PLAYOFFS
SJ Wins series 4-1
43-21-6, 19-13-4 away
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123T
SJ0011
STL0224
39-30-2, 23-11-0 home
4

Itinerant forward gets his first playoff trio

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.