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Blues' HItchcock reaches 600 wins

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock was in the mood to celebrate the 600th win of his NHL coaching career on Tuesday night, but for a different reason than the importance of the personal milestone.

The St. Louis Blues coach was happy because of what his team had just accomplished, gutting out a 2-1 shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

"For me, I'm proud to be a coach in this league, but I'm more proud of the way our team is playing right now," Hitchcock said. "We're playing hard and I think our players look at what happened to Los Angeles last year. Like a lot of teams trying to get into the playoffs, they are thinking maybe it can be us if we can just get in.

"We're going to have some real tough games here the next little while, but I think everybody thinks if we can just get in we've got a chance."

The Blues had failed in their two previous attempts to get Hitchcock his 600th, costing themselves precious points in their battle for a playoff spot, And it looked for a while that they might come up short again against the Canucks.

A power-play goal by Alex Edler with just 12 seconds left in the second period broke a scoreless tie and could have broken the Blues' spirit, considering they had scored a total of only five goals in their past five games and had been shut out for seven consecutive periods.

Their captain, David Backes, would not let that happen. He led a furious third period that saw the Blues tie the score on the first St. Louis goal by defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, playing his eighth game with the team since being acquired from Calgary.

"We were putting in so much that we thought we deserved a better fate than to be down 1-0," Backes said. "We had to turn the temperature up a notch. We were down 1-0 and we wanted better. We got the result we wanted."

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said his team made a mistake that led to the tying goal.

"Everybody was looking for the puck and it led to a odd-number situation," he said. "Until that point, I thought we had been pretty good at limiting them.

"It was exactly what I think everybody expected, a tough game, a hard-fought game. St. Louis came real hard at us and I thought for the most part we responded the way we were supposed to."

The type of game also did not come as a surprise to Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard.

"They are a hard team to play because they play a physical game, but we're definitely not a team that backs down," he said. "It made for a fun game."

After forcing the overtime and then getting the game to a shootout, the Blues won when Andy McDonald and Alex Steen scored and goalie Brian Elliott stopped shots by Derek Roy and Alexandre Burrows.

The win allowed the Blues to move past Minnesota by one point and into sixth place in the Western Conference with six games left in the regular season.

"We showed a little character by not getting discouraged and changing our game and trying to press and create odd-man rushes out of nothing," Backes said. "We kept going and got the reward we are looking for.

"There's no moral victories. This is a tight race and we needed this in the worst way. You can make it ugly or make it pretty. It's probably going to be more ugly than pretty out of this room, but when it goes that way we like our chances."

So does Hitchcock, who became the 11th coach in NHL history with 600 victories.

"Basically, it's because I'm old," Hitchcock said. "If you last long and you're old you get this. I was telling the guys a story about my 1,000th game when I was in Columbus and Detroit came in and we lost something like 9-1. This is a much better feeling."

. NOTES: 20-year-old Dmitrij Jaskin made his NHL debut for the Blues. The Russian native was the team's second-round pick in the 2011 draft. He skated on a line with Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves. ... The Blues said forward T.J. Oshie underwent surgery for a stress fracture of his left ankle on Tuesday. He had missed the past eight games after being injured while blocking a shot in a March 28 game against Los Angeles. His status was said to be week to week. ... Vancouver was playing its fourth game on a five-game road trip that will conclude with a game on Thursday in Dallas. ... The Blues play host to Phoenix on Thursday and Dallas on Friday.
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