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  • Game info: 9:00 pm EDT Fri Apr 18, 2003
  • TV: CW11, CBC

PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinal; Blues lead 3-1.

Even their best game of the series wasn’t good enough for the Vancouver Canucks.

Chris Osgood and the St. Louis Blues look to finish off the Canucks and advance to the Western Conference semifinals when the teams meet in Game 5 at GM Place.

An outstanding 32-save performance by Osgood and two goals and an assist from Martin Rucinsky sent the Blues to a 4-1 victory in Game 4 Wednesday, and pushed the Canucks to the brink of elimination.

Dallas Drake and Chris Pronger each added a goal and an assist for St. Louis, which can secure a place in the conference semifinals for the third straight season with a victory Friday.

“If they lose, they are done,” Pronger said. “We need to put a dagger in them quick, because there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal.”

Osgood continued his superb play, offsetting a 33-20 advantage in shots for Vancouver.

“He was the best player on the ice, hands down,” Drake said. “Some of those saves were unbelievable.”

While Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Colorado’s Patrick Roy have gotten most of the notoriety during these playoffs, Osgood has done everything the Blues could have hoped for when they acquired him from the New York Islanders at the trade deadline.

Osgood has stopped 86 of 90 shots in the series for a .956 save percentage.

The Canucks were second in the NHL with 264 goals in the regular season, trailing only the Red Wings. But they’ve been outscored 14-4 in the first four games.

“I thought it was our best game of the series,” Vancouver coach Marc Crawford said. “Sometimes, you get beat by the goaltender on the other side and I think that’s what happened tonight.”

Vancouver, a better road team during the regular season, hopes a return to home ice for Game 5 will help it avoid a first-round exit for the third consecutive year.

“I think it will make all the difference in the world,” forward Trent Klatt said. “You saw what a boisterous crowd can do, and I think our crowd will be even louder.”

Already playing without defenseman Al MacInnis, the Blues were without right wing Scott Mellanby on Wednesday. Mellanby was scratched with flu-like symptoms.

MacInnis is expected to be sidelined at least two weeks and Mellanby’s status for Friday is uncertain.

The only good news for the Canucks from Wednesday’s loss was the first-period goal scored by captain Markus Naslund—the first goal in this series from Vancouver’s top line, which scored 119 times during the regular season.

The goal staked Vancouver to a 1-0 lead, but St. Louis was a league-best 22-15-3-6 when giving up the game’s first goal during the regular season.

“You’re not going to keep Naslund and those guys off the board for seven games,” Blues center Doug Weight said. “This team has gone through so much adversity this season, and to get down like that, it can put a dagger in your heart. But we always believe we can come back.”

While Osgood has been St. Louis’ best player in this series, Weight has been the team’s best forward. He leads the Blues with three goals, four assists and seven points after totaling just two points in 10 playoff games last season.

Should the Canucks avoid elimination, Game 6 would be Sunday at the Savvis Center.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Blues - 99 points; 5th seed. Canucks - 104 points; 4th seed.

PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Weight, 3 goals, 4 assists and 7 points; Keith Tkachuk and Barret Jackman, 10 PIM. Canucks - Four with 1 goal; Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Sedin, 2 assists; four with 2 points; Bertuzzi, 24 PIM.

PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Blues - Power play: 19.4 percent (6 for 31). Penalty killing: 90.0 percent (27 for 30). Canucks - Power play: 10.0 percent (3 for 30). Penalty killing: 80.6 percent (25 for 31).

GOALTENDERS: Blues - Osgood (3-1, 1 SO, 1.00 GAA); Brent Johnson (no appearances). Canucks - Dan Cloutier (1-3, 3.26); Alex Auld (no appearances).

REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 2-1-1. The teams combined for 33 goals in four games. Vancouver went 2-0-1 in the first three meetings before the Blues posted a 6-4 victory at home March 18. Brendan Morrison had four goals and six points for the Canucks.

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