Originally created 04/22/00

Blues stay alive



ST. LOUIS -- The NHL's regular-season champions are alive in the playoffs, thanks to big games from their biggest names.

Chris Pronger snapped a third-period tie with a power-play goal and Al MacInnis and Pierre Turgeon also played pivotal roles as the St. Louis Blues staved off elimination with a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks in their Western Conference first-round series Friday night.

The Sharks carry a 3-2 series lead into Sunday's Game 6 in San Jose.

In addition to scoring his second goal of the playoffs, Pronger kept his cool. He spent only two minutes in the penalty box after totaling 24 minutes the first four games.

"What game were you watching?" Pronger joked. "I've been disciplined the whole series."

MacInnis scored his first goal of the playoffs after being shut out on 21 shots the first four games. Turgeon, minus-3 with only two points the first four games, had two assists.

"Their top players were certainly their top players tonight," Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart said. "They did a good job of coming out and throwing everything at us early."

The Blues, who threw away a 3-0 first-period lead before righting themselves, are trying to avoid becoming the first Presidents' Trophy winner since the 1991 Chicago Blackhawks to get eliminated in the first round.

St. Louis never lost more than two straight games in the regular season.

"We've got another day, that's for sure," Pronger said. "The next game is just as huge."

The Sharks had won three straight after losing the playoff opener.

"We're still a confident team," Owen Nolan said. "We didn't expect to sweep them four games. They finished first for a reason."

St. Louis also trailed 3-1 in the first round last year against the Phoenix Coyotes, and prevailed in seven games. Fifteen teams have surmounted a 3-1 series deficit in NHL history, including the Blues on three occasions.

Mike Ricci had a goal and an assist and Vincent Damphor their third first-round upset in seven seasons. Ricci and Stuart scored on the power play for San Jose, which has five man-advantage goals in the series.

Pronger got his second goal of the playoffs at 3:54 of the third, tapping the puck into the net after a cross-ice feed from Jochen Hecht. The goal came with Stephane Matteau off for boarding after running Lubos Bartecko headfirst into the boards.

"It was just a great pass from Hecht," Pronger said. "They started to really sink in deep and it was just a matter of him getting it through the pile and on my tape. It was pretty much an empty net from there."

Scott Young added an empty-net goal with 33.9 seconds left, off another feed from Hecht.

The Blues came out flying, with three good scoring chances stopped by Steve Shields before Ladislav Nagy, a 20-year-old rookie, scored on the rebound of a Dave Ellett drive at 4:04. Thirty seconds later, and only five seconds after Marco Sturm was whistled for high-sticking, MacInnis scored on a slap shot at 4:39.

"Obviously, it's a much bigger relief to win," MacInnis said. "But I've had quite a few shots and haven't had much success, so it's nice to be able to contribute."

At 7:13, Ricard Persson, making his first start of the playoffs, slipped the puck through a maze of skates from the side of the net to make it 3-0.

The Blues took the game's first 10 shots, and goalie Roman Turek didn't even handle the puck until the 10:30 mark. The Sharks got their first shot, by Damphousse from the right circle on a power play, at 13:16 of the first.

San Jose took advantage of Blues penalties later in the period to rally, narrowing the shots gap to 11-7 at the end of the period. Ricci scored his third goal of the playoffs on a backhander from in front of the net on a power play at 18:52.

The Sharks carried the play in the second period, after which the Blues' shots advantage was whittled to 20-19, and tied it on a backhander by Jeff Friesen at 12:26 and a drive from the point by Stuart at 17:03. Friesen notched his first point of the playoffs when his shot deflected off the skate of Blues defenseman Jeff Finley, continuing a trend of fortuitous bounces for the Sharks.

"It's a case where you don't want the second period to end," said Friesen, the Sharks' second-leading scorer with 61 points in the regular season.

Turek was screened on Stuart's goal, which came on a power play.