ST. LOUIS (AP) -Back in mid-February, the St. Louis Blues were last in the Western Conference. On Friday night, they ended a three-season playoff drought.
Keith Tkachuk scored twice for the first time since opening night and added an assist in a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tkachuk and defenseman Barret Jackman are the only players left from the Blues' last playoff appearance in 2004.
"It means the world to me right now," Tkachuk said. "It's so rewarding."
The Blues were last overall in 2005-06, the first season after the lockout, and tied for the fourth-worst record last season. This season, they've been without stars Erik Johnson, Paul Kariya and Eric Brewer much or all of th schedule, although Kariya could be back for the playoffs after a pair of hip operations.
"I'll probably look back on it and realize how difficult it was," coach Andy Murray said. "We've got more talent than I think people give us credit for, and certainly at the start of the year people didn't give us any credit. So yeah, it's gratifying."
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. The Blue Jackets mustered only 17 shots, one more than their season worst.
"We were just outhustled," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They played well. We didn't."
Columbus is sixth in the Western Conference with 92 points, two points ahead of the Blues, and will wrap up its regular season Saturday night at home against Minnesota while the Blues finish Sunday at Colorado.
Chris Mason contributed a solid night in goal in his 32nd consecutive start for the Blues, who got a chance to clinch in front of a sellout crowd in their home finale after Nashville's 8-4 loss at Minnesota. The Predators, Blues and Anaheim entered the night in a three-way tie for seventh.
The Blues were up by two with 8:41 to go during a stoppage when the Wild finished off the Predators. Fans erupted when the score was relayed by the P.A. announcer with about two minutes to go and the Blues' victory all but assured.
"I think I just came off and I wanted to get back out there," defenseman Jay McKee said. "You couldn't help but smile and get the chills on the bench."
The Blues reached 40 wins for the first since 2002-03, and Murray won for the 100th time in 2 1/2 seasons with St. Louis. The Blues also ended the Blue Jackets' franchise-record road unbeaten streak at seven games (4-0-3).
At Anaheim, Calif., Jonas Hiller made 42 saves, Teemu Selanne scored the deciding goal in a shootout and Anaheim wrapped up a playoff spot.
The Ducks clinched the Western Conference playoff spot by securing a single point through the end of regulation after giving up Steve Ott's tying goal with 14 seconds left.
Scott Niedermayer, Andrew Ebbett and Todd Marchant also scored for Anaheim. Ott finished with two goals, and Fabian Brunnstrom added a goal for Dallas, out of the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
At St. Paul, Minn., Marc-Andre Bergeron scored twice to help Minnesota beat Nashville in a matchup of playoff hopefuls eliminated from contention after the game.
Andrew Brunette, Kim Johnsson, Dan Fritsche, Mikko Koivu, Cal Clutterbuck and Marek Zidlicky also scored for the Wild, knocked out of the playoff race when Anaheim advanced to overtime against Dallas en route to a shootout victory.
Jason Arnott scored twice, and Shea Weber and Steve Sullivan also scored for Nashville, eliminated when St. Louis beat Columbus.
At Edmonton, Alberta, Shawn Horcoff and Sheldon Souray each had a goal and two assists and Edmonton beat Calgary to give Chicago the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Ales Kotalik, Steve MacIntyre and Patrick O'Sullivan also scored for the Oilers, eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday night. Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers made 31 saves in his first start since Nov. 30. Dwayne Roloson started the previous 36 games.
Michael Cammalleri scored for the Flames, two points behind Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead. Calgary played with only 15 skaters because of injuries.
|PPG - Andy McDonald (15) ASST: Keith Tkachuk (24), Brad Boyes (38)|
1 - 0 STL
|PPG - Keith Tkachuk (24) ASST: Brad Boyes (39), Andy McDonald (28)|
2 - 0 STL
|Jiri Novotny (4) ASST: Jan Hejda (18), Jakub Voracek (29)|
2 - 1 STL
|Keith Tkachuk (25) ASST: Jay McKee (6), Jeff Woywitka (15)|
3 - 1 STL
|Kris Russell Interference against T.J. Oshie|
|Jared Boll Boarding against Roman Polak|
|Jared Boll Holding against Andy McDonald|
|Brad Winchester Roughing against R.J. Umberger|
|R.J. Umberger Roughing against Brad Winchester|
|Rick Nash Tripping against Patrik Berglund|
|Derek Dorsett Tripping against David Perron|
|Michael Peca Hooking against Dan Hinote|