Work in Sports
ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- It wasn't pretty, but the St. Louis Blues survived.
St. Louis squandered an early three-goal lead but forced a sixth game in its Western Conference quarterfinal series with a 5-3 victory over the stubborn San Jose Sharks as Chris Pronger's power-play tally broke a third-period tie.
Scott Young added an empty-net goal with 39 seconds remaining for the Blues, who captured the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top team during the regular season but needed a big third period to avoid elimination against the eighth-seeded Sharks.
"If we lose, we're done. This was an obvious turning point, but the next game is just as huge and I think everyone here realizes that," Pronger said.
St. Louis still has an uphill climb as it tries to overcome a three games to one deficit in the opening round for the second straight season. Game Six is Sunday at San Jose, where the Sharks took control of the series with a pair of victories.
"We had 20 minutes to save the season and we showed a lot coming out in the third period," said Blues defenseman Al MacInnis. "It's hard being down 3-1 and then to tie, but we pulled it through and we'll need to keep it going to Game Six."
"Either of us could have won the last four games," Sharks coach Darryl Sutter said. "The bottom line is that it's three games to two and we just need to stay with our game plan."
Pronger, the Blues captain and a leading candidate for the Norris Trophy, pinched in from the left point, took a cross-crease pass from rookie Jochen Hecht and put the puck into a half-empty net from the left side for his second goal of the series.
"We were disappointed, but we came out knowing that we were going to win the game," Pronger said. "It was obvious that we had to score a goal, and I was the one to do it this time."
St. Louis had been the less disciplined team in the first four games, but former Blue Stephane Matteau was in the penalty box for ramming Lubos Bartecko head-first into the boards when Pronger got the game-winner.
Nursing a one-goal lead, St. Louis actually had the better scoring chances in the third period. But Steve Shields denied Scott Pellerin on a breakaway and forced Pierre Turgeon to shoot off the side of the net to keep the Sharks in it.
But Young sealed the victory with his second goal of the series.
The Blues appeared ready to bury San Jose early, storming to a 3-0 lead early in the first period.
Rookie Ladislav Nagy opened the scoring at 4:04 with his first career playoff goal. He gathered a rebound of Dave Ellett's shot at the top of the crease, pivoted and wristed the puck over Shields.
MacInnis made it 2-0 on the power play just 35 seconds later, leaning into a rolling puck and beating Shields to the stick side with a slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle.
Fellow defenseman Ricard Persson gave St. Louis a three-goal cushion at 7:13 when his wrist shot from the bottom of the left circle dribbled between the pads of Shields, who was hugging the left goalpost.
The Sharks did not get their first shot until Vincent Damphousse tested Roman Turek with 6:43 left in the opening period. But they halted the momentum on the power play at 18:52 on Mike Ricci's third goal of the series. He took a touch pass from Damphousse and, with his back to the net, shoveled a backhander under the crossbar.
Jeff Friesen cut the margin to 3-2 with 7:34 left in the second period as San Jose got another favorable bounce. After circling behind the net, Friesen's centering attempt hit defenseman Jeff Finley's skate and got behind a helpless Turek.
MacInnis was penalized for high-sticking with 3:31 remaining in the period and rookie Brad Stuart tied it 34 seconds into the ensuing power play. Turek appeared screened when Stuart's one-time slapper from inside the blue line beat him between the pads.
With the Kiel Center silenced, the Sharks nearly grabbed the lead in the final minute of the period. Ricci and Friesen broke in 2-on-none, but Friesen was hooked from behind by rookie Marty Reasoner and never got off a shot.
"We didn't want the second period to end," Friesen said. "We knew we had to work hard and we couldn't quit because that's a great hockey team there. But we took a couple of penalties and they scored the power-play goal."
Shields made 28 saves, while Turek stopped 22 shots.