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Sharks Stun Blues, Win Series

All the St. Louis Blues have for their 114-point regular-season championship is a worthless trophy.

Steve Shields rebounded from a shaky Game 6 with 21 saves as the San Jose Sharks tightened up on defense to eliminate the Blues in the first round of their Western Conference series with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.

"It's great," Shields said. "This is what you play for. You want to be in these types of games."

Coach Darryl Sutter said his confidence never wavered in Shields, who was yanked after allowing five second-period goals Sunday in a 6-2 loss.

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  • "I'm not a genius, but I knew how he was going to bounce back," Sutter said.

    The Blues, who seemingly seized control on the road in Game 6, landed with a thud in the seventh game in their quest to become the 16th team in NHL history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit.

    Coach Joel Quenneville bemoaned the Sharks' collection of ugly goals that put the Blues in a hole, topped by Owen Nolan's 65-foot drive at the end of the second period of Game 7 that somehow eluded goalie Roman Turek.

    "I've never seen as many crazy goals as I have in this series," Quenneville said. "That's not an excuse, it's a fact."

    Nolan, who made it 2-0 with 10.2 seconds to go in the period, knew this when he let fire.

    "It's been a flukey series for goals," he said. "I thought why not just shoot it on net and see what happens? He bobbled it and it went in."

    The Presidents' Trophy winners became only the scond NHL regular-season champion to get knocked out in the first round, joining the 1991 Chicago Blackhawks. Since the Presidents' Cup was established in the 1985-86 season, only four of the 15 winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup.

    "Obviously, there was a lot of talk about us going a long way," right wing Scott Young said. "But you can never look past the first round. It's something that we didn't seem to mentally prepare for."

    Ronnie Stern and Jeff Friesen also scored for the Sharks, who finished 27 points behind the Blues. This is their third major first-round upset in the nine-year franchise history, joining triumphs over No. 1 conference seed Detroit in 1994 and No. 2 Calgary in 1995.

    The Sharks will face the Pacific Division champion Stars in the second round beginning Friday night at Dallas.

    "We'll take a day off and have a little fun and realize we've accomplished one step," center Mike Ricci said. "We went from the first seed to the second seed, so it just gets tougher."

    Young, who had a hat trick in Game 6, scored his sixth goal of the playoffs on a third-period power play for St. Louis. But Blues stars Al MacInnis and Pierre Turgeon were quiet, and captain Chris Pronger was on the ice for the Sharks' first two goals.

    "The games where Turgeon, MacInnis and Pronger got it going a little bit were the games they won," Sutter said.

    This was the 14th first-round playoff exit for the Blues, who got off only six shots in the first period and five in the second to disappoint a sellout crowd of 20,418 largest of the season. The Blues haven't made it out of the second round since 1986.

    Stern gave the Sharks the lead on the game's second shot with his first goal, and point, of the playoffs. Turek was slow to recover and out of position when Stern took the puck off the glass behind the net and slipped in a backhand shot at 2:51.

    The Sharks' second goal of the first period was a shocker as Nolan scored his fifth on a drive from well outside the blue line with 10.2 seconds to go. The shot deflected off Turek's glove.

    "I feel so bad," Turek said. "You cannot win in the playoffs if you have goaltending like I played these game. I cannot explain it."

    A miscue by defenseman Marc Bergevin helped the Sharks make it 3-0. Bergevin tried to catch a puck but bobbled it as Friesen and Tomas Sundstrom converged on him, creating a 2-on-none break. Friesen misfired on his first attempt but slapped it home after the puck got tangled in legs near the net.

    The Blues narrowed the gap to two goals when Young scored. He scored at 2:09, seconds after Pronger hit the goal post and the goal light went on prematurely, and some of the Sharks appeared to relax. The goal was allowed after a short consultation.

    St. Louis missed a chance to make it closer after Stephane Matteau got a double minor for high-sticking against Ladislav Nagy at 2:12. Al MacInnis blunted the power play, which featured 29 seconds of 5-on-3 advantage, when he was called for holding at 3:33.

    ©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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