ST. LOUIS – With the game already well in hand, the St. Louis Blues turned their attention to helping Keith Tkachuk reach a milestone.
Tkachuk scored the 498th and 499th goals of his career in the Blues’ 3-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, and coach Andy Murray left him out on the ice late in the game so the veteran could try for No. 500 in the team’s final home game.
“Andy played me a lot there in the third,” Tkachuk said. “I think it’s the most he’s played me all year. It was nice. It was almost a little embarrassing, everyone trying to feed me all the time.”
Tkachuk got his 26th of the season and second of the game on a beautiful feed into the slot from Paul Kariya following a two-on-one break as the pass got through Columbus defenceman Ron Hainsey 1:30 into the third period for a 3-0 lead.
“(Tkachuk’s) such a big body and so powerful,” Kariya said. “You know where he’s going. Defencemen can’t stop him. That’s why he’s got 500 goals in his career. He’s a powerhouse and it’s been a pleasure to play with him.”
Tkachuk’s bid for goal No. 500 came with 8:21 to play in the game, but his slap shot from the top of the left circle was handled by Pascal Leclaire.
Tkachuk had another chance at the hat trick with 3:04 remaining, but a pass from Brad Boyes was smothered by Leclaire. Kariya made another bid to Tkachuk with a centring feed with 1:49 to play, but the pass into the crease was just out of Tkachuk’s reach as the Blues forward went crashing into the Blue Jackets goal.
“It would have been nice to get it in front of the home crowd,” Tkachuk said. “I want to win. It’s a number. I’m blessed to be in the NHL, to play in the NHL for a long time. I’m even more blessed to play with great players over the years. That’s the reason why I’m at the number I’m at.”
Kariya added two assists on Tkachuk’s goals, and Manny Legace earned the 27th shutout of his career as the Blues closed out their home slate with their 20th home win of the season.
Boyes also scored his team-leading 42nd goal of the season for the Blues, who won all four matchups with the Blue Jackets at home this season. Legace stopped 25 shots for his fifth shutout of the season.
“The second half of the year just hasn’t gone our way,” said Legace, who improved to 17-4-1 in his career against Columbus, including 4-0 this season.
“The boys in here were all fired up to try and get something back to the fans. The first part of our year went very well for us. The second part just went the total opposite. We wanted to show the thanks to the fans that have been with us all year.”
The Blue Jackets, who dropped their fifth game in six decisions going 1-4-1 in those contests, were outscored 14-2 in their last three games in St. Louis.
“I thought we played really good,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We played really hard. We had a lot of scoring chances. We were outcompeted on their first two power plays. We didn’t get clears and they went in our net. We missed our chances. We missed the net and I thought the third period, we ran out of gas a little bit.”
Despite being outshot 13-7 in the opening period, the Blues grabbed a 2-0 lead on power-play goals by Boyes and Tkachuk.
The Blues, who came in with the worst power-play ranking in the league at 13.5 per cent, were 2-for-3 in the opening period. Boyes got things started at 8:36 when he fired a shot from the left circle past Leclaire after taking a pass from rookie Erik Johnson.
With Columbus’ Andrew Murray in the box for interference, Tkachuk made it 2-0 at 15:54 when he deflected in a slap shot from Kariya that got through Leclaire’s pads.
With the two power-play goals, the Blues scored six goals with the man advantage against the Blue Jackets at home, including five in the last two meetings in St. Louis.
“I don’t know what it is,” Columbus forward Rick Nash said. “I don’t have no idea. I wish I knew. I don’t know what the problem is. They have some talented players on the power play.”
Columbus’ Michael Peca missed out on a chance to slice the Blues’ lead in half when his shot from the right circle hit the left post 1:21 into the second period.
Notes: Hitchcock coached the 900th game of his NHL career Saturday. The 56-year-old also coached in Dallas and Philadelphia before joining Columbus on Nov. 22, 2006. He’s the 20th coach in NHL history to reach the milestone. Nash had a streak of seven straight games scoring a goal against the Blues snapped. Blues F Jamal Mayers (eye) missed his first game of the season Saturday after being injured in the first period Thursday at Nashville.