St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, of Slovakia, deflects a shot on goal by the Tampa Bay Lighting during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 17, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
TAMPA, Fla. - The St. Louis Blues are headed to the post-season.
Jaroslav Halak made 22 saves, Jaden Schwartz scored his first NHL goal, and the Blues beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 to clinch a playoff berth Saturday night.
"It's the first step," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're proud of that. We're really happy with it, and we continue down that path."
Halak had an in-close stop on league goals leader Steven Stamkos in the first, and made a glove save on Brett Connolly during a second-period breakaway.
"It's great, but I don't think anybody is focusing on the playoffs," Halak said. "We have work to do. We've got nine games left in the season, and we have to get as many wins as we can. We have to do our job, and I'm sure everybody realizes that."
Halak came within about four minutes of getting his 23rd career shutout in his 200th NHL game.
Schwartz, taken 14th overall in the 2010 entry draft and making his NHL debut, put St. Louis up 2-0 from just outside the crease on the power play with 35.5 seconds left in the first.
"It was pretty special," Schwartz said. "It's something you dream about. I'm just happy that I could come in and help get the win."
Patrik Berglund and David Perron also scored for the Blues, who became the first NHL team (46-19-8) to reach 100 points this season.
Brendan Mikkelson got a late third-period goal for Tampa Bay, which is seven points behind eighth-place Washington in the Eastern Conference.
The Blues were without left wing Andy McDonald, who hurt his right shoulder in Thursday's game against Carolina and is week-to-week.
Berglund put the Blues ahead 1-0 on a short-handed goal from the slot off a nice pass by Alex Pietrangelo during a 2-on-1 at the 15-minute mark of the first period.
"We didn't get the result in the first period we wanted," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said. "Having said that, 5-on-5 in the first period we gave them zero scoring chances. They're the best team in the league. It's tough to be better than that 5-on-5."
Tampa Bay has allowed 11 short-handed goals this season. The Lightning, on the other hand, have scored just once while being short-handed.
Perron made it 3-0 when he beat Dwayne Roloson from the right circle 2:47 into the second.
"We needed the lead, we got it, and we're tough with a lead," Hitchcock said. "We got a power-play goal, we got a shorty, and we got a 5-on-5 goal, and when you do that on the road that's good stuff."
Mikkelson got his first NHL goal, coming in his 116th game, with 4:11 to play.
"It's more of a relief," Mikkelson said. "It's taken me way too long to get that first one. It's disappointing that we weren't able to turn that into a little bit more of a rally."
St. Louis won both games between the teams this season, outscoring Tampa Bay 6-1.
Notes: Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier (hand) missed his 13th consecutive game. ... St. Louis C Jason Arnott was rested. ...The Lightning recalled C Trevor Smith from Norfolk of the AHL with C Nate Thompson out because of an upper-body injury. ... Tampa Bay is finalizing a contract with G Sebastien Caron, who has been playing in Germany. The move would allow the team to return rookie G Dustin Tokarski, called up after starting G Mathieu Garon was sidelined by a groin injury on March 6, to Norfolk. ... Tampa Bay RW Ryan Shannon left with an upper body injury. ... St. Louis C T.J. Oshie had two assists.
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