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Numbers not in Blues' favor

by Larry Wigge
It's down to numbers now for the St. Louis Blues after they surrendered three power-play goals to the Vancouver Canucks in a 3-2 loss in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals Sunday night.

Numbers like 1942 and 1975 -- the respective years in which the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders rallied from 3-0 deficits in the playoffs to win a series, the only times it's happened in NHL history.

Numbers like the Blues going 0-for-6 on the power play in Game 3 and 1-for-17 in the three-game series so far.

"We just need to get one game … and go from there," Blues power forward David Backes said.

"Every game has been a one-goal differential in the third period," coach Andy Murray said, adding that he thinks his team has yet to match the intensity that helped the Blues to the best record in the NHL since January. "We just haven't played yet.

"We look tight, especially on the power play."

The Blues top-10 penalty-killing and power-play units from the regular season have let them down. On Sunday night it was both, especially the power play early. That 0-for-6 performance included two 5-on-3 man advantages.

"For most of the 5-on-3s we've had in this series we haven't been a threat," Murray said. "We've been tight. We're putting pucks into guys' skates, we're mishandling passes and we're not getting away the one-time shots."

St. Louis has basically done Vancouver's job of killing off time on the power play.

"It's killed us," winger Keith Tkachuk said of the power play. "It took all the momentum away from our team. Our power play really let our team down."

Any words of encouragement from the coach?

"We need to shoot more," Murray said. Then, he added, "It wasn't a yelling fest in our room after the game. I asked them if they feel they're done yet. They said they're not."

You can expect to read more into the fact that 14-year veteran Paul Kariya could be back for Game 4 on Tuesday night … and he might. That would be a big boost for the Blues, who haven't had Kariya in their lineup since Nov. 5 in Anaheim, the last game he played before he was sidelined for the rest of the regular season with hip pain. Before that, he was producing at better than a point-per-game pace -- two goals and 13 assists -- in the first 11 games of the season. First he had surgery on his left hip on Jan. 5. Then, because the first surgery made him feel so good, he had the right hip operated on in February in hopes he might be back for the playoffs.

Now, after playing in his first full-fledged practice with the Blues on Sunday morning, there is a chance he could return soon.

"I've never given up on the thought that I might be able to return for the playoffs. Tonight was an option," Kariya said of playing in Game 3 after just one full practice with his teammates. "Let's just say I'm possible for Game 4."

Why all the fuss? Because Kariya's puck skills would do nothing but help on the Blues' power play.

And, after all, those numbers are just a part of all the numbers the St. Louis Blues are facing down 0-3 against the Vancouver Canucks.

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