Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ward outduels Halak; shootout goal gives Hurricanes win

Carolina netminder stops 38 shots,
halts Blues' two-game winning streak

ST. LOUIS -- After an inauspicious first period in which Jaroslav Halak gave the Blues a pulse and an opportunity to win, in the end, the Blues did everything but win.

The Blues got the goaltending from Halak -- who made some critical stops against the Carolina Hurricanes -- and fed off his play. They increased the tempo themselves in the offensive zone, but the guy at the other end didn't want to miss out on the fun.

Cam Ward was a fortress himself in the Hurricanes net. He stopped 17 shots in the third period and all three shootout attempts, while Jussi Jokinen notched the lone shootout attempt in the game as the Hurricanes stole a 2-1 victory over the Blues Saturday night at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (14-9-5) were outshot 16-6 in the first period but saw their goaltender rise to the occasion. From that momentum, they were finally able to carry much of the second and third periods to the Hurricanes (12-12-4), who may have shown their road weary legs after losing in a shootout at Dallas on Friday night.

But Ward, who did allow a power play goal to Alex Pietrangelo in the third period, thwarted the Blues on 38 shots.

It's a point for the home team, who fell to 9-2-2 on home ice, but left the Blues feeling frustrated that they couldn't punch a second goal past Ward.

"It's one of those where we lost a shootout," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "You didn't get that extra point as crucial as they are, but a pretty good effort for two periods anyways.

"They found some holes in the d-zone based on lack of awareness, so we ended up chasing the first period and had to reset ourselves after the first. Jaro was excellent, gave us a chance to play 0-0 going forward. From that point forward, I thought we were pretty solid. We did some things we wanted to."

Carolina seemed to bog down the Blues in their end with an aggressive fore-check and speed from their forwards in the open ice.

But Halak was there to give his teammates a lift.

"He's been like that all year. Timely saves," forward Alex Steen said of Halak. "... The first period for me is the biggest part of the game. We're not playing the way we wanted to. We started off well the first two, three shifts. After that, they took it to us for a while and Jaro just came up huge. It's so important for us. We feel that calmness from the back."

With both goaltenders on their games, the Blues had the first chance to break the ice when they earned a two-man advantage for 1 minute, 20 seconds. But what turned out to be a great opportunity to get the lead ended in disaster as the Blues failed to get a shot on goal during the power play. Only Steen's shot off the post with a 5-on-4 chance was the Blues' best opportunity.

"We got a couple pucks to the right places and then a decision to shoot when we needed to pass," Payne said. "A couple mishandles and next thing you know, it goes away."

The Blues outshot Carolina 18-4 in the third period, and Ward had much to do with it, including a stop on Backes that seemed like a sure goal that would have given the Blues the lead.

Brad Boyes found Backes alone in the right circle and Backes was poised to score, but Ward flashed the glove 3:02 into the final period.

"Great pass by Boysie through about five guys in front," Backes said. "I'm all alone on the back side. (Ward) should not be there. If anything, he should just have a pad there and I get it over his pad. All of the sudden, the glove comes out of nowhere. ... Yeah, bite my lip and try and keep the words to myself what I was thinking."

It was a momentum-changer, and sure enough, Carolina grabbed the lead on Brandon Sutter's sixth goal of the season 16 seconds after Ward's save on Backes. Sutter was able to get a step on Steen along the right side, skate in on Halak and beat the Blues' netminder with a backhand five-hole.

"I read it wrong," Steen said. "I was pulling back and then it started off looking like a 2-on-1 and our guy (Erik Johnson) caught their guy and I thought (Sutter) was going to slide it and try to force that play. He didn't and he made a good move."

But the Blues pushed until they got the equalizer on Pietrangelo's third of the season. Patrik Berglund got the puck to Pietrangelo at the blue line, and the Blues' defenseman's slap shot beat an outstretched Ward, who caught a piece of the puck with his glove but went in 6:31 into the final period.

"We got momentum from it," Berglund said of the goal. "I think the third period, we were playing really well. It's too bad we didn't get the two points."

Halak preserved the tie when he snapped out the right pad on a breakaway by Carolina's Eric Staal with 13.5 seconds lefty in the overtime.

The Blues sent out Matt D'Agostini, Boyes and Steen in the shootout, but Ward made stops on all three.

Halak stopped Sutter before Jeff Skinner fired wide for the Hurricanes in the second attempt, but Jokinen, who was came in 26-for-55 in his career in shootout attempts but 0-for-5 this season, beat Halak with a backhand roof shot to end the game and give the Canes the second point.

"It was a tough one to digest," Steen said. "We pushed them back pretty good. ... I think from the mid-second period to the end of the game and even including overtime, we had some good chances, myself included and I couldn't bury one. It's tough. I feel bad for Jaro, who played an excellent first period and really kept it scoreless. We couldn't get the goals for him."

"We had pressure, we had opportunities, we had pucks on sticks," Payne said. "It's a matter of execution. It's a matter of their a goaltender finding a way to miss one. He didn't miss many tonight."

No comments:

Post a Comment