This year's NHL playoffs are proving what was already largely suspected. A good regular-season doesn't guarantee post-season glory.
The St. Louis Blues, 29 points better than Norris Division semifinal opponent Detroit and second overall in league standings, fell to the Red Wings 4-3 Wednesday night and face the prospect of elimination in St. Louis on Friday when their Norris Division best-of-seven semifinal series resumes.In addition to a sub-.500 season, Detroit was cast as an underdog because of a supposedly immobile and aging defense corps. But the presence of Steve Chiasson, who missed the first two games of the series, has enabled the explosive Red Wing forwards to strike quickly from their own zone in back-to-back Red Wing victories.
"(Chiasson) only played 42 games all season and it was questionable if he'd even play in this series, but he's played the last two games and made a big impact," Coach Bryan Murray said.
Chiasson, who has three playoff goals, missed three games in late December with an injured knee, sat out 26 more after fracturing his right ankle on Jan. 2 and missed the last nine regular-season games and the first two playoff games with a sprained ankle he sustained on March 9.
"I just want to try and salvage something from this season," said Chiasson, who had only three goals this year after scoring a career-high 14 during the 1989-90 season.
The Red Wings will salvage a disappointing season if they can clinch on Friday.
"This doesn't make up for the rest of the year, but it puts me on the right track," Chiasson said. "I hope I can keep playing well because if I don't play well in St. Louis, nobody will remember this."
If the Blues go out in five, they will not be allowed to forget it.
"It's going to take a mammoth effort to win three in a row, but you try to put pressure on yourself anyway," said Brett Hull, who scored his fourth and fifth goals of the playoffs.
Rick Zombo and Brent Fedyk rounded out the scoring for the Red Wings and Sergei Fedorov added a pair of assists. Quinn added a goal for the Blues. Tim Cheveldae, deemed a possible weak link, stopped 26 shots in his fourth straight start, including a Hull breakaway chance.
North Stars 3, Blackhawks 1
At Minnesota, Neal Broten, Mike Craig and Mark Tinordi scored second period goals to pull the North Stars even at two games apiece in their Norris Division playoff semifinal series. Jon Casey, who stopped 33 shots, lost his shutout bid at 15:02 of the third when Steve Larmer scored. Game 5 is Friday night in Chicago.
Oilers 5, Flames 2
At Edmonton, Esa Tikkanen scored two power-play goals, including the eventual game-winner to lift the defending champion Oilers to a 3-1 series lead over the Flames in a Smythe Division semifinal. Edmonton goalie Grant Fuhr, who has backstopped all four games ahead of 1990 Conn Smythe winner Bill Ranford, stopped 29 shots and Mark Messier, Craig MacTavish and Kelly Buchberger scored for Oilers. Joe Nieuwendyk and Sergei Makarov scored for the Flames, who host Game 5 on Friday.
Kings 6, Canucks 1
At Vancouver, Wayne Gretzky became the No. 1 playoff goal scorer in NHL history, netting the tie-breaking goal to help the Kings knot the Smythe Division semifinal at two games apiece. Gretzky, who surpassed Jari Kurri with his 93rd playoff goal, also had an assist. The Kings, who regained the home-ice advantage, host Game 5 Friday.