Work in Sports
ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- The St. Louis Blues took a while to get untracked but got their much-anticipated playoff run off to a good start.
Rookie Jochen Hecht had two goals, including the go-ahead tally early in the second period, and added an assist to lead the top-seeded Blues to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game One of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
With leading scorer Pavol Demitra still recovering from a concussion, Hecht stepped up for the Presidents' Trophy winners. He answered an early goal by Dave Lowry by scoring 5:41 into the first period, then broke a 2-2 deadlock at 2:29 of the second.
Hecht got to a rebound of Jamal Mayers' shot at the top of the slot, skated to the left faceoff circle and put a wrist shot over goaltender Steve Shields, who had come far out of his crease.
"We played (them) a lot during the regular season. It helped a lot and it is still hockey. It is just a little bit faster and harder on the body," Hecht said. "It bounced my way tonight. It is about the way you play. If you play hard, you get the chances."
A 1995 second-round draft pick from Germany, Hecht also set up Chris Pronger's insurance goal on the power play at 3:15 of the third period. Rookie Marty Reasoner gave St. Louis a 5-2 cushion at 8:49 with his first career playoff goal.
"In a number of games this year, we did not count on any particular line or player, and yet somebody surfaced with a big game," Blues coach Joel Quenneville said. "Jochen Hecht had great patience with the puck and he made some big plays to set up goals. He had an outstanding game."
The Blues, who finished 27 points ahead of the Sharks during the season, host Game Two on Saturday afternoon.
Defenseman Mike Rathje had a goal and an assist for San Jose, which was without flu-ridden left wing Jeff Friesen.
"When you open on the road, you usually have nothing to lose. And they played hard," Quenneville said of the Sharks. "In the first game of the playoffs, they turned up the pressure, did a good job finishing checks. And when that happens, you do not do as good a job in terms of puck possession."
Lowry, who spent five seasons in St. Louis, stung the Blues 46 seconds into the game when he took a pass from Vincent Damphousse and put a wrist shot from the right circle over goalie Roman Turek's left shoulder. It was his first game in 25 games since November 18.
"This is the time of year when role-players can come in and have an impact on the game," Lowry said.
Hecht tied it just under five minutes later and Lubos Bartecko put St. Louis in front at 7:35. But the Sharks got even before the period ended as Rathje's slap shot from above the right circle trickled past Turek for his first goal in 22 games since February 15.
Hecht had the only tally of the second period and Pronger gave St. Louis the game's first two-goal advantage 3:15 into the third. Off a goalmouth scramble, the 6-6 defenseman batted the puck out of mid-air and past a helpless Shields.
Pronger was one of a handful of Blues targeted by the Sharks. He was shaken up briefly after checked into the boards by veteran winger Tony Granato.
"It is a part of life. You have to deal with it," said Pronger, the Blues captain and a favorite for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman. "I do not see why it would not be this intense. It has been like that all year."
Reasoner backhanded a rebound over Shields at 8:49, a little less than five minutes before a shorthanded goal by San Jose captain Owen Nolan capped the scoring.
Shields stopped 32 shots, while Turek, who was second in the league during the regular with a 1.95 goals-against average, made 28 saves.
"He was fine tonight," Sharks coach Darryl Sutter said of his goalie. "He kept us in the game, no question."