It's not often Mike Keenan is satisfied with a tie, particularly after his St. Louis Blues blow a two-goal lead. This time he'll take it, considering the circumstances.
"If we didn't have so many injuries, we would have a better chance of coming out of here successful with a 3-1 lead," Keenan said following Sunday night's 3-3 tie with the New York Rangers.As it was, the Blues gave up two straight goals to Pat Verbeek starting at 15:32 of the second period and allowed the Rangers to extend their home-ice unbeaten streak to 20 games (16-0-4).
The Blues were missing many of their regulars, including captain Shayne Corson, who was taken out of Sunday night's game in the first period with a pulled groin. The biggest story of the night for the Blues, though, was their coach, who was making his first appearance at Madison Square Garden since leading the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994.
Keenan was greeted by boos from the Ranger fans, heard obscenities throughout the night and saw unfriendly signs, including: "Welcome Back, Judas."
"It's to be expected, I guess," Keenan said. "It's an unforgiving business. So we'll leave it at that."
Two years ago, Keenan was a hero while leading the Rangers to their first Cup in 54 years. Sunday night, he was the villian.
With an unsually heavy contingent of media on hand and the physical nature of the game, Sunday night's contest had a playoff atmosphere to it. Keenan noticed.
"This was a good demonstration of hockey for the NHL, coming right before the All-Star break and before a national television audience," Keenan said. "Considering the people we had in the lineup tonight, I'm extremely proud of the way we played.
"I respect the way the Rangers played, too. They battled back to tie the game."
Niklas Sundstrom gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead early in the first. The Blues scored the game's next three goals, all on power plays, by Stephane Matteau, Craig Johnson and Dale Hawerchuk.
Matteau was booed after his goal. One of the heroes of the Rangers' Stanley Cup victory, he had been traded to the Blues after spending most of this season on the bench.
The Rangers cut the Blues' lead to 3-2 when Verbeek scored on a rebound at 15:32. Verbeek then tied it when his shot from the right circle at 6:31 of the third beat Grant Fuhr, who was starting a league-high 44th straight game.
Fuhr played brilliantly with 41 saves, including a superb two-shot sequence by Adam Graves in front with 4:25 left in regulation that preserved the tie. The Rangers' Glenn Healy was nearly as good, making 34 saves, including five in the overtime period when the Blues had a power play for the final 45 seconds.
Flames 4, Avalanche 4
In Denver, German Titov scored with 45 seconds left to offset Colorado's three-goal rally in the final period as Calgary tied the Avalanche.
Colorado finished the season series with a 4-0-1 edge over Calgary, which saw its season-high, three-game winning streak ended. The Avalanche, 1-1-3 over its last five games, came back from a two-goal deficit in the final period and led 4-3 before Titov tied it.
Blackhawks 5, Kings 2
In Chicago, Ed Belfour made 23 saves and Eric Daze scored twice as the Blackhawks beat Los Angeles in what might have been Wayne Gretzky's last game with the Kings.
Though the Kings deny they are shopping Gretzky, The Toronto Sun has reported that a deal sending the NHL's all-time scorer to St. Louis was imminent.
Devils 7, Stars 2
Steve Stevens, Petr Sykora and Valeri Zelepukin scored power-play goals during a 1:57 span early in the third period and New Jersey defeated visiting Dallas.
The game turned on just one penalty, a five-minute major given to Dallas' Shane Churla for slashing Stevens with 29 seconds left in the second period of a 2-2 game.
Mighty Ducks 6, Jets 4
In Winnipeg, the Jets blew three leads and lost their second straight home game.
Joe Sacco slipped the winner into the upper right corner of the Winnipeg net midway through the third period.