NEW YORK - Paul Kariya barely had time to celebrate his 400th NHL goal before St. Louis Blues teammate Keith Tkachuk put things into perspective.
“Now you’re about 135 behind me,” the grizzled veteran said, laughing. “Not that I’m counting.”
Kariya actually trails Tkachuk by 137 goals. Yet, this one was more than a milestone. It snapped a third-period tie and lifted the Blues to a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
Trying to repeat their late run of a year ago that secured a playoff berth, the 10th-place Blues closed within five points of Detroit, which sits at the postseason cutoff in the Western Conference.
“I never really pay too much attention to stats,” Kariya, 35, said. “It’s a nice milestone but the two points were more important. We’re in a desperate situation where we need wins. It was nice to get the 400th in a win.”
The Blues registered only 16 shots — a season low for them and the fewest allowed by New York — and took advantage of uncharacteristically shaky Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
St. Louis scored four times on its first 14 shots and handed the Rangers a key loss in their pursuit of an Eastern Conference playoff spot. New York fell behind Atlanta into 10th place and trails eighth-place Boston by three points with 11 games left.
Rangers coach John Tortorella stressed after Tuesday’s loss to Montreal that his club needed to beat St. Louis. It didn’t happen. That makes New York’s next game at Boston on Sunday more crucial.
“Still in the race,” Tortorella said. “They’re not down. There is no sense of being down. It’s just a matter of getting ready to play another game and try to win.”
Just 1:13 after Wade Redden got the Rangers even at 3, Kariya took a feed in front from T.J. Oshie and scored his milestone goal.
Brad Boyes and defensemen Mike Weaver and Erik Johnson also scored for the Blues, 11-44-7 at New York. Weaver’s goal was his first in three years, covering 185 NHL games. Ty Conklin made 26 saves.
Redden’s first in 58 games gave the Rangers brief life that Kariya took away. Marian Gaborik had a goal and two assists, and Ryan Callahan also scored for New York, which has lost six of eight (2-4-2).
“Our focus needs to be on the next game,” captain Chris Drury said. “That’s all we can be thinking about right now, which happens to be the team we’re chasing.”
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Weaver tied it at 2 at 2:21 of the second after the Rangers failed to clear the puck. Weaver let go a shot from inside the blue line that eluded Lundqvist. The New York netminder banged his stick and was still shaking his head side to side when the teams lined up for the ensuing faceoff.
The defenseman hadn’t scored a goal since March 23, 2007. He chuckled as he tried to figure out how many games he would need to play to catch Kariya in goals.
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