Saturday, April 7, 2012

Blues end skid with 3-2 win over Stars to end regular season

St. Louis goes into playoffs as No. 2 seed in Western
Conference and will face No. 7 San Jose in the first round

DALLAS -- After not doing their part on Friday night, the Blues had one last chance to pitch their chance on being the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

They needed a win at Dallas and a regulation loss by Vancouver against Edmonton.

The Blues did their part with a 3-2 win over the Stars to end the season 49-22-11 and snap a four-game winless skid, heading into the playoffs on a winning note.
(Getty Images)
David Perron beats Stars goalie Richard Bachman in the third period of
a 3-2 Blues win Saturday in Dallas. 

And as the Blues boarded the bus and headed to the airport for the plane ride back home, they would know their fate before they land. And the end result was not what they wanted, as the Canucks blanked Edmonton 3-0 to win the Presidents' Trophy and top seed in the West.

The Blues, who get the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, will get San Jose in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Sharks downed the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 in overtime.

St. Louis was 4-0-0 against the Sharks this season.

"We've been waiting for these playoffs for a while now," said defenseman Kris Russell, who got the scoring started with a goal in the second period. "I don't think we've been playing our best, but I thought tonight we had a solid effort. We knew we had to come in and we wanted to get a win. That's what we did."

Added winger Alex Steen, who along with David Perron scored a power play goal in the third period: "Now we want and see what happens.

"I thought it was noticeable that our competitiveness was back up and our jump and excitement. We had a good, solid game. Collectively, everybody was sharper."

The Blues finished the season one goal shy of tying the 2003-04 New Jersey Devils' record for fewest goals allowed in a season with 165, but the Blues' tandem of Jaroslav Halak -- who stopped 33 shots in the win Saturday -- and Brian Elliott won the Jennings Trophy for lowest goals-against average by a team at 1.89.

"Back to back, lots of good stuff," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who finished 43-15-11 in his first season after taking over for Davis Payne. "Now it's onto the real season.

"I think for me, when you win the Jennings and you get 109 points, you've done an awful lot of good things, so for me, I'm really happy for the goalies but everybody makes that commitment back for the goalies. The guys were great, the guys were really good."

Russell's first goal in 35 games -- his last coming on Nov. 27 at Columbus -- accounted for the only scoring and gave the Blues a 1-0 lead after two periods. His shot from the left circle deflected off a Stars stick (either Michael Ryder or Jamie Benn), bounded high into the air and over Richard Bachman, who lost sight of the puck and bounced in 11:06 into the game.

"Stewy made a great play to get me the puck and I just wanted to get a quick, hard shot to the net," Russell said of Chris Stewart. "The guy got a stick on it and somehow it found it's way over the goalie.

"We'll take em. From here on in, it doesn't matter how you score."

Steen's 15th of the season came on the power play, snapping the Blues' 0-for-19 skid dating back to Match 25 (six games) at Phoenix. Steen's wrister from the right circle 7:54 into the third period gave the Blues a 2-0 lead, but the Stars' Ryan Garbutt swiped home a loose puck in front of Halak at 9:09 to cut the Blues' lead to 2-1.

(Getty Images)
The Blues' Alex Steen battles with the Stars' Jordie Benn Saturday
night in Dallas. Steen scored in the Blues' 3-2 win.

Perron scored his ninth in 14 games, another power play goal at 13:44 to make it 3-1.

"I think we were a little bit slower on it, but we got two big goals for us and it ended up being the difference tonight," Perron said. "... We needed to have better traffic, better shots."

Added Steen: "We mixed it up a little bit. Perry's shot is a great shot and mine's fortunate it goes in."

The Stars (42-35-5) wouldn't go away, as Philip Larsen deflected an Alex Goligoski point shot past Halak with 3:04 remaining, but the Blues were able to close the game.

"One chapter is closed," said Halak, who finished the season 26-12-7 with a 1.97 GAA and .926 save percentage. "The second one, we have to open. We'll see what happens."

Added Hitchcock: "I thought we started slow, got into penalty trouble and then really started. Had about an 18-minute span there where we were really good. Then I thought we were really good in the third period. We got scored on, but we could have scored five or six goals. Our checking and our transition through the neutral zone was excellent. I was really really happy."

* NOTES -- Blues defenseman Barret Jackman played in his 598th career game, tying him with Chris Pronger for ninth on the franchise all-time list. ... Elliott set the modern day record for GAA in a season at 1.56, breaking Miikka Kiprusoff's 2003-04 record of 1.69. ... Blues forward Andy McDonald had 20 points in 21 games since return from a concussion (missed 6 games with shoulder contusion). ... The Blues' penalty killers killed 95 of the last 101 power plays against, including 17 in a row to end the season. ... The Blues' 109 points is the second-most in franchise history. They had 114 in 1999-2000.

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