Kevin LaVallee, benched in the last two games, scored at 7:34 of the third period tonight to lead the St. Louis Blues into the Stanley Cup semifinals with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
LaVallee's goal enabled the Blues to win the Norris Division final in seven games and sent them to the semifinals for the first time since 1972.
St. Louis will face the winner of the Edmonton-Calgary series for the Campbell Conference championship and a berth in the Stanley Cup final.
The game marked the end of a surprising playoff run for the Maple Leafs, who finished the regular season with the fewest points of any playoff team. They swept Chicago in the first round of the playoffs before extending the Blues to the seventh game.
Skating in from the right side, LaVallee wristed the puck past goalie Ken Wregget, who was starting his 10th consecutive playoff game.
From behind the net, Bernie Federko, who was fed by Mark Hunter, had passed the puck to the speeding LaVallee. It was the second playoff goal by LaVallee, who was benched while the Blues struggled to find a winning combination.
Wregget left the goal with 49 seconds left as Toronto pressed for the tying goal. The Maple Leafs failed to gain a testing shot at the St. Louis goal.
St. Louis goalie Greg Millen, 6-2 in the playoffs, faced 33 shots in earning the victory. Toronto outshot St. Louis, 33-24.
St. Louis extended its record to 3-0 in deciding seventh games on home ice. In series that have gone the limit, St. Louis improved to 6-2.
Toronto tied the score at 1 when Brad Smith converted a bank shot off the back of Millen 2:18 into the second period. Millen blocked a Steve Thomas shot to the corner. Smith fired it back and it bounced off Millen's back into the net.
Smith caught the wrath of The Arena's capacity crowd of 18,034 with 1:49 left in the second period when he slashed Millen in the crease after Millen brushed aside a shot.
Millen dropped to the ice but no penalty was called, although play was stopped for him to recover.
The Blues took a 1-0 lead when Eddy Beers scored on a power play 8:27 into the game. Greg Paslawski shot and Wregget blocked it. With Peter Ihnacak all over him, Beers beat Wregget from the right faceoff circle.
Toronto had a two-man advantage for 41 seconds at 4:36 of the first period but could not score on Millen.
The Blues got a lift early when captain Brian Sutter, who has been nursing a sore shoulder, appeared for the first time in the series to a standing ovation.