Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stewart, Shattenkirk make successful debuts as Blues overwhelm Ducks

Newly acquired players add two goals,
assist in 9-3 blowout; Bishop gains win in relief

ST. LOUIS -- New players, new start, but the Blues quickly found themselves in a two-goal deficit Saturday against Anaheim.

Uh, oh. Right?

Not a chance. These are the new Blues, and fans quickly embraced the changes.

The Blues, who responded accordingly in Buffalo after trading off captain Eric Brewer on Friday afternoon, were even more resilient Saturday night with the debut of Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk, acquired in the early hours of Saturday that sent Erik Johnson and Jay McClement to Colorado.

Both newcomers made an impact, as Stewart tallied a pair of power play goals and Shattenkirk assisted on one goal, as the Blues got big games from a number of people, including hometown's Ben Bishop, in a 9-3 dismantling of the Ducks before a boisterous sellout crowd at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (27-21-9), who have won three in a row and pulled within five points of eighth-place Anaheim (32-24-4) in the Western Conference standings, saw five players tally three points and two more earn two points, including Stewart, who along with Shattenkirk got into St. Louis around 1:30 Saturday afternoon ready to battle with their new teammates.

It was the kind of game that the newcomers couldn't have asked for a better start to the new chapters in their lives.

"That was picture-perfect start," Stewart said. "I had my game going hard to the net, created space and trying to be a good screen."

Exactly the kind of words the Blues predicted they needed and got from Stewart and Shattenkirk as well.

"I think you see some of the decision-making," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "You see both guys playing to their strengths. ... I'm real pleased with their games, respectively, based on the fact that they had to go through what they went through last night and get up real early and travel. Solid effort by them."

The Blues fell behind 2-0 less than seven minutes into the game, then scored twice in a seven-second span on goals by Andy McDonald and T.J. Oshie that really jumpstarted a team that needed a big infusion.

"One really big shift got us back in that hockey game," Payne said. "We're in the middle of a change (and) Osh makes a great read. The tip-in by Andy to get us started and the goal right after that just on a neutral zone execution off a face-off really got us back to a spot where we felt like we could have enough traction to establish our game and go forward with it.

"Erasing a two-goal deficit was really, really important for us. A big shift by that group in particular. A couple great plays by Osh."

Oshie and McDonald, along with Alex Pietrangelo, David Backes and Alex Steen were a group of five players with three points in the game.

"The first shift after a goal was very huge," said Oshie, who netted his first two-goal game of his career Saturday. "We wanted to get in their zone right away. Mostly just Steener making a great play finding me through the middle. I was fortunate enough to get it over his pad on the backhand.

"If there was one play that really (got the team fired up) was Jax's hit down in our end. We scored on that same shift. And then I got another one right away. From then on, I think we settled down a little bit. We had a good start. They just got on the board first."

Said McDonald, "It's a great sign, because it's encouraging to see a team that's able to respond, especially after getting down."

Bishop picked up his second career NHL victory by backstopping all 20 shots faced on the night. He came on late in the first period when starter Ty Conklin allowed three goals on five shots a day after blanking the Sabres.

When Ryan Getzlaf scored a long range goal that squirted inside the left post with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left in a wild first period, Payne made the move to Bishop.

"I figured with a couple minutes left in the period, he's probably just going to wait until the end of the period," Bishop said of Payne. "When he said my name right then, I was like, 'Here we go.' I was pretty nervous there, but once you get in, you forget about it.

"I don't think the guys could have made it any easier on me scoring all those goals. It was tough going in there. I was a little nervous at the beginning. I felt good out there. It obviously helps when the guys score all those goals in front of me."

The Blues came out of the first period with a 4-3 lead and chased Ducks starter Curtis McElhinney, but when Timo Pielmeier made his NHL debut in the second period, the Blues made it a rude awakening by scoring five unanswered goals on 12 shots the rest of the way.

When Stewart, who's torched the Blues to the tune of eight goals and 15 points in nine career games, scored his first goal as a Blue -- the fifth player in team history to score more than a goal in his team debut -- 19,150 fans gave him a rousing ovation that got louder after scoring his second power play goal than made it 8-3 as the Blues were 3-for-5 with the man advantage.

"That was great," Stewart said of the crowd. "That was probably the best crowd I've ever been in front of. It's going to be easy to play here if the fans are like that every night.

"(The adjustment) wasn't that hard. It was an easy transition. The guys were great in the locker room. By the time I landed, I had about three or four texts and messages from the boys on the team. That was very comforting and it was a very easy adjustment."

The Blues had no time to adjust. They have games to win and no time to dwell.

"It was not like we had a few days to adjust," McDonald said. "It was on a game day and I think the guys handled it pretty well.

"We were down 2-0 at the start, had me a little worried, but we got going a little bit and things started rolling. The two new guys had strong games."

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