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Blues won't go down without a fight

Wednesday, 03.25.2009 / 8:30 AM / Game-Day Skate

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

A few thoughts while Bob Gainey gives Alex Tanguay a bear hug:

Blue by you -- The NHL Awards show in Las Vegas is still a ways away, but one has to believe that St. Louis Blues coach Andy Murray will be a candidate for the Jack Adams Award as the League's top coach.

Truth be told, not many -- if any -- coaches have done a better job this season than Murray, who has managed to keep the Blues in the Western Conference playoff race despite a locker room that looks more like an infirmary.

Murray's club did it again Tuesday night, beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 at the Scottrade Center to move within a point of the last playoff berth in the West. Patrik Berglund ended a 10-game drought by scoring a pair of goals in the third period, while Chris Mason stopped all 22 shots he faced for his fifth shutout of the season.

The Kings handled the Blues rather easily three straight times earlier this season, but this was the first meeting since Dec. 11. Murray has seen his club make remarkable strides since then, even though it played without scoring forwards Andy McDonald and Paul Kariya for much of the season.

"We stuck with it, we maintained our composure," Murray said. "It was a kind of game where earlier in the year, we don't possibly handle as well."

Mason agreed. The veteran goalie has been amazed by his team's resilience. With nine games to go in their season, the Blues still have a chance.

"It's the desperation, it's the urgency, it's the no quit in this team," Mason said. "In the third period, we just turned it on."

He's seen it all -- Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph has faced some of the game's greatest players.

Wayne Gretzky.

Mario Lemieux.

On Tuesday night, it was Alex Ovechkin in a shootout.

Joseph, who replaced Martin Gerber with 56 seconds left in the third period after the starting goalie was ejected for pushing referee Mike Leggo and shooting the puck in his direction, denied Ovechkin in the final round of the shootout to lead the Leafs to an improbable 3-2 victory against the Washington Capitals at the Air Canada Centre.

The 41-year-old Joseph stopped one shot (by Ovechkin) in regulation and eight shots by the Caps in overtime before going 3-for-3 in the shootout, allowing the Leafs to escape with the extra point.

"I've played long enough," Joseph said. "Ovechkin is definitely the greatest player in the game right now, I would agree with that. But I've played against the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux and guys like that. Hopefully that experience helped."

It certainly didn't hurt. Joseph's performance left Washington goalie Jose Theodore amazed.

"I'm pretty impressed," Theodore said. "I've got to tell you that you guys don't know how hard it is just to step in when you're not playing and then in the last minute, when it's a tie game like that. It just showed the character and experience."

Tremendous trio -- Montreal Canadiens GM/coach Bob Gainey pushed the right button.

Gainey, desperate to get the Habs into the playoffs, put Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay and Alexei Kovalev on the same line against the Atlanta Thrashers -- a move that paid big-time dividends.

Tanguay had 5 points and the line combined for 11 overall as Montreal cruised to a 6-3 win at the Bell Centre. The victory snapped the Canadiens' five-game losing streak.

"Koivu's line certainly performed in the role that they were put into," said Gainey, who is 2-3-2 since replacing Guy Carbonneau behind the bench. "They were a good-working trio of players that were productive in the places where we need that offensive thrust, on the power play and really throughout the game. They played like they wanted to play together and they were working to play with each other, good passing plays for shots, for scoring chances and for goals."

For Tanguay, it was the third five-point game of his career. The forward understands he and his teammates have to bring 100 percent every night if they hope to compete for the Stanley Cup.

"If you want to have success, your best players have to play like they're capable of playing," Tanguay said. "Alex and Saku worked really hard and it was a good game for us. Hopefully we can build on it and our line can play like that in our next game."

If anything, though, at least the Canadiens stopped the bleeding for one night. They regained sole possession of eighth place in the East with 83 points, two more than Florida. Both teams have nine games remaining.

"It's one game, but you do have to start from somewhere," Koivu said. "We couldn't wait any longer and these two points really feel good. Hopefully they give us the confidence, that little boost that we were looking for for the upcoming games. Obviously it feels great, but there's a lot of work ahead of us."

Finishing strong -- It's no secret the Tampa Bay Lightning's season will come to a disappointing end April 11, but that doesn't mean they're not playing for anything.

