Blues get two days off, await second-round foe

Saturday, April 27, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- The reward for becoming the first NHL team to advance to the second round of the playoffs -- two days off for the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues got the break after dispatching the Chicago Blackhawks in five games. The last one perhaps was the toughest, considering they had to rally from a two-goal second-period deficit Thursday night for a 5-3 deciding victory.

"I think we're going to enjoy our next couple days off," forward Scott Young said. "Because although it was 4-1, it was a real tough series."

The Blues had to deviate from their stingy style after falling behind 3-1 in the second period of Game 5. They opened it up the rest of the way to leave the Blackhawks in their dust.

"We scared ourselves and scared everybody else," said Keith Tkachuk, who clinched it with a late goal. "Today was a little too wide-open for our liking. But we battled back hard."

The victory confirmed, for now, the team's perception that this is the time for the Blues to shine. Counting a late-season charge that vaulted them from possible playoff outsiders to fourth place in the Western Conference, they've won 12 of their last 14.

"Obviously, the playoffs are a lot different hockey than the regular season, and we have the team that's built for this type of hockey," Young said. "We have a lot of guys who can play hard along the walls, muck and grind it out and play very physical."

They also have an emerging goalie in Brent Johnson, who had shutouts in Games 2, 3 and 4 before the streak ended at 3 hours, 26 minutes, 45 seconds in the second period of Game 5. Johnson surrendered three goals in the second period, but then recovered his edge.

"He showed his character," said fourth-line winger Jamal Mayers, who scored the go-ahead goal in the third period. "Like we've been saying all along, every goalie that has ever done something had to start somewhere, and Johnny's kind of paving his own way."

The Blues appear headed toward a series against the Detroit Red Wings in the next round, although several less-likely scenarios could end with the Blues playing a different second-round opponent.

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