Blues clinch playoff berth

Saturday, April 11, 2009
Blues goalie Chris Mason celebrates with teammate Jay McClement after beating Columbus on Friday. The Blues clinched a playoff berth with the victory. (TOM GANNAM ~ Associated Press)

St. Louis was in last place as late as Feb. 15 this season.

ST. LOUIS -- Keith Tkachuk is one of only two players left on the St. Louis Blues' roster from the last playoff run. A big game from the 37-year-old veteran helped them make it to the postseason again after a three-season drought.

Tkachuk scored twice for the first time since opening night and added an assist in a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.

"It's just a special moment," Tkachuk said. "This is an incredible feeling to see what we went through over the last couple of years."

Andy McDonald and Tkachuk scored power-play goals on two of the Blues' first three shots for a fast start against Columbus, no doubt flat two days after making it into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

"We just came off an emotional win," Columbus forward Rick Nash said. "They had everything to play for, and they just outplayed us. It was a do-or-die game for them."

Columbus is in sixth place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of the Blues, 92-90, and wraps up its regular season today at home against Minnesota. If the Blues and Blue Jackets finish in a tie, St. Louis would get the better seed after winning the season series 5-1.

"It was a tough loss," Nash said. "Now we have to worry about tomorrow night."

Tkachuk, by far the oldest of the Blues, enjoyed a season-best three-point night and has three goals and four assists the last three games.

Chris Mason contributed a solid night in goal in his 32nd consecutive start for the Blues, who got a chance to clinch in front a sellout crowd in their home finale after Nashville's 8-4 loss at Minnesota in its season finale.

"To do this at home is pretty special," Mason said. "With one minute left, I could barely hear myself think. I can just imagine what the playoffs are going to be like."

The Predators' game in Minnesota ended with 8:41 to go in St. Louis and the Blues up by two, and fans erupted when the score finally was relayed by the public address announcer with about 2 minutes to go.

The Predators, Ducks and Blues, who wrap up the regular season Sunday at Colorado, entered the night in a three-way tie for seventh in the Western Conference.

Andy Murray won his 100th game in 21/2 seasons as Blues coach, guiding a team that has been the NHL's best the second half of the season at 24-9-7 despite missing stars Erik Johnson, Paul Kariya and Eric Brewer much or all of the season. Kariya could be back for the playoffs after undergoing a pair of hip operations.

Murray said he didn't watch the scoreboard at all during the game. In the final minute, the Blues' accomplishment gave him chills.

"You kind of choke up a little bit," Murray said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: