Friday, April 9, 2010

Blues send out 'Big Walt' in style

6-3 victory over Ducks caps home season, Tkachuk's career

ST. LOUIS -- With the way he was buzzing around the ice Friday night, Keith Tkachuk may want to reconsider that retirement proclamation.

But as the Blues concluded their 6-3 beating of the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night in the home finale of 2009-10, there was a definite buzz in the sellout crowd at Scottrade Center -- and most of them were chanting K-E-I-T-H T-K-A-C-H-U-K! from the middle of the third period to game's end.

Maybe Tkachuk, who will not play in the season finale tonight in Nashville, will not hoist a Stanley Cup in his storied career, but that lap around the ice surrounded by 19,150 screaming fans and more importantly, his three kids will be more memorable than anything else.

The Blues (40-32-9), who trailed 3-2 entering the third period, blitzed the Ducks (38-32-11) with four third-period goals, outshooting them 18-5, and Tkachuk played a key role in his last game of an 18-year career.

Tkachuk, who collected two crucial third-period assists to wrap up a career that spanned 1,201 games, 538 goals (209 of those came as a Blue), 527 assists, 1,065 points and 2,219 penalty minutes.

"It was a special moment," Tkachuk said, who also had a would-be goal disallowed in the third period. "As soon as I got on the ice in warm-ups, it carried on all game, the signs ... I knew that we had unbelievable hockey fans, but what they did for me, I should be thanking them instead of the other way around. It's humbling. It's an incredible feeling. It's sad in a way, but that's why I love St. Louis and that's why we're going to be here."

The Blues made sure on this night that they would not disappoint their true leader, who first donned the Bluenote in 2001 when he was acquired from Phoenix.

"You've got to be careful. If he keeps making plays like that, it might entice him to play another year," forward David Backes said. "Obviously, he's put in the time, put in the effort, awesome career.

"What a better way to end your home season than to make two pretty good plays on two pretty important goals for us."

On the night when the Blues ushered in two of their future pieces with Lars Eller and Jonas Junland, it was some of the old guns -- led by Tkachuk -- that paved the way.

Tkachuk had two assists, Carlo Colaiacovo and Andy McDonald each had a goal and two assists, Junland picked up his first two NHL points, David Perron added a pair of helpers and Chris Mason picked up his 30th win of the season as the Blues blitzed the Ducks with a season-high 48 shots on goal.

The Blues, who remarkably finished their home slate 18-18-5, finish the season winning their last six at home and nine of 11.

"We obviously had some chances in the second, but we didn't bury them," said forward Jay McClement, who scored the game-winner with 3:50 remaining. "We did that in the third. I think the guys had a feeling we really wanted to bear down and to dig deep. I think it made the sendoff and made everything nice for the Tkachuk family.

"We all had a lot of fun being a part of it. To see him perform like that, make a couple great plays, a couple assists. It was pretty special and the fans gave him a real nice sendoff."

Eller scored his second NHL goal in similar fashion to the way he scored his first, on a deflection in the slot, and Eric Brewer and Backes each collected a goal in the victory.

"Just the way it ended, you couldn't have scripted it better unless the ultimate goal of being in the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup," said Tkachuk, who was flanked by his parents, wife Chantal and sons Matthew and Brady and daughter Taryn. "It was incredible, an incredible feeling. My teammates are incredible, what they've done for me over this last stretch, the organization ... everybody from top to bottom. What they've done for my family, it's something I'll never forget."

Ducks goalie Curtis McElhinney was the sacrificial lamb that saw the Blues blitz him with a plethora of shots. In the last two games, including a 3-2 shootout loss at Dallas Thursday, Anaheim saw 99 shots fired their way.

"I don't know what the final tally was, but 45 shots or so, we were peppering the net a lot and a few of them started to fall," said Backes, who got his first goal in 14 games. "We got a few power play goals that were big.

"(Tkachuk's) night tonight, there was a little incentive. It's not like we were doing it for him, he was the one creating goals and making the plays. He was doing it for himself."

Tkachuk won't have a problem watching his teammates playing tonight in Music City, but he might when the new season rolls around.

"It's the right decision. Trust me, it's not easy to walk away," he said after the game. "I think it will really hit home ... maybe not necessarily training camp but when they start playing games next year. I think that's going to be hard."

* NOTES -- The Blues have shut down defensemen Barret Jackman and Roman Polak and center Patrik Berglund (upper-body injuries) for the rest of the season. Forward T.J. Oshie (upper-body) missed Friday's game and is questionable for tonight's season finale in Nashville. ... The Ducks played without regulars Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer, Todd Marchant, Saku Koivu, Ryan Getzlaf (ankle) and Lubomir Viscously (broken hand).

No comments:

Post a Comment