Tkachuk nets two as Blues clinch playoff berth

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Keith Tkachuk is one of only two players left
on the St. Louis Blues’ roster from the last playoff run. A big
game from the 37-year-old veteran helped them make it to the
postseason again after a three-season drought.

Tkachuk scored twice for the first time since opening night and
added an assist in a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets
on Friday night.

“It’s just a special moment,” Tkachuk said. “This is an
incredible feeling to see what we went through over the last
couple of years.”

Andy McDonald and Tkachuk scored power-play goals on two of the
Blues’ first three shots for a fast start against Columbus, no
doubt flat two days after making it into the playoffs for the
first time in franchise history.

“We just came off an emotional win,” Columbus’ Rick Nash said.
“They had everything to play for, and they just outplayed us. It
was a do-or-die game for them.”

Columbus is in sixth place in the Western Conference, two points
ahead of the Blues, 92-90, and wraps up its regular season
Saturday at home against Minnesota. If the Blues and Blue
Jackets finish in a tie, St. Louis would get the better seed
after winning the season series 5-1.

“It was a tough loss,” Nash said. “Now we have to worry about
tomorrow night.”

Tkachuk, by far the oldest of the Blues, enjoyed a season-best
three-point night and has three goals and four assists the last
three games.

Chris Mason contributed a solid night in goal in his 32nd
consecutive start for the Blues, who got a chance to clinch in
front a sellout crowd in their home finale after Nashville’s 8-4
loss at Minnesota in its season finale.

“To do this at home is pretty special,” Mason said. “With one
minute left, I could barely hear myself think. I can just
imagine what the playoffs are going to be like.”

The Predators’ game in Minnesota ended with 8:41 to go in St.
Louis and the Blues up by two, and fans erupted when the score
was finally relayed by the P.A. announcer with about 2 minutes
to go.

READ ALSO:  Buzz on Weber, Parise, Yashin and Nabokov

The Predators, Ducks and Blues, who wrap up the regular season
Sunday at Colorado, entered the night in a three-way tie for
seventh in the Western Conference.

Andy Murray won his 100th game in 2 seasons as Blues coach,
guiding a team that has been the NHL’s best the second half of
the season at 24-9-7 despite missing stars Erik Johnson, Paul
Kariya and Eric Brewer much or all of the season. Kariya could
be back after undergoing a pair of hip operations for the

Murray said he didn’t watch the scoreboard at all during the
game. In the final minute the Blues’ accomplishment gave him

“You kind of choke up a little bit,” Murray said. “I had to get
off the bench pretty quick after the game, I’ll tell you that.
How can you not be emotional about something like that? People
going crazy.”

The Blues, last in the Western Conference as late as Feb. 15,
reached 40 wins for the first since 2002-03. Tkachuk and
defenseman Barret Jackman are the lone holdovers from the last
playoff team.

St. Louis ended the Blue Jackets’ franchise-record seven-game
road unbeaten streak (4-0-3) and limited the losers to 17 shots,
one above Columbus’ season worst.

McDonald scored his 10th goal off Tkachuk’s feed through the
crease at 3:19 of the first, only 16 seconds after Kris Russell
was whistled for interference, and Tkachuk deflected the puck
past Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason at 7:12 of the first while
Jared Boll was serving a double-minor.

“Everybody was pretty calm in the locker room, but we did jump
out,” Tkachuk said. “We forced them to take penalties because we
were moving, and we capitalized on it.”

Columbus scored on the first shot of the second period, with
Jiri Novotny getting an empty net after Chris Mason was drawn
out at 4:25. The Blues answered with a goal on their first shot
of the second, with the puck appearing to deflect off Tkachuk’s
calf on Jay McKee’s dump-in.