National Hockey League

 
      ***** National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network *****
                              Saturday, April 19th
                              (All times Eastern)
 
 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (0-1) AT ST. LOUIS BLUES (1-0), 3 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The opener of the highly-anticipated Western Conference
 quarterfinal series between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks did not
 disappoint, On Saturday afternoon, the clubs will try for an encore
 performance at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
 
 Two overtime periods weren't enough to decide Game 1 at the Scottrade Center,
 but Alexander Steen finally ended it for the Blues with his game-winning goal
 just 26 seconds into triple overtime. The thrilling victory gave St. Louis a
 1-0 edge in the best-of-seven series and the club will try to make it a two-
 game cushion before the series shifts to Chicago for Games 3 and 4.
 
 The Blues trailed by a goal late in regulation, but Jaden Schwartz tallied the
 equalizer with 1:45 left in the third to force an extra session.
 
 After a pair of entertaining overtimes, Steen ended the longest game in Blues
 history when he scored from point-blank range off a nice set up from Steve Ott
 to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven set.
 
 "We know stuff is going to happen," Steen said. "We might get down, might be
 up in the series, and we just stick with it and keep playing."
 
 Steen is coming off the best regular season of his NHL career, posting career
 bests in goals (33) and points (62) over 68 games. The 30-year-old notched his
 fifth career postseason goal with Thursday's winner.
 
 Adam Cracknell and Vladimir Tarasenko also scored for the Blues, who were able
 to shrug off a late-season funk to win their first game of the 2014 playoffs.
 St. Louis dropped its final six regular-season games to fall into second place
 in the Central Division heading into the postseason.
 
 "I think the players really put a lot into this because they didn't want this
 season to just kind of wilt away," St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock said,
 referring to his team's struggles down the stretch in the regular season.
 "They're going to put up a fight here."
 
 Former Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller saw his Blues playoff debut get off to a
 rocky start before settling into the game. Miller, who was acquired from
 Buffalo at the trade deadline, allowed three goals on seven shots in the first
 period but turned aside the final 35 shots he faced to help St. Louis hang on
 for the victory.
 
 St. Louis won despite playing without forwards Patrik Berglund and T.J.
 Oshie, but both players were able to participate in an optional skate on
 Friday. Oshie is considered questionable for Game 2, while Berglund expects to
 miss Saturday's test.
 
 Brent Seabrook notched a goal and an assist, while Johnny Oduya and Patrick
 Kane potted a goal apiece for the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks,
 who received 48 saves from Corey Crawford.
 
 Early on, Kane, who missed the final 12 games of the regular season with a
 lower-body injury, capped a high-scoring first period by breaking a 2-2
 deadlock when he converted a breakaway off a slick stretch pass from Jonathan
 Toews with just 1:36 left in the period.
 
 The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Kane beat Miller with a wicked wrister
 from the slot, but it was the last time the puck found the back of the St.
 Louis cage.
 
 "I know we had a couple power plays where we could have maybe scored and made
 it 4-2 which would have been nice," Kane said of his team failing to score
 after the first period. "It definitely would have been nice to get another one
 and give us a little insurance."
 
 The Blackhawks won their second Cup in four years last spring and are no
 stranger to mounting postseason comebacks. Chicago trailed Boston 2-1 in the
 Cup Finals a year ago before winning three straight to take the series and
 also overcame a 3-1 deficit to eliminate Detroit in the 2013 Western
 Conference semifinals.
 
 Game 3 of this series is scheduled for Monday in Chicago and the fourth test
 is set for Wednesday.
 
 COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (0-1) AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (1-0), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets will take another shot at the
 earning the first playoff win in team history on Saturday when they visit the
 Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center for Game 2 of the Eastern
 Conference quarterfinals.
 
 The Blue Jackets are in the postseason for just the second time in 13 seasons
 since entering the league as an expansion club in 2000-01. Columbus also
 qualified for the 2009 playoffs, but was swept by Detroit in four games during
 the opening round.
 
 Columbus actually held a 3-1 lead over Pittsburgh in Game 1 of this best-of-
 seven series on Wednesday, but the Penguins scored the game's final three
 goals to claim a 4-3 decision and drop the Blue Jackets to 0-5 all-time in
 postseason contests.
 
 Brandon Sutter scored the game-winner for Pittsburgh 8:18 into the third
 period after his team struggled in the early going. The Blue Jackets built a
 3-1 advantage under a minute into the second period, but Pittsburgh, which
 finished tied for the NHL's top power-play unit in the regular season, netted
 a pair of power-play goals 45 seconds apart to tie the game less than 2 1/2
 minutes into the middle stanza.
 
 The Penguins finished 2-for-3 on the power play, while Columbus converted just
 one of four opportunities with the man advantage.
 
 Sutter supplied the winner with a wrister from the right circle, while Marc-
 Andre Fleury made nine of his 31 saves over the final 20 minutes to help the
 Pens draw first blood in the series.
 
 "The more shots came, the more comfortable I felt," said Fleury, who was
 making his first postseason start since being pulled in the opening round of
 Pittsburgh's run to the Eastern Conference Finals last spring. "It just feels
 great to win that one."
 
 Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen each notched a goal and an assist, while Jussi
 Jokinen also lit the lamp for the Metropolitan Division champion Penguins, who
 went 5-0-0 against Columbus during the regular season.
 
 Evgeni Malkin, who sat out Pittsburgh's final 11 games with a sprained foot,
 added a pair of assists, while captain Sidney Crosby picked up a helper in the
 triumph.
 
 Jack Johnson collected a goal and an assist for Columbus, while Derek
 MacKenzie and Mark Letestu tallied a goal apiece. Sergei Bobrovsky, last
 season's Vezina Trophy winner, stopped 28 shots in the setback.
 
