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Itinerant forward gets his first playoff trio

4/13/2004

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Mike Sillinger has played for 10 teams in his
14-year NHL career, tying a league record. All that traveling and
no hat tricks. Until now.

The St. Louis Blues' late-season pickup had his first career
three-goal game in a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Monday
night, helping a much more disciplined team work its way back into
the first-round series.

"My little boys told me they wanted me to score a hat trick, and
my wife laughed," Sillinger said. "She goes, 'If he ever gets a
hat trick, we'll fill the house with balloons.'

"We'll be filling the house with balloons when I get back and
see them in Phoenix, and hopefully it won't be for a while."

The Sharks lead the series 2-1 heading into Game 4 Tuesday
night in St. Louis.

"It was kind of funny to read that the series was over," coach
Ron Wilson said. "We won two home games and now they've come back.
Now they'll have something to think about tonight and come better
prepared tomorrow."

Sillinger, acquired March 4 from the Coyotes, seemed to be a
low-key pickup at the time. But he provided an immediate boost for
a team that qualified for the playoffs in its 81st game, getting
four goals and five assists in 16 games.

He gave the Blues, who have rallied to win a series after
trailing 2-0 only once in 13 tries, yet another boost in Game 3.

Sillinger was elevated to the first line with Keith Tkachuk and
Pavol Demitra, switching places with Petr Cajanek. He helped the
Blues finally get to Evgeni Nabokov.

"They've been working pretty hard, and you have to give them
credit," Nabokov said. "They got two breaks, but they deserved
those breaks."

Nabokov set a franchise record with nine regular-season shutouts
and nearly had two in the first two games of the series, stopping
52 of 53 shots in 1-0 and 3-1 victories. His dominant run ended in
the second period Monday, when Dallas Drake blocked a shot from the point
by Tom Preissing just as Sillinger's penalty for elbowing was
expiring.

Drake deflected the puck off his skate to a streaking Sillinger,
who outraced Preissing to the net and beat Nabokov with a shot
between the pads to give the Blues their first lead in the series.

"Best pass I could give him, I'll tell you," Drake said.
"Better than my stick right now."

Drake made it 2-0 at 17:24 when he deflected an innocent-looking wrist shot from the point by Eric Weinrich past Nabokov. Jonathan Cheechoo scored his first career playoff goal for the Sharks early in the third to slice the gap to one, reawakening the Blues.

Again, Drake made unusual contact with the puck.

"It hit me in the shaft," Drake said. "Like I said, keep it
away from my stick blade and I'll be all right. I got a piece of
it."

A little over two minutes later, at 7:51 of the third, Sillinger
again broke loose off a backhand feed from Tkachuk to make it
3-1. Then he wrapped it up with an empty-net goal, scoring from
deep in the Blues' zone with 46.9 seconds to go.

The Blues' defense, anchored by goalie Chris Osgood, did the
rest. Osgood was pulled early in the third period of Game 2,
ostensibly to shake up the team, but he also had appeared to have
injured his right knee earlier in that game.

He showed no signs of a physical problem in Game 3 and benefited
from a defense that allowed few rebounds. Wilson faulted his team
for a lack of aggressive play.

"In the second period when they pushed, we kind of sat back and
didn't push back," Wilson said. "In the third period we did, but
the deficit was too much.

"We had too many guys who weren't on top of their game, and you
can't have that in a playoff."

Undisciplined play by the Blues in Game 2 led to 13 Sharks power
plays, and two of Patrick Marleau's three goals, in San Jose's 3-1
victory.

Physical play is an integral part of the Blues' game, but they
avoided getting too rough in Game 3, getting whistled for one minor
penalty in the first two periods and only two more in the third.

"Obviously, we needed to initiate and not retaliate,"
Sillinger said. "We did that tonight. We stuck to our game plan,
we didn't get frustrated and we're right back in the series."

Game notes
Sillinger and J.J. Daigneault are the only players to play for 10 teams. Daigneault also had a stint with the Blues. ... The Blues' pregame video, featuring Roy Scheider shooting the shark in the movie "Jaws," drew a huge cheer. ... Blues forward Ryan Johnson was injured when he was sent flying by an Alex Korolyuk check midway through the first period; he did not return. ... Marleau was held to three shots after his Game 2 hat trick. ... The Sharks had won four in a row overall against the Blues.