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Blake scores late goal, Ducks rally for win over Blues

Associated Press

3/22/2012 2:06:13 AM

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Although the Ducks probably won't join the St. Louis Blues in the playoffs this spring, Anaheim reminded the overall NHL leaders that their impressive record means nothing to the desperate, determined opponents they're facing for the rest of the season.

Jason Blake scored the tiebreaking goal from behind the St. Louis net with 5:54 to play, and Anaheim rallied from a third-period deficit for a 4-3 victory Wednesday night.

Devante Smith-Pelly tied it earlier in the period for the Ducks, who erased three St. Louis leads before Blake controlled the puck in the corner and banked his seventh goal of the season off the skate of St. Louis' Ian Cole, who was heading off Teemu Selanne's charge to the net.

"I just threw it, and fortunately it went off their defenceman's foot or leg, whatever it was," said Blake, who is proud of the Ducks' strong finish to a disappointing year. "I think that's the professional thing to do. It's been a crazy season, but we're trying to win hockey games. Doesn't matter if you're in it or out of it."

Jonas Hiller made 35 saves as Anaheim won its fifth straight home game over St. Louis, which lost in regulation after scoring at least three goals for the first time in 42 games since March 19, 2011.

The Ducks' playoff hopes are all but dead with seven games to play, but they're 22-10-5 since Jan. 4, building toward the future under new coach Bruce Boudreau.

"I don't think at any point we've just thrown in the towel," Boudreau said. "(This game) is the same as the season. We were dead and buried in December and January, (but) we're still not eliminated yet. We're just going to keep playing as hard as we can, and hopefully win the last seven games."

Cam Fowler and Nick Bonino also scored and captain Ryan Getzlaf had two assists for the Ducks, who are nine points out of eighth place in the Western Conference.

"All we've done in the second half is try to start a new season, and go from there," Getzlaf said. "(St. Louis) is a big test. We knew what we were in front of, but we don't care who we're playing. It's just about getting as many wins as we can in the time we have left."

Jaden Schwartz scored his second goal in his second NHL game, while captain David Backes and David Perron also scored for the first-place Blues in their first game since earning their 100th point and clinching their first playoff berth in three years last Saturday at Tampa Bay.

With a visit to surging Los Angeles looming Thursday night, the Blues were already preparing to move past this third-period stumble.

"Points are crucial for us, and we've got to bear down and be better in those situations," Blues defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "I think we came out and played a really strong first period and kind of thought the game was going to be easy, but we got away from our game. At times we stopped skating, and we were a little light on the puck. It's a little uncharacteristic of us to blow three one-goal leads, let alone one. We've been so good at that this year."

Jaroslav Halak stopped 18 shots for the Blues, who have lost three of four during a transcontinental seven-game road trip. St. Louis had allowed more than two goals in regulation just once in 13 games since Feb. 22, but Halak had no chance on the winning goal.

"It's the same stuff we've been doing before," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We are soft in our own zone. Soft coverage, soft with the puck, coming back to haunt us. We've been doing this for a little while, and we are paying the price now. It's easy when the puck is in the offensive end like it was in the first period, but when it was in our end a little bit more, we didn't compete hard enough."

Schwartz, the promising 19-year-old who scored on his first NHL shot four days ago, got an alert rebound goal 7 minutes in. The teenager served as the captain of Canada's entry at the World Junior Championships earlier this year before leaving Colorado College nine days ago and signing with St. Louis, which picked him in the first round of the 2010 draft.

St. Louis took its third lead when Perron scored in the waning moments of a power play early in the third period, falling on his chest while batting home a strange rebound of Kevin Shattenkirk's shot. But Smith-Pelly scored a few minutes later, banging home Getzlaf's pass in front.

NOTES: Hiller returned to the Ducks' net one game after his franchise-record streak of 32 straight starts ended in San Jose. The Swiss goalie has played in an NHL-high 68 of Anaheim's 75 games. ... St. Louis D Roman Polak missed his first game of the season. Polak left last Saturday's morning skate with a sore knee. ... Schwartz's parents attended the game.