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Blues don't look back after three-goal first period

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Blues didn't miss Chris Pronger one bit.

Keith Tkachuk had two goals and an assist and played a pivotal role in a dominating three-goal first period as the Blues, minus their suspended captain, beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 Friday night to gain some breathing room in a tight playoff
race.

"That was a great two points," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Certainly, we did what we had to do and took care of business."

Pavol Demitra scored twice for the Blues, who outshot the Blackhawks 20-5 in the first 20 minutes. St. Louis has 90 points and vaulted from seventh to fifth in the Western Conference, one point ahead of the Kings and the Coyotes and only one point behind Chicago. The Blues have five games to go, all but one at home,
where they're 24-11-1-1.

"We just have to worry about our game," said Blackhawks
defenseman Phil Housley, whose team also has five games remaining.
"We can't worry about the other teams around us."

St. Louis outshot Chicago 40-21 overall and won for the fourth
time in five games without two of its top three defensemen. Pronger
served the first game of a two-game suspension for cross-checking
the Stars' Brenden Morrow in a 2-1 overtime victory on Wednesday.
The Blues also are without Bryce Salvador, who sustained a
concussion March 28 against Buffalo and is out indefinitely.

Mike Eastwood, who also scored for the Blues, said the first
period was the team's best start of the season.

"We came out flying right from the get-go," Eastwood said.
"We just kept coming at them and coming at them, and we got some
results. It's a lot of fun playing hockey like that."

Steve Thomas scored his ninth goal for the Blackhawks, who have
lost two straight after a four-game winning streak. Chicago was
held without a shot during a four-minute power play midway through
the first period, and got two shots during another four-minute
power play in the third. Both penalties were to St. Louis' Al
MacInnis.

"Obviously, they were huge," Blackhawks coach Brian Sutter
said. "I had a feeling on the bench that you're always going to
get back in the game, but their top people were their top people
tonight, plain and simple."

Tkachuk, who has 701 career points, had three shots in the first
period and started the scoring with his 35th goal at 3:49. A quick
feint to the outside helped Tkachuk beat Steve Passmore inside the
near post on the Blues' first shot of the game.

He then scored on a long breakaway at 18:30 of the second,
starting from the opposite blue line and fending off Jon Klemm.

"I felt like I was in practice doing a long skating drill,"
Tkachuk said. "I got a little jump on the guy and fortunately it
went in."

Demitra's 32nd came at 17:15 for a 3-0 lead, and he also made it
4-0 with a redirection on a power play at 29 seconds of the second.

Eastwood added his seventh goal, and second in two games, for
St. Louis. Eastwood also helped thwart Tony Amonte on a
second-period breakaway, hooking him just enough to alter his shot
so Brent Johnson could knock it away.

"All I know is (Johnson) made a great save," Eastwood said.
"I just tried to disturb him a little bit."

Game notes
MacInnis and Scott Mellanby each had two assists for the
Blues. ... Amonte played in his 405th consecutive game, the longest
iron man streak in the NHL. ... Eric Boguniecki of the Worcester
IceCats, the Blues' top minor league team, was named the AHL's most
valuable player. He leads the AHL with 38 goals and is second with
82 points in 60 games. He's appeared in seven games for the Blues.
... Blackhawks coach Brian Sutter needs one victory to become the
15th NHL coach with 400. ... The Blues are 22-2-2-2 when Tkachuk
scores a goal. ... In Pronger's absence, F Scott Young became the
Blues' third alternate captain.