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For Tkachuk, Milestones Keep Piling Up

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues
Blues forward Keith Tkachuk (second from left) became the 41st player in NHL history to score 500 goals with an empty netter Sunday at Columbus (Getty Images).
It’s not too often you see an entire bench clear out for anything but a brawl, but an empty-net goal with 1:34 left to play on Sunday was good enough reason to celebrate.

Playing shorthanded late in the team’s 2007-08 season finale in Columbus, Blues forward Keith Tkachuk fired the puck down the ice and into an empty net to become the 41st player in NHL history to hit the 500-goal milestone.

Talk about wrapping up the season on a high note. The Blues earned a 4-1 win to close out the season and Tkachuk couldn’t have been happier.

"About half way down (the ice) it looked like it was going in," Tkachuk said about the empty-netter. "Trust me, I wasn't looking. I was just shooting. I got a lucky bounce.

"It just made me feel unbelievable to have the whole team come out and congratulate me. That was a great feeling.”

With the goal, Tkachuk joins an elite class of players to hit the milestone, including Wayne Gretzky, Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby and Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux and Mark Messier, just to name a few. Tkachuk also becomes just the fourth U.S. born player to reach the mark.

"It was exciting to watch that puck go down the ice into the empty net," said Blues coach Andy Murray. "That's a special moment."

The goal comes one day after nearly scoring it against Columbus in the home finale at Scottrade Center. In that game, Tkachuk scored twice and received extra playing time in an attempt to score again. He had a two-on-one opportunity late but was unable to capitalize.

 500-Goal Milestone
Tkachuk is the third player to record his 500th goal as a member of the St. Louis Blues. Dale Hawerchuk (Jan. 31, 1996) and Brett Hull (Dec. 22, 1996) are the only other players to accomplish the feat in a Blues uniform.

Tkachuk is also one of just three players in league history to score 500-plus goals and record more than 2100 penalty minutes. The only others are Brendan Shanahan (650, 2460) and Pat Verbeek (522, 2905).

No. 500
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"It would have been nice to get it in front of the home crowd," Tkachuk said after Saturday’s game in St. Louis. "It would have been very special to do it there."

Now at age 36, Tkachuk has made a career of getting in front of the net and has made the most of second chances, often banging rebounds past a goaltender unable to react quickly enough. His 500th goal came in his 1,055th career game.

"(Tkachuk's) such a big body and so powerful," said Blues forward Paul Kariya. "You know where he's going. Defensemen can't stop him. That's why he's got 500 goals in his career. He's a powerhouse and it's been a pleasure to play with him."

It’s been a memorable year for Tkachuk, who also played in his 1,000th career game on Dec. 1, 2007 vs. Chicago. Only 224 players have reached that milestone.

Tkachuk was first acquired by the Blues on March 13, 2001 in a trade with Phoenix that sent Michael Handzus, Ladislav Nagy, Jeff Taffe and a 2002 first round draft choice to the Coyotes.

With these milestones out of the way, Tkachuk can focus on the only accomplishment still missing: hoisting a Stanley Cup for the first time.

"I want to win," Tkachuk said. "I mean, (500) is a number and I've been blessed to be in the NHL a long time, even more blessed to play with a lot of great players. That's the reason I'm at the number.

"But at this point, I want to win and I want to win here. That would mean everything."
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