Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blues blank Oilers for second straight meeting

Oshie, Halak lead charge in 4-0 victory,
extend Edmonton's winless skid to eight

ST. LOUIS -- Maybe the Blues don't have much to play for. The playoffs are all but out of the question.

But the way T.J. Oshie and his Blues teammates feel after Thursday night's 4-0 victory over the hapless Edmonton Oilers, there's much more meaning to the remaining eight games than just making the playoffs.

"Pride. Playing for the guys next to you," said Oshie, who picked up a goal and an assist. "Obviously, a huge part of it is playing for the fans that have supported us all year, even in our darkest hours when we weren't playing very good there. ... We'll play for them and from here on out and the guys sitting next to us."

The Blues (33-32-9), who had lost four of the last five, needed roughly 40 minutes to get the wheels going in motion and get the 19,150 at Scottrade Center into the game even after a trio of fights in the first period.

Oshie's goal with 1 minute 32 seconds left in the second period on a wicked wrister that beat Nikolai Khabibulin high on the short side gave the Blues all the goals they would need.

"I figured (Khabibulin) would be leaning," Oshie said. "Not a high percentage shot, but it went in. I'll definitely take it.

"I think we just needed to get one on the board to fold our game into the next step. We weren't generating too much. Fortunately, we popped one and kind of went from there."

The Blues got three third-period goals from Matt D'Agostini, Chris Stewart and Adam Cracknell to break the game open and Jaroslav Halak pitched his sixth shutout of the season after making only 12 stops.

The Blues, who extended the Oilers' winless skid to eight games (0-6-2), did so by blanking Edmonton for the second straight meeting and extending that team shutout streak over the Oilers to 141:08, dating back to the second period of a 5-3 Blues win here on Feb. 4.

"It's good defense," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "... Twelve shots against, but we really didn't get to the game we wanted to until the third period.

"Some positive things to obviously take from it."

The Blues entered the game on a 1-for-17 funk on the power play but got man advantage goals from D'Agostini 2:12 into the third and Stewart 8:30 into the third to seal a victory.

"We had to get skating," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Yeah, we came back from a (four-game) road trip, but we had to realize it was a lot about support in all those areas, getting skating, getting to the right spots, making sure we had outlets for the pucks. I didn't think we did that very well in the first. I thought even in the second, it dropped off a little bit. We had to really get ourselves back on track after the second because it was a game that really could have gone either way those first two periods.

"We didn't play our kind of hockey for the first two periods. Good thing we did in the third."

The Blues played the kind of hockey in the third period that had earned them high marks through many of their victories this season. They played shutdown, lockdown hockey against an Edmonton team that didn't register a shot in the final period until there was 1:08 left in the game. The Oilers went 28:34 between shots in the game and the Blues were able to fire off with the man advantage.

"At the end of the second when we had the penalty kills, we got to our game," Pietrangelo said. "Guys were on their toes again, and obviously the power play in the third period got things going for us. That's what we needed to do."

D'Agostini extended the lead 2:12 into the third period by snapping a shot that squirted between Khabibulin's pads from the low left circle.

Stewart added his 10th goal with the Blues and 23rd overall since coming in a trade with Colorado on Feb. 19 by finishing off Oshie's feed from the slot 8:30 into the third period.

Cracknell made it 4-0 with a one-time finish of a cross-ice feed from Kevin Shattenkirk with 4:53 remaining.

Although there were no goals scored in the first period, there were three fights that kept the crowd entertained. Cam Janssen and Jim Vandermeer kicked things off in a lengthy bout, followed by Ryan Reaves and Theo Peckham after 1 second ticked off the clock. Then, B.J. Crombeen and Jean-Francois Jacques completed the fight hat trick near the end of the opening period.

"We were kind of flat to start out the game and they kind of found their game early on," D'Agostini said. "It was a good job by those guys to step up. It woke us up a little bit.

"Slowly but surely, we got to our game."

* NOTES -- Blues center Patrik Berglund (lower-body injury) missed his first game of the season. That leaves David Backes and D'Agostini as the only players to have appeared in all 74 games this season. Center T.J. Hensick was recalled from Peoria to replace Berglund. ... The Oilers have scored two or fewer goals during this eight-game winless streak. ... The Blues are playing without defenseman Barret Jackman (finger), left winger Alex Steen (ankle), right winger David Perron (concussion) and center Vladimir Sobotka (foot). ... Oilers defenseman Kurtis Foster (neck) missed the game after being injured Tuesday in Nashville. Foster joined defenseman Ryan Whitney (ankle), left winger Taylor Hall (ankle), right winger Ales Hemsky (shoulder), center Sam Gagner (hand), center Shawn Horcoff (ankle) and right winger Gilbert Brule (concussion) on the injured list. ... The Blues have killed 26 consecutive Oilers power plays dating to the 2008-09 season.

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