cup-winning team of 2001 for the most wins in a season by the franchise.

"It's so exciting for our team and whole organization," said Avs forward John Mitchell, who scored an empty-net goal in the final minute. "Varly getting a big win and tying the Blues. Our fate is in our hands here. We need to have two big games and that will seal it for us.

Colorado will clinch the Central Division's No. 1 playoff seed by finishing 2-0. The Avs own the tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins) over the Blues, who finish at Dallas on Friday and against Detroit on Sunday. The Avs visit San Jose and Anaheim, respectively, on those same days.

"As a team, we haven't done anything yet," Avs captain Gabe Landeskog said. "We're certainly in a good spot, but we haven't accomplished anything yet."

About Varlamov, who is in the running to win the Hart (MVP) and Vezina (best goaltender) trophies, Landeskog said: "I think Varly certainly deserves this. He worked so hard, and it's great to see him break one of Patty's records, especially because Patty's our coach. It's a neat thing to be a part of."

The division drama began after the fading Blues lost 4-2 at Minnesota to continue their late-season swoon, perking up the Avs' playoff-seeding interest. While St. Louis has been outscored 16-4 in is last four games — a stretch that began with Colorado's 4-0 triumph in St. Louis last Saturday — the Avs have been putting together their best stretch of the season (8-0-1).