Saturday, April 3, 2010

Blues won't go quietly, down Stars 2-1

Colaiacovo's goal proves to be game-winner;
team trails 8th place by four points

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues have been playing Game 7 for the past month, doing their best to hang onto postseason hopes by a thread.

That's the mentality they have to take until somebody tells them they no longer have a shot.

Carlo Colaiacovo's power play goal midway through the third period proved to be the game-winner and keep the Blues' faint playoff hopes alive with a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars Saturday night in front of 19,150 at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (38-31-9) now have 85 points -- four points behind both Colorado and Calgary who were idle Saturday night -- with four games remaining.

They won their season-best fourth in a row at home -- they've won seven of nine at home -- and they refuse to go away quietly.

"One day at a time, one game at a time is the only way we can live by right now," Colaiacovo said. "Obviously, we need a lot of help, but if we don't win our games, the help doesn't matter. Our focus is to win our games and then hope to get some help in other places. We can only control what we do out there.

"Right now, every game is a Game 7. That's the mentality we have to gave."

Colaiacovo pinched into the low slot in front of Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, dove and lifted a backhand shot inside the near post 8 minutes 14 seconds into the third period to break a 1-1 tie.

"The Bobby Orr style," Colaiacovo said laughing, describing his goal. "Obviously, I saw (Lehtonen) on one side of the net and I just wanted to get a quick shot off so he didn't have time to get over for it. I just happened to squeeze it by him."

It was Colaiacovo's first career goal against the Stars (35-30-14), and 26th of his NHL career.
Colaiacovo made an instinctive play and decided to pinch in once the puck got into the low slot area after a scramble to the right of Lehtonen.

"Those are reads," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "It's risk versus reward. he made a good decision there, especially on the weak side. ... He makes a good read and ends up in an area where a loose puck becomes ours."

T.J. Oshie scored his 17th goal of the season, and Chris Mason recorded 24 saves in winning for the 11th time in his last 16 starts.

The Blues, who were tied 1-1 after Brenden Morrow's goal with 1:49 left in the second, responded much better in the third period as opposed to Thursday's 3-2 loss at Nashville.

"As a team, we made a decision to go out in the third period and try to control things," Mason said. "We dictated the whole third period, worked out butts off for that power play goal, and closed out the game."

Oshie broke open a dull and stale hockey game by banging home a rebound of a Roman Polak shot 4:12 into the second for a 1-0 lead.

Andy McDonald stripped Stephane Robidas of the puck along the left wall, got the puck back to Polak, whose shot was stopped by Lehtonen, but the rebound was there for either Oshie or Keith Tkachuk to knock home.

"Big Walt's always talking about going to the net, going to the hard areas to score goals," Oshie said of Tkachuk. "I guess that was one of them. He was coming down, too. I just beat him to the puck.

"Originally, I thought Mac was going to come down to me in the corner. When I saw him go up to the point, I just immediately go the net. I got a little tip on it and luckily, it was just laying there for me."

Mason was on top of his game again, as his best stop came off a Brad Richards shot 1:10 into the second period to preserve a scoreless game.

"I felt good tonight," Mason said. "The importance of these games, you have to do whatever it takes to keep yourself ready. When the puck goes down in the neutral zone or whatever the case was, just try and focus on when they had pressure in our zone.

"I know (Richards) is a shooter and he shoots it hard. I just try to be ready for a quick shot and there's no one in front of me and I saw the puck."

Not too long after Mason's save, the Blues got some life following B.J. Crombeen's fight with Dallas' Brandon Segal 1:39 into the period.

"There was not much going on and we couldn't really get anything sustained," Blues center Jay McClement said. "... He knows how to read the game and how the game's going for us. He always times those things really well. I was surprised actually, because it was coming off an icing and they had a fresh line coming out. It kind of surprised me, but he'll do anything to get us going."

The Stars were able to get the equalizer late in the second, on Morrow's power play goal with McClement off for hooking.

Richards won a faceoff in the Blues' zone, and the puck squirted in the slot area, and Morrow out-muscled Mike Weaver before whacking the puck past Mason.

But the third period response, unlike the one in Nashville, was much more sufficient for the Blues, who finally got rewarded on their fifth power play.

"I just saw the opportunity with (Alex Steen) with the puck up high and when he usually makes a pass to Andy on the half-wall, I tried to cheat down low for a rebound or even a backdoor pass," Colaiacovo said. "When the shot went through, I just happened to find myself still stuck there, and it was a crapshoot from there. Guys were crashing and banging and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."

The Blues, who will take Easter Sunday off, will be scoreboard watching, as Calgary plays at Chicago and hosts San Jose.

"It was just one of those nights where we had to stay with it," Payne said. "We knew how important the hockey game was to us and we just had to find a way."

* NOTES -- Colaiacovo (upper-body) and Paul Kariya (lower-body) returned to the lineup after missing Thursday's game in Nashville. ... The Blues honored Kariya's milestone 400th career goal with a pregame ceremony. ... Oshie has points in six straight games against the Stars. ... Keith Tkachuk and Stars center Mike Modano, who have hinted this season might be their last, have played in a combined 2,655 games, scored 1,094 goals, earned 1,326 assists and totaled 2,420 points. Tkachuk is in his 18th season. Modano is in his 19th. ... Defenseman Barret Jackman (upper body) sat out the game. Sources said Jackman was injured early in the game Thursday but played through it. "He's not only got a high pain threshold but a real high willingness to battle through it and give everything he can. A lot of times, people don't realize what exactly he's playing with. That gutsy determination to leave everything out there that he has ... sometimes you've got to pull back a guy like that but certainly value everything he gives us."

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