<
>

Finley ends a 173-game goal drought for St. Louis

2/11/2003

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- It's been so long -- almost 27 months -- that
defenseman Jeff Finley can't remember scoring his last goal.

It will be hard to forget his latest one. Finley scored with
4:59 left to end a 173-game drought, lifting the St. Louis Blues to
a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

"No, I don't remember the last one. It's been a while," Finley
said before being reminded that his last goal came in a game
against Phoenix on Nov. 25, 2000. "It's fun. That's the name of
the game, try and score. Especially when you get the game-winner,
it's exciting."

Keith Tkachuk, extending his goal streak to six games, and Steve
Martins also scored for the Blues, who rallied back after spotting
the Sabres a 2-0 first-period lead.

St. Louis improved to 4-0-2 in its last six games and won
despite losing top playmaker Doug Weight, who did not return after
being cut below the nose when he was struck by a puck with eight
minutes left in the second period.

Following the game, coach Joel Quenneville said Weight will be
re-evaluated when the team returns to St. Louis, but probably won't
play in the Blues' next game against Philadelphia on Thursday.

Adam Mair and Tim Connolly scored for the Sabres, winless in
seven (0-5-0-2). The Sabres are also winless in their last nine
games against the Blues (0-7-2), with their last victory coming
Oct. 1, 1997.

"We're still finding ways not to win games," Sabres defenseman
James Patrick said. "That was the difference tonight. They
capitalized."

Rhett Warrener agreed.

"That's a good lead," he said. "It should be enough. We've
proven this year that we're capable of blowing it."

Justin Papineau had a hand in the game-winning goal, driving up
the right wing and getting a shot off. Martin Biron got a piece of
it, but the rebound deflected to the left circle, where Finley --
pinching in from the point -- flipped it into the open side.

The goal was Finley's 13th -- and fourth game-winner -- in 634 NHL
games.

The significance of Finley's goal was not lost on the Blues.

"We'll have to buy him something," said Tkachuk, who was
playing for Phoenix when Finley scored his last goal. "I'm glad.
We needed this win. That's the thing with the way we've played all
year. We've been through so much, all the adversity, and it's
different people stepping up."

The Sabres appeared in control when Mair, sneaking a backhander
through Brent Johnson's legs, and Connolly established a 2-0 lead
in the opening period.

The Blues, who mustered just eight shots on net in the first 30
minutes, finally responded with two goals in a 78-second span.

Tkachuk cut Buffalo's lead to 2-1 when he redirected Pavol
Demitra's pass into the slot behind Biron with 5:45 left in the
second period.

Martins then tied it, capitalizing on a Sabres' giveaway.
Standing inside the Buffalo blue line, Martins intercepted
Warrener's pass, drove to the net and wristed a hard shot, beating
Biron on the glove side.

Tkachuk, who leads the Blues with 25 goals, scored his eighth
and got 10th point in six games. He is tied for the NHL's
second-longest goal streak this season, behind Columbus' Geoff
Sanderson, who scored in seven consecutive games.

Game notes
Weight, who appeared woozy when helped off the ice, was
hurt when he leaped in an attempt to bat down Biron's clearing
shot. He was playing his second game after missing two after he
hurt his ankle in last week's NHL All-Star game. ... Blues D
Christian Backman, St. Louis' first-round selection in the 1998
draft, made his NHL debut, recording 6:35 of ice time. Before being
called up last week, Backman had six goals and 21 points in 50
games with Worcester of the AHL. ... With 204 wins, Sabres coach
Lindy Ruff is seven victories short of passing Scotty Bowman as the
franchise's winningest coach.

Comments