ST. LOUIS – Keith Tkachuk was grinning ear to ear throughout the post-game tribute to his long, bruising career. Especially after playmaking fuelled a big rally.
The 38-year-old Tkachuk set up the tying goal and assisted on an insurance goal in his home finale with the St. Louis Blues, adding meaning to the pomp after a 6-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
“It was a special moment as soon as I got on the ice in warmups and it carried on all game,” Tkachuk said. “The way it ended, you couldn’t have scripted it better. It was incredible.”
Jay McClement scored the go-ahead goal with 3:50 to go and Andy McDonald scored 23 seconds later off Tkachuk’s shot from a tough angle for the Blues, who rallied from a 3-2 deficit after two periods to finish with a six-game winning streak at home. They wound up 18-18-5 at home, still among the worst in the NHL and the biggest reason they couldn’t repeat last season’s playoff drive.
Rookie Matt Beleskey scored twice for the first time and Bobby Ryan got his 35th goal and added an assist for the Ducks, who had gone to a shootout the previous four games. Anaheim also is out of the playoff race and participated in its second “farewell” game in two nights, serving as the foil Thursday for what could be Mike Modano’s final home game with the Dallas Stars.
“It’s a pretty neat experience for me, being able to play in those games after watching those guys my whole life,” Beleskey said.
Tkachuk has been with the Blues since a trade from Phoenix in 2000-01 aside from a brief stint during the Thrashers’ playoff drive in 2006-07 and received a prolonged standing ovation after he was introduced on the starting line along with Paul Kariya and Brad Boyes. A prototype power forward in his prime, he’s one of only four players to accumulate 1,000 points and 2,000 penalty minutes.
“I was there for his first game and I guess I’m here for his last game,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, a former teammate of Tkachuk’s with the Winnipeg Jets. “Keith’s been a competitor a long, long time.”
Surrounded by his three children, wife and parents, Tkachuk was honoured in a post-game ceremony and told fans “Thank you very much, you’ll be seeing me in St. Louis the rest of my life.”
Tkachuk fed the puck across the slot to Carlo Colaiacovo for a power play goal that tied it at 3 early in the third. He has 427 points in 541 games with St. Louis, along with 676 penalty minutes, and team broadcaster Darren Pang said on a Twitter feed that Tkachuk would not play in the season finale Saturday at Nashville.
“If he keeps making plays like that, it might entice him to play another year,” teammate David Backes said. “Obviously, he’s put in the time, put in the effort, awesome career.”
Tkachuk announced his retirement on Wednesday, news that team president John Davidson had anticipated.
“It was emotional for him,” Davidson said. “He tries to put on that tough guy from Boston attitude, but he’s really a softy.”
The Ducks lost for only the second time in regulation (25-2-7) when leading after two periods. Anaheim got outshot 18-5 in the third period, two of the four goals on power plays, and 49-28 overall.
“We got in a little bit of penalty trouble at the end,” goalie Curtis McElhinney said. “They got some momentum going and capitalzied on it.”
Among the tributes to Tkachuk during the game was a fan sign that read “Thanks for the Teeth, Walt.” – a reference to Tkachuk losing four teeth and undergoing seven root canals after taking the puck in the mouth from the stick of teammate T.J. Oshie earlier in the season.
Beleskey scored unassisted for the game’s first goal, also his first point in eight games, after stealing an outlet pass from Brad Winchester. He put Anaheim ahead 3-2 at 15:35 of the second on a shot that trickled past goalie Chris Mason.
NOTES: The Blues announced their 33rd sellout of 19,150, although it appeared there were several hundred no-shows. … Five Ducks veterans, including Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer and Saku Koivu, didn’t even make the trip. Ryan Getzlaf missed his eighth game with a left ankle sprain. Carlyle said veterans are “probable” to play in Sunday’s finale. … The Blues have shut down defencemen Barret Jackman and Roman Polak, both with upper body injuries, along with forwards Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and T.J. Oshie (upper body). … Ryan, who scored unassisted in the second, had four goals in four games against St. Louis.