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OT win gives Avs 3-1 lead

Stephane Yelle scores for a 4-3 victory over the Blues.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 19, 2001


ST. LOUIS -- This time Stephane Yelle didn't miss the net.

Yelle, who hit the goal post in overtime of Game 3, scored on a deflection at 4:23 of overtime as the Avalanche beat the Blues 4-3 on Friday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference final.

Yelle redirected a shot by Rob Blake past Roman Turek, who had recovered nicely after allowing goals on three consecutive shots in 1:18 midway through the first period. It was Yelle's first goal of the playoffs.

"It's so great for Yelle to get the winning goal after missing that open net," coach Bob Hartley said. "Rob Blake made an unbelievable play, and when you drive at the net, you give yourself a chance to tip some pucks. And that's what happened."

After Game 3, Yelle said his failure probably would stick with him for a while.

"I was disappointed," he said. "But the next day I knew we had a big game and I had to get ready. I can't remember the last time I had a game-winner in overtime."

The Avalanche, which has lost in the conference final the past three years, can wrap up the series Monday night. Colorado was last in the Stanley Cup final in 1996, and it won.

"We don't feel great right now," Blues forward Scott Mellanby said. "We're not doing cartwheels in here, that's for sure. This is going to be the ultimate test."

Joe Sakic, scoreless in Games 2 and 3, had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche. Steven Reinprecht and Ray Bourque also scored for Colorado, which is 5-2 on the road in the playoffs.

Pierre Turgeon had two goals and Jamal Mayers forced overtime for the second straight game for the Blues, who won 4-3 in double overtime in Game 3 on a goal by Scott Young.

Mayers, who had eight goals in the regular season, tied it on the Blues' first shot of the third. Mayers, stationed just outside the crease, tapped a setup from behind the net by Jochen Hecht just inside the far post at 58 seconds.

Turek, who has allowed seven first-period goals in the series, was briefly pulled after allowing three goals on three shots in the first period. The flurry silenced a sellout crowd of 20,072, the Blues' largest of the season.

"I think you can't talk tonight about soft goals," Turek said. "They didn't score a soft goal in this game. I could stop some of the goals, but they weren't soft goals."

Reinprecht began the onslaught with a backhander at 14:13, the result of hard work around the net by the Avalanche's checking line. Sakic caught the Blues out of position at 15:17, camping at the blue line for a pass from Alex Tanguay and scoring from the left circle at 15:17.

Bourque made it 3-0 with a drive from the line 14 seconds later on Colorado's seventh shot of the period.

Rookie Brent Johnson made his first appearance of the playoffs, but it was brief. Coach Joel Quenneville put Turek back in at the next stoppage in play, 1:23 later.

Two second-period goals by Turgeon put the Blues right back in the game.

Lemieux, Jagr back together

PITTSBURGH -- Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr will be reunited on the Penguins' top line today against the New Jersey Devils, not necessarily out of frustration but out of desperation.

Even Lemieux said Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final essentially has become an elimination game for the Penguins.

"This is the key game in the series," Lemieux said Friday, barely 12 hours after the Devils' 3-0 victory gave the defending Stanley Cup champions a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series. "We certainly don't want to go down 3-1 against the Devils. They're too good a team to be able to come back (against). It's a huge game for both clubs."

Penguins forward Kevin Stevens agreed, saying, "It's as must as a game gets."

Lemieux has one goal in nine games. Jagr, the four-time defending NHL scoring champion, has been just as ineffective, with no points in the series and two goals in 14 playoff games.

Coach Ivan Hlinka separated Lemieux and Jagr late in the quarterfinal series against Buffalo so Jagr, who was skating well, could play on a faster line. Now, Hlinka believes he has no choice but to put the two together again.

In Game 3, Lemieux often skated with Josef Beranek and Aleksey Morozov.

"It seems at times (the Devils) are cheating a little bit and not giving us the opportunity to get me the puck," Lemieux said. "They're playing very well. ... We're going to get back to playing like we did during the season, try to help (Jagr) out a little bit."

Jagr also has shuffled among numerous linemates the past five games, not necessarily to his liking.

Hlinka reconfigured his lines for Game 2 in New Jersey, then did so again Thursday because Robert Lang (back muscle injury) was hurt and couldn't play with Martin Straka and Alexei Kovalev on the second line.

"It helps if you play with the same guys more than one game," Jagr said. "If you play with a guy, sometimes you make a pass even if you don't see him because you have a feeling he should be over there."

Hlinka said Lang and defenseman Darius Kasparaitis will be game-time decisions. Kasparaitis has two broken toes on his left foot, sustained in Game 2. He left the rink Friday on crutches.

Meanwhile, HOK Sport Inc., the Kansas City firm that designed PNC Park and the new Pittsburgh Steelers stadium, has been hired to help the Penguins study options for a new arena.

Carrie Plummer, an HOK spokeswoman, said the contract does not go beyond a study. "We're looking at options both for the existing arena and a new arena," she said.

Whether an arena is built depends largely on the results of an $80,000 study, due shortly after the playoffs, by accountants comparing the cost and benefits of renovating Mellon Arena with those of building an arena.

Penguins officials have said privately it's unlikely the team will push to renovate Mellon Arena, a 17,148-seat structure built in 1961. The arena is the oldest in the NHL.

DEVILS: Forward Bobby Holik doesn't believe the Devils are going to have another letdown today.

"For whatever reason, I had a feeling before Game 7 against Toronto that we were going to be fine," Holik said. "I have the same type of feeling about (today), that we're going to be prepared and ready to play."

AWARDS MONEY POOL: The Stanley Cup champion will receive $2.14-million out of a playoff and awards pool of about $12-million, similar to last year, according to figures the league provided.

That's about $70,000 an individual share for eight weeks of post-season games. Each losing player in the Stanley Cup final makes about $50,000. Players are guaranteed about $9,000 each if their team is eliminated in the first of four playoff rounds.

BLUE JACKETS: Sean Pronger, older brother of Blues defenseman Chris Pronger, was acquired off waivers from the Islanders. Sean Pronger spent the past season with the Manitoba Moose of the IHL. The forward, 28, had 18 goals, 21 assists and 85 penalty minutes in 82 games.

RANGERS: Defenseman Tomas Kloucek had reconstructive surgery on his left knee. He will need at least six months of rehabilitation after having the anterior cruciate ligament repaired.

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