Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blues keep faint playoff hopes alive with victory

Mason, PK unit backstop 3-1 victory over Kings,
leaves St. Louis 8 points out with 8 games remaining

ST. LOUIS -- As long as the Blues have a pulse, there's no need to ignore what the ultimate goal is.

That was the message after Thursday night's 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings at Scottrade Center that left the Blues (35-30-9) eight points in back of eighth-place Detroit in the Western Conference standings with eight games to play.

"We're going to keep on winning hockey games," said Blues coach Davis Payne, whose squad has won 10 of its last 15 games. "Until they tell us we're not eligible (for the playoffs), we're going to make sure that hey, if there's fight left in us, we're going to put it out there, here at home (or) on the road.

"Stranger things have happened and we intend to keep winning until the games run out."

The Blues had the fight against the Kings, who the Blues have beaten three of four games this season. And they got a rare win at home, which has been the team's Achilles' heel all season long.

"We're definitely far from the situation we would like to be in, where we thought we would be in, but we are where we are and we're not going to give up," said Blues goalie Chris Mason, who stopped 30 shots in winning his 25th game. "You never know."

The Blues got goals from B.J. Crombeen, T.J. Oshie and Paul Kariya, whose goal came after a video review that showed Kariya's 18th of the season and 402nd of his career rattle around off a couple bodies in front before being tucked into the corner of the net as Kings defenseman Randy Jones swiped it out with his skate.

"I just shot it five-hole and I was kind of tired, just trying to get off the ice," Kariya said. "It bounced around, ping-ponged around there and got into the net."

The Blues' best line of defense, aside from Mason, was their penalty-killing unit, which is now No. 1 in the league after thwarting the Kings (42-25-6) on six of seven attempts which included a 41-second stint of a two-man advantage.

The PK unit jumped into No. 1 as the top ranking squad in the NHL at 86.1 percent.

"Some of the calls were deserved, some were questionable, but we had a lot of opportunity to work on our PK, which has been pretty good all year," Mason said. "It was the one-shot-and-out thing, clearing rebounds, letting me see the puck."

Crombeen got the scoring started when he converted a 2-on-1 break after stripping the puck from Davis Drewiske and beating Jonathan Quick 3 minutes 57 seconds into the game. It was the sixth game in a row the Blues scored the game's first goal. They are 3-3-0 in those games.

Oshie's 16th of the season made it 2-0 off another turnover, this time by Kings phenom Drew Doughty. Oshie patiently waited out Quick and roofed a wrister 1:06 into the second after Kariya threw the puck at the net that caromed off Keith Tkachuk.

"Quick is a great goaltender," Oshie said. "Luckily, I got it upstairs and got it past him."

The Blues carried a 2-0 lead into the third period, and it's a known fact about the Blues and third periods -- particularly at home.

And when the Kings' Dustin Brown converted a power play goal just 4:38 into the final 20 minutes, a hush fell over the announced crowd of 19,150 that must have feelings of "here we go again."

But Kariya's goal with six minutes remaining reestablished the Blues' two-goal advantage.

"They got it to 2-1 and there were some questionable calls and it seemed like we were in the box the whole third period," Kariya said. "It was tough to generate any offense, so it was nice to turn the tides there."

* NOTES -- Kariya's goal was the 402nd of his career. ... Tkachuk (lower-body) and defenseman Roman Polak (right shoulder) returned to the lineup for the Blues. Polak missed the previous two games, while Tkachuk sat out Wednesday's 4-2 loss at Detroit. ... Blues winger Brad Boyes played in his 400th consecutive game. He ranks third in the league in the iron man streak. ... The Blues have now won the series against the Kings in 11 of the last 14 seasons. ... The American Hockey league announced the individual team winners of the American Specialty/AHL Man of the Year awards, selected by their respective clubs for their outstanding contributions to the local community and charitable organizations during the 2009-10 season. Blues prospect Lars Eller was chosen as the representative from the Blues' AHL affiliate in Peoria.

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