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Blues Get the Coyotes in Overtime

Western Conference: Turgeon's goal gives St. Louis a 1-0 victory and matchup with the Stars.

May 05, 1999|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PHOENIX — Coyote Coach Jim Schoenfeld guaranteed his team would win the seventh game of its first-round playoff series against the Blues, knowing full well he might lose his job if he lost his bet.

His team fought valiantly Tuesday but again suffered a humiliating playoff defeat when St. Louis center Pierre Turgeon deflected a shot by Ricard Persson past Nikolai Khabibulin with 17:59 into overtime to give the Blues a 1-0 victory and a berth in the second round of the playoffs.

Playing before a roaring, sellout crowd of 16,210 that came dressed in white to honor a tradition born during the franchise's days as the Winnipeg Jets, the Coyotes failed to ride the tide of emotion to the victory they so desperately needed. It was only the third time in NHL history the seventh game in a best-of-seven series went into overtime with no score. The Blues were involved on the last occasion, a 1-0 loss to Detroit on May 16, 1996 in the conference semifinals.

The Coyotes, formerly known as the Winnipeg Jets, have lost nine consecutive playoff series and are 0-4 in seventh games. The Blues, who will face the Stars on Thursday at Dallas, are 6-6 in seventh games.

With the victory, St. Louis goalie Grant Fuhr increased his career playoff total to 90, second only to Colorado's Patrick Roy.

The Blues became the 14th team in NHL history to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-1.

With so much hanging in the balance, Coyote center Jeremy Roenick returned to the lineup only 19 days after undergoing surgery to repair three fractures to his jaw and 20 days after he suffered a fractured right thumb.

Stoicism is as much a part of hockey as sipping champagne from the Stanley Cup. And if the dramatic impact of Roenick's appearance Tuesday doesn't quite measure up to Bob Baun playing the seventh game of the 1964 Stanley Cup finals on a broken ankle, it was still a remarkable show of courage that gave the crowd and his teammates a psychological lift.

"It's not a desperation move," General Manager Bobby Smith said. "He is a healthy, robust 29-year-old and he wants to play."

Roenick's rapid return was possible because of new medical techniques, his superb conditioning and his determination to play.

Because titanium plates were used to repair the three fractures that resulted when Roenick was hammered by Dallas defenseman Derian Hatcher, his jaw was not wired shut and he lost no teeth. That meant he was able to eat normally and avoid the weight loss that usually accompanies jaw injuries. He played Tuesday with a new mouthguard and a specially modified helmet that looked like a cross between a goalie mask and a football facemask. The gear was inspected and approved by NHL series supervisor Jim Christison.

"Jeremy understands the risks. If he was a regular patient, six to eight weeks would have been required [for recovery]," said Reed Day, the doctor who performed Roenick's surgery. "Certainly, he could break his jaw again, and there is a very, very small risk. He has accepted the risk that if he breaks his jaw, we will repair it."

Roenick didn't shy away from contact in the first period and he got six minutes of ice time, close to his seven-minute average. He killed penalties and played on the power play, nearly scoring with just over a minute left on the rebound of a shot by Tkachuk. He bounced back up after several hits, including a slam into the boards delivered by winger Blair Atcheynum midway through the period. Coyote fans, starved for any encouraging sign they could find, roared their approval of every move he made.

And there were some encouraging signs for Coyote partisans. For one, the Coyotes killed two penalties, neutralizing a power play that had converted nine of its previous 29 opportunities--a sizzling 31% success rate. The Coyotes had one power play but were unable to mount any pressure.

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