For goalie Mike McKenna, it's an opportunity to show he deserves to be a full-time NHL player. He did his best to prove that by making 33 saves in a 2-1 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"It's motivation enough to be in the NHL," said McKenna, who has appeared in just 11 games this season. "But when (your team is) not getting many shots and you're facing (a) pile (of shots), then you know you've got to keep it tight."

McKenna's play kept the Lightning in the game, and Tampa Bay won it when Martin St. Louis beat Steve Mason 3:04 into the extra session. Steven Stamkos, who had 2 assists, set up the game-winner.

"(Stamkos) made a great play for me in overtime," St. Louis said. "But without (McKenna) tonight, I ain't talking to (reporters) right now. He's the reason why we won this game."

He's a hockey player -- A bloody lip, multiple stitches in his mouth and a lost cap that protected one of his teeth couldn't stop Daniel Sedin.

The Vancouver Canucks forward scored what proved to be the game-winner in a 5-2 victory against the reeling Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. Sedin broke a 1-1 tie late in the first, just 1:40 after he briefly was dazed by a high stick from Mark Fistric.

"I got hit by the high stick," Sedin said. "But it was nice to score on the power play. We got the lead and that was huge."

His twin brother, Henrik, wasn't as impressed as others. In the end, Daniel did what Henrik expected.

"It was nothing," Henrik said with a straight face. "He's not a baby."

Nothing like support from the family.

Movin' on up -- Teemu Selanne put the Anaheim Ducks back in playoff position.

Selanne's shootout goal lifted Anaheim to a 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators at the Sommet Center and catapulted the Ducks into eighth place in the West. Anaheim and Nashville each have 78 points, but the Ducks -- winners of four straight -- have one more victory than the Preds, who have dropped three in a row.

"Points are at a premium," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "Both teams are in desperation mode, but we were fortunate enough to steal an extra point in the shootout."

Nashville coach Barry Trotz obviously was disappointed with the loss, but at least he and his team can take solace in the fact that it earned a much-needed point.

"It's about collecting points," Trotz said. "Obviously we would like two, and we didn't get that, but every night that you get points, that's what you need.

Excuse me, bartender? -- Close, but not close enough.

That was the case at Rexall Place, as the Edmonton Oilers had a glorious chance to pick up two much-needed points against the Detroit Red Wings. Instead, the Oilers allowed three goals in the last nine minutes of the third period in a 3-2 loss to the top team in the West.

"Those are the games that drive you to drink," Oilers forward Dustin Penner said. "It doesn't feel good. I'd say that feels worse than losing 10-2. Especially at this point of the season with the way we have been playing and who we were playing tonight. That one stings."

Edmonton (35-29-9) now has lost two in a row, but it did remain in seventh place, one point ahead of Anaheim and Nashville. Even one point would have been nice for the Oilers. Instead, they came away with nothing.

"A game like that leaves everybody with a heavy heart," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "It's an incredible sense of disappointment. But at the same time, we played pretty well and in a lot of ways outstanding, the way we checked and killed penalties. It's disappointing, but we'll take some solace in that.

"It's going to be quite the nine-game stretch here down to the end."

You gotta believe -- Derek Morris has appeared in only seven playoff games in his 11-year career, but the New York Rangers defenseman believes he knows what the Blueshirts have to do if they hope to carry some momentum into the postseason.

"I think we've just got to believe more in ourselves," Morris said on Versus after the Rangers' 2-1 win against the Minnesota Wild at Madison Square Garden. "We're a team that has a lot of talent up front and on the back end, but we've got to believe and know that we're going to go out there and win the game."

It was the Rangers' defense that looked impressive, holding the Wild to just 10 shots on goal through the first two periods and 19 overall. Not bad considering New York played without defenseman Michal Rozsival, who is out at least a week with a leg injury. Henrik Lundqvist made 18 saves for the Rangers, who have won eight of their last 11 games.

"I think our forwards did a great job of coming back," Morris said. "They threw a lot of things to the net and we did a good job of closing the perimeter. Hank made a couple of big saves for us."

New York's postseason chances are looking awfully good, considering Tuesday's win put them in a sixth-place tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Should the Blueshirts hang on, Morris -- who was acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes at the March 4 trade deadline -- will have an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2003.

"It's a dream come true," Morris said. "When I got the call to go to the Rangers, I was ecstatic and honored. The honor's starting to wear off. It's time to start playing some hockey, and we're playing some pretty good hockey."

Contact Brian Compton at

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.

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