MacInnis, Blues Down Coyotes, 3-1
By Mel Reisner
Friday, April 23, 1999; 1:41 a.m. EDT PHOENIX Al MacInnis had a goal and two assists, and the St. Louis Blues beat Phoenix 3-1 Thursday night to take a 1-0 lead in their first-round playoff series with the Coyotes.
Grant Fuhr had 26 saves and didn't allow a goal until Robert Reichel put a wrist shot past him with 1:52 left in the game. But the Blues' steady defense sealed the contest when MacInnis picked up a loose puck and sent it to Scott Pellerin for an empty-net goal with 41.1 seconds remaining.
Fuhr also assisted on the play as he improved to 87-44 in the postseason, with 16 victories in 17 games against the former Winnipeg Jets. His 87th moved him one behind No. 2 Billy Smith on the all-time playoff-victory list. Colorado's Patrick Roy leads all goalies with 99.
The Coyotes, completing their third season in Phoenix, had home ice for only the third time in 14 postseasons and for the first time in 14 years, and they were 10-3 in first-round openers.
But MacInnis took the white-clad crowd out of it with an early goal, and the Coyotes seemed dispirited without top scorer Jeremy Roenick, who sustained a broken jaw and thumb against Dallas three games before the season ended.
The crowd wore white in honor of a longtime franchise tradition called a ``White-Out'' carried over from when the team was in Winnipeg. The idea was to hopefully intimidate the visiting team.
Phoenix, which was next-to-last in power-play scoring during the season, went 0-for-6 in this game and was saved from an even bigger loss only by Nikolai Khabibulin's 24 saves, many in the face of short-handed breakaways by St. Louis.
But Khabibulin, who fell to 7-10 in pursuit of the Stanley Cup, couldn't handle the one-timers that MacInnis and Jamie Rivers unleashed from the blue line in the first and second periods.
Rivers, who had only two goals during the season and six in his four-year career, made it 2-0 with a power-play goal with 2:36 left in the second period. He blasted a pass from Terry Yake past Khabibulin high on the stick side.
MacInnis' famed slap shot came into play early.
He scored his 33rd goal in 130 playoff games with a 65-foot shot from behind the Phoenix blue line 2:22 into the game, missing a power-play goal by one second. The sizzling riser appeared to hit the stick of a Phoenix defenseman and change direction just enough to fool Khabibulin.
The Coyotes' defensemen were tentative by contrast, giving up the puck rather than shoot as time ticked away on their four first-period power plays.
Fuhr, who was 2-0-1 against Phoenix this season, was sharp from the onset. He stopped Keith Tkachuk on two forehands midway through the period and had 10 saves when the period ended.
He settled the outcome during Phoenix's sixth power play that began 9:03 into the third period.
Fuhr had a pad save on Rick Tocchet's blast from the top of the circle, and then stopped a shot by Teppo Numminen with his shoulder with three seconds before the Blues got back to full strength.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press