|STL||3||0||1||(0 - 0)||4|
|VAN||1||1||0||(0 - 0)||2|
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - The St. Louis Blues haven't given up on this season.
Neither has their embattled goalie, Patrick Lalime.
Keith Tkachuk had a goal and two assists and Lalime made 19 saves in his NHL return Wednesday night, backstopping St. Louis to a surprising 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
"We're not going to quit," Tkachuk said. "We're going to keep going after everybody."
The Blues are last in the Western Conference, and they traded away top scorers Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger early last week. Plus, the odds appeared stacked against them in this one.
St. Louis, which entered with the league's third-worst road record, was playing the NHL's fifth-best team on home ice. The Blues had tied a franchise record with 10 straight road losses and the Canucks had won six in a row at home, where they hadn't lost to St. Louis in more than five years.
But Petr Cajanek, Vladimir Orszagh and Mark Rycroft gave the Blues a 3-1 first-period lead, and Tkachuk sealed the win with a power-play goal in the third, giving St. Louis its first victory away from home since Dec. 28 and its first three-game winning streak of the season.
"We lost two great players and two great guys, but right now it seems like a lot of teams are not ready for us and looking past us and we seem to be coming out of a lot of first periods with the lead," Tkachuk said.
The Blues also came out of this first period without their starting goalie after Curtis Sanford had back spasms early in the period. That opened the door for Lalime to start the second - his first NHL action since being demoted to the AHL after struggling earlier this season.
Lalime wasn't credited with the win, but he was just happy to be back in the NHL.
"You don't choose how or when you're going to go in, but I was just looking for a chance to get back in," he said. "I was ready for any circumstance. I just wanted to get in there and when that happens, you jump on it."
Lalime, who won 39 games for the Ottawa Senators just two seasons ago, was sent to the minors despite a $2.4 million salary after struggling to a 3-11 record and an NHL-worst .866 save percentage in St. Louis early this season. But he was solid in his return, allowing only Todd Bertuzzi's power-play goal on a jam play in tight.
"When you're not on top of your game, sometimes confidence is a big factor and as a goalie you can't really hide it," said Lalime, who was recalled last Wednesday. "I went down there and played some pretty good games and I'm just happy to be back."
The 31-year-old Lalime was at his best during a pair of late Vancouver power plays, but got some help in the third period when Henrik Sedin's power-play deflection hit the post and defenseman Dennis Wideman lifted Brendan Morrison's stick on a partial breakaway, leaving him with an easy save.
"It's a tough way to go in, he hasn't played in a while," St. Louis coach Mike Kitchen said. "But he stepped in and he was the difference. He protected that lead for us and played really well."
Richard Park also scored for the Canucks, who have lost all three games against St. Louis this season.
The loss - just its fourth in regulation at home all season - dropped Vancouver two points behind first-place Calgary in the Northwest Division.
"We didn't have great games from anybody in our lineup," said coach Marc Crawford, refusing to blame a recent rash of injuries that left him with three rookies on defense and without second-leading goal scorer Anson Carter up front.
Cajanek opened the scoring midway through the first after Tkachuk drove hard to the net off the wing and dropped a pass back to him alone in the slot.
Park, playing his first game since missing 13 with a knee injury, answered for the Canucks, keeping the puck on a 2-on-1 break and firing it between Sanford's legs.
Orszagh restored St. Louis' lead less than 3 minutes later after Tkachuk drew two defenders behind the net. Rycroft tapped in a loose puck after a scramble to make it 3-1 with 16.5 seconds to go in the period.
After Bertuzzi scored to close the gap, the Canucks got a break when a St. Louis power-play goal was waved off because Orszagh bumped Alex Auld in the crease.
Tkachuk got that back 5 seconds into a two-man advantage, getting behind the Canucks' defense off the faceoff and slipping the puck between Auld's legs.
Tkachuk has two goals and six points in four games since missing 22 with a broken knuckle - and 10 goals and 21 points in just 14 games all season.
"I've had plenty of games off so I feel pretty fresh out there," he said.
Notes: With Vancouver defensemen Steve McCarthy (charley horse) and Nolan Baumgartner (swollen foot) both injured in the last two games, Prestin Ryan made his NHL debut and Tomas Mojzis played his second game. ... Lalime was 6-6-1 with a 2.86 goals-against average and .906 save percentage with Peoria in the AHL before being recalled. ... Sanford appeared to hurt himself while making a scramble save 5 minutes in but played the rest of the period and stopped 12 of 13 shots. ... The Blues' last three-game winning streak was from March 25-30, 2004.
|Petr Cajanek (7) Backhand shot - ASST: Keith Tkachuk (10), Mark Rycroft (3)|
1 - 0 STL
|Richard Park (7) Wrist shot - ASST: Markus Naslund (33)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Vladimir Orszagh (4) Slapshot - ASST: Petr Cajanek (28), Keith Tkachuk (11)|
2 - 1 STL
|Mark Rycroft (5) Wrist shot - ASST: Ryan Johnson (4), Dallas Drake (19)|
3 - 1 STL
|PPG - Todd Bertuzzi (20) Wrist shot - ASST: Markus Naslund (34), Brendan Morrison (29)|
3 - 2 STL
|PPG - Keith Tkachuk (10) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE|
4 - 2 STL
|Petr Cajanek Hooking|
|Mattias Ohlund Hooking|
|Markus Naslund Unsportsmanlike conduct|
|Jay McClement Tripping|
|Jesse Boulerice Interference|
|Henrik Sedin Hooking|
|Vladimir Orszagh Interference on goalkeeper|
|Kevin Bieksa Tripping|
|Mark Rycroft Hooking|
|Ryan Kesler Hooking|
|Todd Bertuzzi Interference on goalkeeper|
|Daniel Sedin Hi-sticking|
|Vladimir Orszagh Hooking|
|Dean McAmmond Hooking|
|Prestin Ryan Holding|