- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Keith Tkachuk scored twice for the first time since opening night and added an assist, helping the St. Louis Blues clinch their first playoff berth in four seasons with a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.

Andy McDonald and Tkachuk scored power-play goals on two of the Blues’ first three shots for a fast start against Columbus, no doubt flat two days after making it into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

The 37-year-old Tkachuk, by far the oldest of the Blues, enjoyed a season-best three-point night and has three goals and four assists the last three games.

Chris Mason contributed a solid night in goal in his 32nd consecutive start for the Blues, who got a chance to clinch in front a sellout crowd in their home finale after Nashville’s 8-4 loss at Minnesota in its season finale.

The Predators were knocked out with 8:41 to go in St. Louis and the Blues up by two, and fans erupted when the score was finally relayed by the P.A. announcer with about 2 minutes to go.

The Predators, Ducks and Blues, who wrap up the regular season Sunday at Colorado, entered the night in a three-way tie for seventh in the Western Conference.

Andy Murray won his 100th game in 2 1/2 seasons as Blues coach, guiding a team that has been the NHL’s best the second half of the season at 24-9-7 despite missing stars Erik Johnson, Paul Kariya and Eric Brewer much or all of the season. Kariya could be back after undergoing a pair of hip operations for the playoffs.

The Blues, last in the Western Conference as late as Feb. 15, reached 40 wins for the first since 2002-03. Tkachuk and defenseman Barret Jackman are the lone players left from the last playoff team.

St. Louis ended the Blue Jackets’ franchise-record seven-game road unbeaten streak (4-0-3) and limited the losers to 17 shots, one above Columbus’ season worst, while taking the season series 5-1.

McDonald scored his 10th goal off Tkachuk’s feed through the crease at 3:19 of the first, only 16 seconds after Kris Russell was whistled for interference, and Tkachuk deflected the puck past Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason at 7:12 of the first while Jared Boll was serving a double-minor.

Columbus scored on the first shot of the second period, with Jiri Novotny getting an empty net after Chris Mason was drawn out at 4:25. The Blues answered with a goal on their first shot of the second, with the puck appearing to deflect off Tkachuk’s calf on Jay McKee’s dump-in.

Notes:@ Columbus D Kristian Huselius missed his third game with concussion-like symptoms and LW Fredrik Modin missed his 16th straight with a sprained knee. … Tkachuk had two goals against Nashville in the opener Oct. 10. … Murray is 100-85-32 in 2 1/2 seasons with the Blues and reached the century mark in 217 games, one more than it took Scotty Bowman in 1971. … Tkachuk has 44 points (23 goals, 21 assists) in 45 career games against Columbus. … Attendance of 19,250 was the Blues’ 29th sellout.

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