LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The St. Louis Blues are back on track for a return to the playoffs and they have Chris Osgood to thank for their good fortune.
Osgood made 31 saves in his 300th NHL victory and Petr Cajanek had an empty-net goal and two assists Tuesday night as the Blues improved their standing in the Western Conference with a 5-3 victory Tuesday night over the Los Angeles Kings.
``We should have carried him off the ice, because he carried us in this game,'' forward Keith Tkachuk said of Osgood. ``He played excellent and made some unbelievable saves near the end. They had us on our heels, but he made big stop after big stop.''
The loss dropped the Kings to ninth place in the conference, one point behind the Blues and Nashville Predators. Los Angeles has 10 games left, one more than the Predators and Blues _ who have reached the playoffs 24 straight years.
``That's the way things have gone for the last couple of weeks,'' Osgood said. ``One day you're in sixth or seventh place and the next day you're in ninth. It's a roller coaster. We've got to get points in every game on this trip.''
The Blues played for the first time this season without four-time All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger, who served a one-game NHL suspension. Pronger was the only player to appear in each of St. Louis' first 72 games, after missing all but five games last season because of injuries.
Pascal Rheaume ended a 41-game goal drought before getting injured and Tkachuk scored his 30th goal, helping the Blues beat Los Angeles for the sixth straight time. Mike Sillinger and Dallas Drake also scored for the Blues, who held the Kings to five goals in the four-game season series sweep while killing off all 12 power plays.
``We showed good composure,'' Osgood said. ``It was playoff hockey. The last eight minutes, that was the best team defense we've played in a long time. They came at us pretty good. They have a very quick team. and they were swarming the net.''
Sean Avery, Scott Barney and Lubomir Visnovsky scored for the Kings, who had not been swept in a season series by St. Louis since losing all eight in 1969-70.
``It was very important, but it's been the same speech for the past two months. Every game's important,'' Kings center Ian Laperriere said. ``I know the Blues were behind us, and it kind of hurt that we couldn't put a little cushion between them and us. But even if we were three points ahead of them, it doesn't mean that we would make the playoffs.''
The game's first three goals were scored during a 71-second span early in the first period, including one by Barney that gave the Kings their only lead at the 2:45 mark.
The Blues connected on three of their first nine shots at Cristobal Huet, tying it just 35 seconds later when Rheaume converted a rebound for his first goal since last March 23 with New Jersey. Drake put St. Louis ahead to stay moments later, redirecting a shot from the right boards by Eric Weinrich, who earned his 300th NHL assist.
Sillinger made it 3-1 at 11:37 of the first.
Visnovsky, playing his second game after sitting out the previous 17 with an injured shoulder, sliced the margin to 3-2 at 14:45 of the second period.
Pavol Demitra nearly restored St. Louis' two-goal margin, sending a slap shot off the right post with 30 seconds left in the period. But Tkachuk made it 4-2 just 36 seconds into the third period with an unassisted goal, after a sloppy turnover by Jozef Stumpel at the Los Angeles blue line.
``Mistakes are going to happen,'' Laperriere said. ``We played really hard, but not always smart. And against a team like that, you can't give them breaks like that because they'll take advantage of it.''
Avery scored with 8:55 left on a wraparound, backhanding the puck off defenseman Bryce Salvador's stick after taking the puck away from Osgood behind the net as the goalie tried to clear it to the corner.