Originally created 04/02/00

NHL reaching playoff pitch

ST. LOUIS -- Although the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings couldn't put the puck in the net, it was far from a boring scoreless tie.

There was too much at stake as the Blues took another step toward finishing first overall in the NHL, tying their closest pursuers on Saturday.

The end of the game reflected the intensity as Blues captain Chris Pronger tangled with Martin Lapointe in the Detroit end and several others joined the scrum.

"It was as close to a playoff game as you're going to get," said Pronger, who played more than 35 minutes. "It wasn't like both teams laid back, that's for sure."

Roman Turek stopped 17 shots for the Blues, who lead the league with a franchise-record 109 points. Chris Osgood made 29 stops for the Red Wings, who are second overall with 106 points and shut out the Blues on the road for the second straight time.

Detroit also won 2-0 Feb. 10 at St. Louis.

"There weren't a lot of chances, but there were some good ones," Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman said. "When you get a double shutout you have to get pretty good goaltending."

It was the first scoreless tie in 199 meetings between the teams, each of whom were without their leading scorers. Detroit's Steve Yzerman, who has 79 points, is sidelined with a sprained knee, and St. Louis' Pavol Demitra (75) is recovering from a concussion.

The last time a Blues game ended 0-0 was Feb. 18, 1999, against Florida, and the last time the Red Wings played in a scoreless game was Dec. 10, 1996, against Edmonton. The Red Wings had entered on a roll, winning four straight and outscoring their opponents 26-8, and lead the NHL with 268 goals.

Since both teams are in the Western Conference's Central Division, the tie was a positive for the Blues. The second place finisher in the division gets the No. 4 seed in the conference playoffs.

"It's not too fair, but we can't do anything about it," Osgood said. "I think the teams from fifth through eighth are all pretty good anyway."

Detroit has three games to go, and the Blues have four, and this was the final head-to-head match in a series that ended 3-2-1 in favor of Detroit.

The teams could meet in the second round of the playoffs regardless of who wins the regular-season title. Detroit has eliminated the Blues three of the past four seasons, winning the Stanley Cup two of those seasons.

"It's a new year, and with each year you gain confidence and experience," Pronger said. "The last three or four years the guys that have been here have learned a lot in the playoffs and it's something we can build off, hopefully."

The Blues got off the only three shots in overtime, with Osgood's skate save on Chris Pronger the biggest with about three minutes to go. Lapointe of the Red Wings had the best chance, hitting the left goal post with about 20 seconds to go.

"I just made sort of a quick shot, but the puck went up," Lapointe said. "It floated a little bit."

Marty Reasoner and Stephane Richer each had chances to win it with about three minutes to go in regulation for St. Louis. Richer had two swipes at the puck, but couldn't get it past a prone Osgood.

"Do we need to talk about it?" Richer joked. "It seemed like Osgood was making all the big saves."

The Blues, who last won a division title in 1987, are 6-1-2 in their last nine games.

Nicklas Lidstrom's 10-game scoring streak ended for the Red Wings. Lidstrom leads NHL defensemen with 70 points.


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