Sharks push Blues to brink of NHL elimination

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The Independent Online

The St. Louis Blues are frustrated, confused and on the brink of playoff elimination.

The Blues, who had the NHL's best regular-season record, trail 3-1 in their Western Conference first-round series with San Jose after a 3-2 loss to the Sharks on Wednesday night.

"It's not easy to come back from 3-1 all the time, but we did it last year and we hope to do it again," St. Louis' Pierre Turgeon said.

The Blues overcame a 3-1 deficit last season when they beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 in a first-round series.

"Everybody expects when you finish first that it would be easy, but we knew otherwise," Turgeon said. "We felt all along that they're a better team than they showed in the regular season."

San Jose, 0-4-1 in five regular-season meetings with the Blues, is one win from duplicating its 1994 feat, when it ousted the Detroit Red Wings in a first-round series as a No. 8 seed.

"I think we have to be taken seriously now," San Jose's Tony Granato said.

In other NHL playoff games, Detroit swept its series against Los Angeles with a 3-0 victory; Ottawa edged Toronto 2-1; Washington beat Pittsburgh 3-2; and Phoenix defeated Colorado 3-2.

Gary Suter's slap shot from just inside the blue line skipped into the net with 8:37 remaining and proved to be the game-winner in San Jose.

"We got a good bounce, but what the heck?" Granato said. "It's still a goal."

The best-of-7 series moves back to St. Louis on Friday for Game 5.

"We're getting the puck to the net, but we're not getting the bounce," Turgeon said. "We need to take a page out of last year's book and hope to get some bounces."

The winning shot was set up when Alexander Korolyuk threw the puck across the ice and it bounded off the boards to Suter, who wound up for a slap shot near the blue line. The puck took a bounce off the ice and shot between goalie Roman Turek's stick-side arm and his leg.

"It looked like a knuckleball. Boom, boom, it was in," St. Louis coach Joel Quenneville said.

Trailing 2-0 after goals by Marco Sturm and Mike Ricci, the Blues tied it by scoring twice in a 36-second span of the second period.

With the Blues on the power play, Turgeon got off a pass to Jochen Hecht, who wristed the puck past goalie Steve Shields at 12:54.

Just a few seconds later Jamal Mayers got off a shot that Shields stopped, but before he could cover up the rebound, Mike Eastwood skated in scored.

ROUND UP

Red Wings 3, Kings 0

Pat Verbeek and Larry Murphy scored power-play goals 1:57 apart late in the first period, and Chris Osgood earned his eighth career playoff shutout as Detroit beat Los Angeles to sweep the series.

Sergei Fedorov scored an empty-netter on a breakaway with 51 seconds remaining. Some of the numerous red-and-white-clad Red Wings fans tossed octopuses entwined with strips of red cloth onto the ice after the goal.

The Red Wings clinched the Western Conference series in Scotty Bowman's 100th playoff game as coach.

The Kings were swept out of the playoffs for the seventh time in franchise history and second in three years, and have lost 12 consecutive playoff games since winning Game 1 of the 1993 Stanley Cup finals against Montreal.

Senators 2, Maple Leafs 1

Andreas Dackell scored twice as Ottawa beat Toronto to even its NHL Eastern Conference playoff series at 2-2.

Tom Barrasso's bid for a seventh career playoff shutout was spoiled with 3:50 remaining when Sergei Berezin scored for the visiting Maple Leafs, who outshot the Senators 32-22.

Dackell scored his first two goals of the series on near-identical 2-on-1 breaks in the second and third periods.

Capitals 3, Penguins 2

Rookie Jeff Halpern scored the game-winning goal on a rebound with 7:05 remaining - on a power play resulting from Pittsburgh goalie Ron Tugnutt's careless slashing penalty - as Washington prevented a series sweep.

The Capitals overcame two disallowed goals and numerous other missed rebound chances resulting from Tugnutt's near inability to make clean saves. Tugnutt had survived the Capitals' assaults despite similar play in the first three games, but this time Chris Simon, Steve Konowalchuk and Halpern all scored.

Jaromir Jagr and John Slaney scored for visiting Pittsburgh, who are going for their fifth series victory over Washington in six playoff meetings.

Coyotes 3, Avalanche 2

Mikael Renberg got the winner 38 seconds into the second period, and Sean Burke made 36 saves as Phoenix beat Colorado to remain alive in the series.

The Avalanche still hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference series and could close it out by winning Game 5 Friday in Denver.

Phoenix took a 3-0 lead early after goals by Trevor Letowski, Travis Green and Renberg.

Dave Andreychuk scored in the second period, and Adam Deadmarsh made it close for visiting Colorado by scoring with 3:58 remaining.

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