Monday, April 5, 2010

It's not over yet as Blues top Jackets in overtime

Johnson power play goal keeps Blues alive;
St. Louis four points behind Colorado for eighth place

ST. LOUIS -- They're not dead -- not yet, anyway.

The Blues, down to their last breath in this ever-lasting quest for a playoff berth, lived to see another day.

After trudging through the first period, the Blues found life and found a way in overtime to gain two valuable points.

Erik Johnson's slap shot from the point on a 4 on 3 power play with 1:01 remaining in the extra session enabled the Blues to slip past the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 Monday night before 17,601 at Scottrade Center.

The goal inched the Blues (39-31-9) closer to eighth-place Colorado, which was idle Monday night, by winning their fifth in a row at home and eight out of 10.

The Blues trail the Avalanche by four points with three games remaining. But they don't play again until Wednesday in Chicago, and their season could be meaningless when the puck drops at United Center because the Avalanche play tonight in Vancouver. One Colorado victory eliminates the Blues.

But until that happens, the Blues will keep motoring along.

"That's a huge game. It's do-or-die for us every game," said Johnson, who collected his 10th goal and became the first Blue since Chris Pronger (2003-04) to reach double-digit goals by a defenseman. "We're not out of it yet. Our goal's still the playoffs. We're going to keep fighting every game, win every game we can. We're just going to keep putting the next foot forward and go for the next game."

The Blues were able to put that next foot forward thanks to Johnson's booming shot that rifled past Jackets goalie Mathieu Garon, with David Perron setting a screen in front.

The Blues, who had been 0-for-5 on the power play to that point, got the man advantage when Marc Methot was whistled for holding T.J. Oshie.

"Coaches do a great job preparing us for those situations and we have a bunch of plays that we have drawn up and could have done. Me and Steener (Alex Steen) switching at the point and me dragging across," Johnson said. "What we practice is I get the puck on the right and drag it to the left and I can either give Steener the one-timer or like I did on my goal and shoot.

"It's just reading and reacting. Fortunately for me, it went in. I had a great screen in front from David Perron. That's how that goal happens with good net traffic, too."

Garon said he never saw the shot.

"I had two guys in front of me, and then I heard the horn sound," Garon said.

Andy McDonald had a goal and assisted on Johnson's goal. He said it was an area the Blues desperately needed to convert on.

"It's kind of an area we struggled ... 5 on 3, 4 on 3 all year long," McDonald said. "It's nice to get that one.

"Both (Johnson) and Alex have really good shots. We've worked on the 4 on 3 in practice and obviously the keys are to get those two guys shooting pucks. Perry did a great job in front providing the screen. That was the difference, (Garon) not being able to see the puck."

Chris Mason stopped 27 shots, including a pair of shorthanded breakaways -- one on Sammy Pahlsson in the second period and another on R.J. Umberger in the third.

"I'm just doing my job," Mason said, who had to make some key stops when the Blues were outshot 11-4 in the first period. "We gutted it out and got a huge goal in overtime for the two points. We'll watch (tonight), see what happens and keep taking care of our business.

"I don't know if we've been too happy with our first periods lately, but we keep finding ways to come back and get the points. That's the thing that matters."

Blues coach Davis Payne puts another perspective on Mason's breakaway stops.

"He's unfortunately getting good at stopping breakaways," Payne said. "We don't want to be playing with that one two nights from now."

The Jackets opened the scoring 3:10 into the game when Derick Brassard redirected a Jakub Voracek shot past Mason to make it 1-0.

It was a period the Blues were lucky by the end to only be down one.

"We weren't as sharp as we normally are, but we found a way," McDonald said. "Mase made some big saves for us and kind of gave us a boost and found a way.

"There's no easy games in this league. They came and battled hard and we stuck with it. There's no room for error here. ... Obviously we're pretty pumped to get the two points."

The Blues had much more jump to their game in the second period and really took away Columbus' offensive zone pressure as the game wore on, particularly in the third period.

McDonald tied the game, his 23rd of the season, off an odd-man rush that came after a Mike Weaver blocked shot.

The Blues' defenseman, as is the case many times, sacrificed his body and blocked Kristian Huselius' shot and the Blues went off and running with a 4 on 2 break the other way.

Perron had the option of shooting from the left circle but slid a pass to McDonald, who hammered a one-timer past Garon from the slot 10:39 into the second.

"I'm not sure what happened coming out of the zone, but it's kind of a broken play and Mike made a big block there, turned the puck over and we were able to get a jump up ice," McDonald said. "Perry made the perfect pass for me, so it was a great, great play overall."

The Blues pressured the Columbus goal for much of the third period but could not get the go-ahead goal on Garon despite playing two forwards short after Patrik Berglund (upper-body) and Keith Tkachuk, playing in his 1,200th career game, left in the third because of a lower-body injury.

They nearly won in early in overtime, but Garon made a terrific pad stop on Oshie's redirection of a David Backes pass.

The Blues got their opportunity when Oshie was pulled down in the offensive zone, drawing the penalty on Methot. Johnson made no mistake.

"I don't want to hit the screen guy so you want to pick a corner," Johnson said. "It's tough to go all the way across in that angle. I wanted to hit the right side of the net, and since he's an off-catching goalie, I figured he'd be leaning more towards his glove side watching the puck.

"Pretty much find a hole and shoot and fortunately, it went in the net."

* NOTES -- Tkachuk was seen leaving Scottrade Center with a noticeable limp on his left leg and said, "I'm not feeling too good." A source said Berglund was seen leaving and was favoring his left arm/shoulder area and no arm in his jacket sleeve. Payne said afterwards both players are "day-to-day and will be evaluated (today)." ... Defenseman Barret Jackman (upper-body) missed his second straight game. ... With each victory, Mason increases his career-best for wins in a season, which now stands at 29.

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