-- In order for the St. Louis Blues
to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season, it's going to take a second straight miracle finish to get there. They will need contributions from everyone, and on Thursday night against the New York Rangers
, they got just that.
Defenseman Mike Weaver scored his first goal since March 23, 2007, and Paul Kariya's 400th of his career was the winner as the Blues picked up their eighth victory in 11 games by beating the Rangers 4-3 at Madison Square Garden.
The milestone goal by Kariya was expected, but Weaver's was the epitome of rare. He had gone 184 games without an NHL goal before his second-period shot redirected off a Ranger and past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
to tie the score at 2-2.
Don't think it was a big deal? Afterward, while Kariya was taking a photo with the puck that was his 400th goal, Weaver was getting his picture taken with his puck.
"I think (Roman) Polak was working it out," Weaver said when asked if he could chase down Kariya's 400 career goals. "I have to play about 49,999 more games in order to get that."
The Blues are now five points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blues vaulted themselves into the playoffs last season on the strength of a 9-1-1 finish, something they may need to do again to get back to the playoffs this season.
Winning on the road helps, but it's nothing new for the Blues, who possess a 21-11-4 record away from Scottrade Center. But it's been their inability to defend their home ice that has them on the outside of the playoff picture.
"If we even had a decent home record, we'd be in the playoffs right now," Kariya lamented.
Goaltender Ty Conklin, who made 26 saves to pick up the win, was at a loss to explain the strange home/road differential.
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe some guys' wives don't cook very good."
The loss was the second straight for the Rangers -- but it wasn't nearly as devastating as it could have been. Thanks to the Boston Bruins losing 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, the Rangers stayed within three points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, though they're now tied for ninth place with Atlanta.
The Rangers go to Boston on Sunday for what could be a make-or-break game, and players realized they missed a golden opportunity to pick up ground in the playoff chase.
"Anytime we lose this time of year, it's frustrating and we want to win, especially with the Bruins losing," said Rangers winger Ryan Callahan
, whose failure to pick up Kariya on the backcheck led to the winning goal. "You're trying to focus on yourself, but at the same time, it's two points we could have used."
For the third game in a row, the Rangers gave up a goal within the first five minutes. Brad Boyes took a drop pass from Jay McClement near the left circle and roofed a wrister over Lundqvist's catching glove to make it 1-0 just 1:10 into the game.
But Callahan and Marian Gaborik
, who also had two assists, responded later in the period to send the Rangers into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.
Weaver and his Halley's Comet-esque goal evened things up early in the second period, and Erik Johnson's seemingly harmless wrister from the right-wing boards squeezed through Lundqvist to make it 3-2.
That score held up until 7:11 of the third period, when Wade Redden
's shot through a screen slipped between Conklin and the short-side post to tie the game. The play started after Brandon Dubinsky
forced a turnover behind the net and moved the puck to the top of the left circle with a little help from Gaborik.
The goal was Redden's second of the season and first in 48 games.
But T.J. Oshie
set up Kariya for the winner just 1:13 later. Lundqvist was helpless on the play, but he wasn't happy about his overall performance.
"The third goal is a bad goal but the rest of the goals were pretty tough plays, but I still feel like I could have played better," he said. "I gave up some bad rebounds. The bottom line is I have to be better."
The good news for the Rangers is Sunday's game in Boston kicks off a stretch of 7 of 8 away from MSG, where they have been a horrid 15-17-6 this season.
Meanwhile, the Blues are hoping they have another big finish in store.
"No one's going to lay down for us because of what we did last year," Blues winger David Backes
said. "But I think if anything, we proved to ourselves that it can be done, that we can make that great run if we concentrate on each game as its individual entity and put forth the effort and believe in the process."
Kariya feels the same way.
"Anything's possible," he said. "We play teams that we're going to need to catch, so it's in our hands and we have to keep winning games."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter at: @DLozoNHL