Fuhr shines as St. Louis beats Phoenix Coyotes 3-1
Posted: Tuesday May 04, 1999 01:13 PM
PHOENIX (AP) -- As he has done so often in his career, Al MacInnis made the difference for another playoff team.
MacInnis, the highest-scoring defenseman in the NHL, sent St. Louis to an early lead with a long-distance goal and assisted on two others as the Blues beat the Phoenix Coyotes 3-1 Thursday night to take a 1-0 lead in their first-round series.
"A lot of things have been going pretty good for us of late," he said. "It just so happens that we seem to be playing our best hockey, our special teams have been solid and the way Grant Fuhr has been playing the last 17 or 18 games has been outstanding."
Fuhr had 26 saves and didn't allow a goal until Robert Reichel put a wrist shot past him with 1:52 left in the game.
But the Blues' steady defense sealed the contest when MacInnis picked up a loose puck and sent it to Scott Pellerin for an empty-net goal with 41.1 seconds remaining.
Fuhr started the scoring play to help himself improve to 87-44 in the postseason, with 16 victories in 17 games against the former Winnipeg Jets. His 87th moved him one behind No. 2 Billy Smith on the all-time playoff-victory list. Colorado's Patrick Roy leads all goalies with 99.
"I think we played well defensively," Fuhr said. "It was a fairly tough night, but we did what we had to do."
The Coyotes, completing their third season in Phoenix, had home ice for only the third time in 14 postseasons and for the first time in 14 years, and they were 10-3 in first-round openers.
But MacInnis took the white-clad crowd out of it with an early goal, and the Coyotes seemed dispirited without top scorer Jeremy Roenick, who sustained a broken jaw and thumb against Dallas three games before the season ended.
The crowd wore white in honor of a longtime franchise tradition called a "Whiteout," carried over from when the team was in Winnipeg. The idea was to intimidate the visiting team.
"The noise was incredible," St. Louis coach Joel Quenneville said. "You couldn't even make the calls to the guys who were up. But that first goal was helpful. It quieted the fans down."
Phoenix, next-to-last in power-play scoring during the season, went 0-for-6 in this game and was saved from an even bigger loss only by Nikolai Khabibulin's 22 saves, many in the face of short-handed breakaways.
But Khabibulin, who fell to 7-10 in pursuit of the Stanley Cup, couldn't handle the one-timers that MacInnis and Jamie Rivers unleashed from the blue line in the first and second periods.
Rivers, who had only two goals during the season and six in his four-year career, made it 2-0 with a power-play goal with 2:36 left in the second period. He blasted a pass from Terry Yake past Khabibulin high on the stick side.
MacInnis' famed slap shot came into play early.
He scored his 33rd goal in 130 playoff games with a 65-foot shot from behind the Phoenix blue line 2:22 into the game, missing a power-play goal by one second. The sizzling riser appeared to hit the stick of a Phoenix defenseman and change direction just enough to fool Khabibulin.
"I got kind of lucky," MacInnis said. "I don't think you're going to score too many from out there on Khabibulin."
The Coyotes' defensemen were tentative by contrast, giving up the puck rather than shoot as time ticked away on their four first-period power plays.
In a series that Phoenix coach Jim Schoenfeld considered pivotal, his team had a 5-on-3 advantage -- with intimidating St. Louis defenseman Chris Pronger in the penalty box -- for 1:19 midway through the period, but couldn't score.
"We made terrible decisions," Schoenfeld said. "I'm not going to say when or where, but we practiced our power play a lot. We have our plays that we run on the 5-on-3, and then we went completely brain-dead."
Fuhr, who was 2-0-1 against Phoenix this season, was sharp from the onset. He stopped Keith Tkachuk on two forehands midway through the period and had 10 saves when the period ended.
He settled the outcome during Phoenix's sixth power play that began 9:03 into the third period.
"I figured this would be a long series," Tocchet said. "Obviously the home team would like to win the first game, but in the playoffs, you're going to lose a game. Now we have to see what kind of team we have Saturday."
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