Blues beat Hurricanes 5-4 in shootout, clinch 3rd in Central
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The St. Louis Blues gave up more goals than usual — but not enough to prevent them from locking up their playoff seed.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored in the fourth round of the shootout, and the Blues beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 on Saturday night.
Scottie Upshall scored a short-handed goal, Alexander Steen, Ryan Reaves and Ivan Barbashev added goals and Alex Pietrangelo and Tarasenko had two assists apiece. The Blues clinched the No. 3 seed in the Central Division after earning at least a point for the 16th time in 18 games, and will play second-seeded Minnesota in the first round.
“It’s one of those things where you just want to win as much as you can,” goalie Carter Hutton said. “You hate to say you want to play a certain team or anything like that. For us, it’s more about going into the playoffs playing the right way and picking up a big win here, and we’ve got one more to go (Sunday) and then it’s Minnesota.”
Jeff Skinner scored twice, giving him an NHL-leading 17 goals since March 1, and Joakim Nordstrom and Klas Dahlbeck also had goals for Carolina while Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce each assisted on both goals by Skinner.
“The dangerous guys were dangerous,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said, referring to Skinner and Tarasenko.
Hutton made 34 saves for the Blues, while Cam Ward stopped 35 shots for Carolina, which has lost five in a row — a slide that coincided with its mathematical elimination from the playoff race for the eighth straight year, the longest active drought in the league.
Hutton made three straight stops in the tiebreaker after Lee Stempniak scored in Round 1. Tarasenko ended it by beating Ward with a hard snap shot.
Playing its home finale, Carolina — which had been shut out in its previous two games on home ice — found a way to score with surprising frequency against the Blues, who entered having allowed just 54 goals since Feb. 1 — the fewest in the NHL, excluding the team goal awarded for shootout wins. They had given up just 34 goals in their previous 23 road games.
“Every team, whether they’re in the playoffs or not, it’s playoff hockey,” Reaves said. “These guys, they’re obviously playing for next year, playing for spots, and we’ve caught a lot of those teams that are hungry to prove something for next year down the stretch. It’s been playoff hockey for the last month, basically, so we’ve got to amp it up a little bit right now.”
Upshall put the Blues up 4-3 with his goal 2:03 into the third, which came when he chased down a loose puck near the boards and skated toward Ward, deking him before flipping a forehand into the net.
Skinner’s second goal tied it at 4, tucking the puck inside the post with 10:46 remaining, His earlier goal came on a wrist shot with 28.1 seconds remaining in the first period.
The Hurricanes broke their 129-minute, 10-second scoring drought at PNC Arena at 9:10 of the first, when Dahlbeck snapped a shot from the blue line that got past Hutton and made it 1-all.
“It was good to return to our identity,” Peters said. “I thought it was a hard-working, honest game. ... We had our chances.”
NOTES: C Vladimir Sobotka was scratched by the Blues, who on Thursday signed him to a three-year, $10.5 million contract to return to the team after three years in Russia. ... The Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association selected Skinner as team MVP and D Justin Faulk as the Josef Vasicek Award winner for cooperation with the media. ... LW Bryan Bickell, who returned to the team while fighting multiple sclerosis, was chosen by his teammates as the Steve Chiasson Award winner for determination and dedication to the sport. Bickell is retiring after the season.
Blues: Return home to play Colorado on Sunday in the regular-season finale.
Hurricanes: Visit Philadelphia on Sunday in the season finale.