Mar 17, 2012, 10:33 PM EST
With a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday, the St. Louis Blues became the first NHL team to 100 points and to clinch the playoffs. They no doubt have higher ambitions on their minds, but for a team that ranked 11th in the Western Conference last season, it’s a more than just noteworthy accomplishment.
Once again, a blend of defense and superb goaltending propelled them forward. 50-goal scorer Steven Stamkos was held pointless, and as a team the Lightning never managed more than nine shots on goal in a single period. St. Louis netminder Jaroslav Halak also did his part to earn his ninth win in his last 10 contests and his 25th victory of the season. Halak has now allowed just two or fewer goals in 11 of his last 12 starts.
With Andy McDonald sidelined due to a shoulder injury, 2010 first round draft pick Jaden Schwartz made his NHL debut. Schwartz made an immediate impact, scoring the game-winning goal on a power play in the first period.
Tampa Bay’s Brendan Mikkelson ended Jaroslav Halak’s shutout bid with just 4:11 remaining in regulation time. It was Mikkelson’s first goal in 116 career NHL games.
The St. Louis Blues have all-but secured the top spot in the Western Conference and can gradually start to shift their focus to preparing for the playoffs. That being said, it is still mathematically possible for them to surpass their franchise record of 114 points in a single season, set back in 1999-2000.
With this loss, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s situation has gone from bad to almost hopeless. Although they haven’t technically been eliminated from the playoffs, it’s hard to see how they can make up the seven-point gap between them and the Washington Capitals in the final three weeks of the season.
- Neal suspended five games for kneeing Marchand in the head 154
- Report: Dion Phaneuf will face hearing for hit on Kevan Miller 98
- Bruins coach admits Thornton crossed the line, slams Pens for not being ‘truthful’ 120
- Lecavalier out 3-4 weeks with non-displaced fracture in back 8
- Islanders players hold closed-door meeting after ninth straight loss 15
- Penguins’ Neal has phone hearing for knee on Bruins’ Marchand 90
- Shawn Thornton confirms hearing with NHL Department of Player Safety (Updated) 88
- Video: Penguins’ Neal knees Bruins’ Marchand 69
- Penguins announce Brooks Orpik ‘alert and conscious’ (Updated) 47
- Shawn Thornton: ‘People could probably criticize that I’m a little too honorable’ 78
- Video: Penguins’ Orpik stretchered off ice; Bruins’ Thornton given match penalty (182)
- Neal suspended five games for kneeing Marchand in the head (154)
- Pens put Orpik on IR (128)
- Bruins coach admits Thornton crossed the line, slams Pens for not being ‘truthful’ (120)
- Report: Dion Phaneuf will face hearing for hit on Kevan Miller (98)