Finley to the rescue
Defenseman scores key goal; Blues force Game 7
Posted: Tuesday May 04, 1999 12:30 PM
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Phoenix Coyotes' season isn't the only thing at stake now.
After the St. Louis Blues forced Game 7 with three straight goals Sunday in a 5-3 victory, Phoenix coach Jim Schoenfeld's future with the team is in serious jeopardy. So serious that he guaranteed a victory Tuesday night.
"I would tell you that I'll stake my job on it, but that's already been done," Schoenfeld said. "So I'll just say we're going to win Game 7."
The Blues, who trailed 3-1 in the series but have won the last two games, reacted mostly with amusement to Schoenfeld's bold words.
"If they don't, I guess he's in trouble," captain Chris Pronger said with a smile.
Even Schoenfeld's players were a bit surprised to hear it.
"Who starts that?" captain Keith Tkachuk said to reporters. "You guys? We don't need any of that before Game 7."
The Blues had their biggest offensive game of the series without a point from Al MacInnis, their leading scorer the first five games. Defenseman Jeff Finley, who scored only one goal in the regular season, broke a third-period tie.
"It's always exciting to score," Finley said. "When you don't do it very often and you get a goal like that, it feels great. That's the biggest goal of my career, definitely."
Finley had a goal and two assists in 30 regular-season games with the Blues and has only eight goals in 385 career games. Until this game he also had been one of the Blues' weak links on defense with a minus-4 for the series.
But he had two big shots in the crucial sequence. Nikolai Khabibulin stopped Finley's first drive from the left point, but Pierre Turgeon gathered in the rebound and swept a backhand pass out front. Finley skated in a few strides before blasting the game-winner at 8:59.
Craig Conroy scored twice, including a late third-period goal that made it a two-goal gap for the Blues. Conroy closed it out with a rebound shot with 4:11 to go.
Scott Young, who got the winner in overtime in Game 5, had a goal and an assist for the Blues. Turgeon, a disappointment most of the series, had three assists as the Blues perhaps surprised a crowd of 16,629, their smallest in the playoffs since April 22, 1992.
The Blues had lost their last five playoff games at home, dropping Games 3 and 4 to Phoenix and falling three times in the second round against Detroit last season.
"If you depend on one or two guys in the playoffs, you won't win," Turgeon said. "Those scores are so huge."
Now the Blues will try to complete the climb and avoid a fourth first-round exit in six seasons.
Such comebacks used to be extremely rare, but six teams, including the Blues in 1991, have done it this decade. The Coyotes haven't made it out of the first round since 1987, when they were in Winnipeg, and coughed up a 3-1 series lead in 1990 and '92.
"I don't think anybody from the past is still there," said Mike Stapleton, perhaps forgetting that Tkachuk and Teppo Numminen were around in '92. "We can't carry their baggage with us. The Coyotes are a new organization, so I don't think we bring that with us."
Stephen Leach and Teppo Numminen also scored for the Coyotes. Dallas Drake, who leads the Coyotes with four goals and three assists, failed to score for the first time in the series.
Stapleton gave the Coyotes the early lead with his first career playoff goal at 2:20, blasting a slap shot over Fuhr's left shoulder. The Blues answered 36 seconds later as Conroy scored on a 2-on-1 break, and St. Louis took the lead on Young's power-play goal at 8:25.
Turgeon faked a shot before feeding the puck in the slot to Young, who had the winner in overtime in Game 5, and he beat Khabibulin one second before a roughing penalty to Shane Doan was to expire.
The Coyotes got off only one shot in the first 12 minutes of the second period, then scored twice in a span of 1:33 to take the lead. Leach scored on a rebound at 12:18 after Olev Tversdosky hit the goal post, then Numminen made it 3-2 when he scored off a cross-ice feed from Robert Reichel at 13:51.
Leach's goal came after a lengthy review. The Coyotes' Louie DeBrusk was in the crease, but it was ruled he was pushed.
Pronger tied it for the third time with another power-play goal, tapping in the rebound of a slap shot by Young from the point at 17 minutes.
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