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Vancouver 5, St. Louis 3
Posted: Saturday April 19, 2003 02:32 AM
St. Louis Blues
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Vancouver Canucks
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Ticker) -- The Vancouver Canucks' top line picked the right game to finally get going.

Todd Bertuzzi, Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund scored second-period goals as the Canucks kept alive their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the St. Louis Blues, holding on for a 5-3 victory.

One of the top lines in hockey, Bertuzzi, Morrison and Naslund had been silenced in the first four games as they combined for just one goal. But with the Canucks facing elimination, they rose to the occasion, helping Vancouver cut St. Louis' lead in the series to three games to two.

Bertuzzi snapped a 1-1 tie with 11:24 left in the middle period. Morrison scored at 16:24 and Naslund tallied on the power play just over two minutes later, making it 4-1. The four goals matched the Canucks' total through the first four games of the series.

"We've been getting the chances up to this game but they haven't gone in," Bertuzzi said. "As a goal scorer, you understand that if you keep getting those chances they'll eventually go in. We're confident in here now. I can see it building up."

"I thought our team's effort was real good," Canucks coach Marc Crawford said. "We played with a lot of determination, a lot of intensity. Our second period was our best second period of the year. We showed great poise and we just took over the game from that point on."

The Canucks needed the offense as the Blues nearly rallied in the third period, pulling within 4-3 with 56 seconds remaining on Martin Rucinsky's third goal of the series.

But just seven seconds later, Sami Salo blasted a slap shot by Blues goaltender Chris Osgood.

Tyson Nash and Cory Stillman also scored for the Blues, who have another chance to end the series at home Sunday. If necessary, Game Seven would be here Tuesday.

"I like how we battled," Blues coach Joel Quenneville said. "We competed. We got back into the game at the end. Now we've got another challenge going into Game Six. We'll regroup and get ready to play. We feel Game Six is our turn."

Fighting to keep their season going, the Canucks needed just 2:15 to break on top. Defenseman Brent Sopel gathered a loose puck along the right boards and wristed a shot through traffic that eluded Osgood.

It was rare soft goal for Osgood, who entered the contest stopping 90 of 94 shots for a .956 save percentage, the best of any goaltender in the playoffs.

Canucks goaltender Dan Cloutier was the complete opposite of Osgood. He was last among netminders remaining in the postseason with a .869 save percentage after stopping 99 of 112 shots in the first four games.

But in the opening period, Cloutier made all the big saves to help his team set the tone. He made a blocker save on Christian Laflamme's shot from the slot with just under 17 minutes left.

With 14:05 to go in the period, Cloutier also received a fortunate bounce when Valeri Bure rang a shot off the left goal post.

Cloutier finished with 13 saves in the period. His best stop came off a redirection of a shot by Shjon Podein at 7:16, bringing the sellout crowd at General Motors Place to its feet.

"I wanted to play well," said Cloutier, who finished with 29 saves. "This was a must win. I wanted to go in there and play strong in front of my team."

Cloutier's first miscue led to the tying goal 7:02 into the second period. From behind his net, Cloutier lost the puck to Ryan Johnson, who found Nash. Nash skated out from behind the net and put a quick backhander home for his second goal of the series.

But just 1:34 later, the Canucks regained the lead for good. Working in front of the net, Bertuzzi shifted the puck from his backhand to forehand and shoveled a shot past Osgood for his first goal of the series.

"(Matt) Cooke tried to center it early and it came back to him and he got me the puck," Bertuzzi said. "My only option was to put it between my legs and try to go far side. It was nice to see it go in."

After Cloutier denied Doug Weight from down low with 5:08 left in the second period, the Canucks extended the lead just under two minutes later Defenseman Marek Malik set up the goal, drawing a pair of Blues to him in the left circle before he found Morrison, who slipped in front of Dallas Drake in the low slot and put a shot by Osgood, making it 3-1.

"Our backs are still against the wall," Morrison said. "All we're focusing on now is the next game - nothing else."

The Blues seemed to become unglued as Johnson was called for elbowing at 17:17 and Chris Pronger took a slashing penalty 42 seconds later, giving the Canucks a two-man advantage.

It took the Canucks just 29 seconds to convert. From the bottom of the right circle, Naslund unleashed a wrist shot that hit Osgood's right skate before caroming into the net. It was Naslund's second goal of the series.

"The second wasn't a strong period," Blues center Doug Weight said. "We took some bad penalties and they got momentum. They fed off their power-play goal."

In the third period, the Blues made the Canucks work for the victory. Bure had a goal disallowed less than two minutes into the period, when it was ruled the net was off its moorings before the puck crossed the goal line.

With just over 15 minutes left in the period, Cloutier denied Stillman on a breakaway.

"Cloutier was big. He was great," Naslund said. "When he plays well, he's the key to our team. He almost won it by himself."

But Stillman tallied a power-play goal at 7:57, helping the Blues close to 4-2. Rucinsky scored with an extra attacker, his third goal of the series with under a minute left to further tighten things.

But Salo sealed it with 49 seconds to go with his first goal of the series.

"I thought we played well in the first," Osgood said. "We got some chances. They got a lucky break on their first goal and they came at us in the second and third."

The Blues again played without Norris Trophy candidate Al MacInnis, who missed his second straight game with a shoulder injury.

 


 
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