 "There's going to be ups and downs throughout a playoff series and they've
 only won one game, they've gotta win four," Johnson said of his team coming
 back for Game 2 after blowing a two-goal lead. "It's a war of attrition and
 you can't get down about this."
 
 Columbus played Game 1 without forwards Nick Foligno, Nathan Horton and R.J.
 Umberger, but at least one of those guys will be in the lineup on Saturday as
 Umberger expects to play for the first time since suffering an upper-body
 injury on April 6.
 
 A native of the Pittsburgh area, Umberger is eager to skate in another
 postseason tilt in the Steel City. The 31-year-old did face the Penguins in
 the 2008 playoffs at the Igloo while still a member of the Philadelphia
 Flyers.
 
 "I grew up going to these playoff games, this was my childhood and earlier in
 my career I got a chance to play in Mellon Arena," Umberger said. "The
 atmosphere was great (in Game 1) and I'm anxious and really excited to get in
 there."
 
 Foligno originally had been ruled out for Game 2, but he was able to practice
 on Thursday and is now considered questionable for Saturday's tilt. Horton,
 meanwhile, will be sidelined until at least the middle of May following
 abdominal surgery.
 
 The series will shift to Columbus following tonight's battle. Game 3 is
 scheduled for Monday at Nationwide Arena and the Blue Jackets also will host
 Game 4 on Wednesday.
 
 MINNESOTA WILD (0-1) AT COLORADO AVALANCHE (1-0), 9:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche pulled off a comeback victory in
 their first playoff game since 2010 and the Central Division champions hope to
 take a 2-0 series lead when they host the Minnesota Wild in Saturday's Game 2
 from the Pepsi Center.
 
 Paul Stastny was the hero for the Avalanche in Thursday's opener, scoring with
 13.4 seconds left in the third period to knot the score at 4-4 and then
 tallying the game-winner at 7:27 of overtime.
 
 The 5-4 decision was the first victory in the postseason for Colorado since
 taking Game 3 of a first-round series against San Jose on April 18, 2010. The
 Avs lost that set in six games and haven't won a postseason series since
 beating Minnesota in the opening round of the 2008 playoffs.
 
 Meanwhile, Minnesota, which lost to Chicago in the opening round last spring,
 hasn't won a playoff series since beating Vancouver in the 2003 Western
 Conference semifinals.
 
 Colorado claimed its first division title since 2003 this season and is the
 second seed in the West. After Thursday's win, the Avalanche are now 5-0-1
 against the Wild since the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
 
 The comeback triumph in Game 1 also marked Patrick Roy's first playoff win as
 an NHL head coach. Of course, the legendary goaltender won four Stanley Cup
 titles in his playing days, including two with Colorado in 1996 and 2001.
 
 With his team trailing 4-3 late in regulation, Roy made a bold decision to
 pull goaltender Semyon Varlamov in favor of the extra attacker with 3:01
 remaining in the third. The early pull paid off with Stastny's tying goal, but
 not before Avs defenseman Erik Johnson made a terrific hustle play to prevent
 an empty-net score that could have clinched the win for Minnesota.
 
 The Wild had a chance to extend their lead to two goals with Varlamov on the
 bench. Minnesota forward Erik Haula cleared the puck the length of the ice and
 the disc was headed for the net before Johnson hustled down and swept it away
 mere inches from the goal line.
 
 His play paid off a bit later as the Avalanche peppered Wild goaltender Ilya
 Bryzgalov with shots late in regulation and finally got one through. Holding
 the puck behind the net, Avs rookie Nathan MacKinnon sent a pass to the left
 point where Johnson blasted a shot with Stastny putting home the rebound under
 the crossbar from the right side to send the game to overtime.
 
 "It's just like every goal, there's four or five guys that make it happen,"
 said Stastny. "There was so much spin on that shot I didn't even see it go
 in."
 
 On Stastny's OT winner, Colorado's Tyson Barrie kept the puck in at the left
 point and was able to elude Minnesota forward Jason Pominville before pushing
 the puck to the low left side. From there, MacKinnon picked up the puck and
 skated around the right side where his pass was one-timed in by Stastny for
 the win.
 
 "We are confident in ourselves and we always play to win," said Stastny. "It's
 just a bit different pace out there, there's a lot more grinding and a lot
 more tedious. We have to get our rest and get ready for Saturday."
 
 Jamie McGinn and Ryan O'Reilly each posted a goal and an assist for the
 Avalanche, who are in the playoffs after a three-season absence. Colorado
 captain Gabriel Landeskog also had a goal in his postseason debut.
 
 Varlamov made 29 saves for Colorado to improve his career postseason record to
 11-9.
 
 The Avs played Game 1 without star forward Matt Duchene (knee) and defenseman
 John Mitchell (concussion). Both players will miss Game 2 as well.
 
 Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter, Kyle Brodziak and Haula scored for the Wild,
 who are back in the playoffs for a second straight season after missing out
 four straight years.
 
 Zach Parise had two assists and Bryzgalov stopped 26 shots for Minnesota,
 which claimed the top wild card spot in the Western Conference.
 
 "I think despite the outcome of the game we did a lot of good things out there
 tonight," said Parise. "We made some mistakes in the third that resulted in
 the puck being in our net, and it cost us."
 
 The Wild hope to pick up a win Saturday so it can head back to St. Paul with
 the series tied 1-1. Minnesota is hosting Games 3 and 4, with the next meeting
 scheduled for Monday at Xcel Energy Center.
 
 This is the third all-time playoff meeting between the clubs. The Wild won a
 2003 conference quarterfinals matchup in seven games, while the Avalanche
 knocked off Minnesota in six games during the same round in 2008.
 
 
 
 
 04/19 11:02:05 ET

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