Netminder, winger battling for jobs key in 3-1 victory over Lightning
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- A couple guys looking to make the Blues roster this season didn't disappoint in their initial tests Tuesday.
Brian Elliott, battling Ben Bishop for the backup goalie job, and Evgeny Grachev, who the Blues acquired in a draft-day trade over the summer, made impressive debuts in the Blues' 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scottrade Center.
Elliott looked poised, confident, was square to the puck the entire game and stopped 21 shots, while Grachev scored twice, including an empty-netter to seal the victory for the Blues, who began the night playing the first of five straight days.
Elliott, who split time between Ottawa and Colorado last season, only allowed a Steve Downie power play goal as the Blues killed seven of eight penalties on the night and gave their goalie chances to see pucks. When he didn't have to stop pucks, the Blues were blocking shots, 15 of them in all.
Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) stopped 21 shots in a 3-1 win over the
Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
"I felt like I was seeing the puck pretty well," Elliott said. "What I didn't see, guys were blocking in front of me. That's what you like to see, guys throwing skates and shin pads in front of pucks.
"Pucks tonight were hitting me and sticking to me."
It's the kind of start Elliott's teammates wanted to see.
"A good test for him tonight after all the penalties that we had and the power plays that they had," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said of Elliott. "I think he made a lot of great saves, he was real good in moving the puck and you can tell he's played at this level before. He's real calm and collective in there in making the first saves. ... He looked really confident out there."
Grachev, who the Blues acquired for a third-round pick, made the most of his presence playing with David Backes and newcomer Jamie Langenbrunner, who both picked up two assists on Grachev's goals.
"I think it doesn't help them, me playing with them, but it helps me a lot," Grachev joked. "It was great. I had fun. I'm looking forward to getting another game with them."
Grachev snapped home a shot past Mathieu Garon with 4 minutes 44 seconds left in the first period when he collected a rebound from Langenbrunner's initial shot.
"You always get that burst after scoring a goal, especially in the first game of the year with a new team," Grachev said. "... I think I wasn't consistent throughout the whole game, so it's something I've got to take a look at and analyze."
The Blues had a tough time getting into an offensive flow based on the number of penalties they had to kill off.
"That was a tough one out there, a lot of penalties, but I think you would expect that the first game of the preseason," Colaiacovo said. "A lot of new faces, guys getting their game and their legs back. ... As penalty killers, we did a great job in killing those. Our penalty killing needs to be better this year (after being 18th in the league a season ago)."
Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (right) checks Tampa Bay's Ashton
Carter during Tuesday's preseason game.
Added Blues coach Davis Payne, "The PK was good. Apart from some structure, the forecheck wasn't where we wanted it in the second period. When it gets right down to it, we blocked some key shots and got some key saves. It usually makes for a good starting point."
Matt D'Agostini picked up where he left off for the Blues when he netted 21 goals a season ago. His goal from the left circle beat Jaroslav Janus high glove side with 3:07 remaining in the second period.
Grachev added an empty-netter with 32 seconds to play.
"I think it's an overall good effort," Colaiacovo said. "In the first period, it was real frustrating. That was the first time I played against a system like that where they play sort of a 1-3-1. It's kind of tough to maneuver through when you're not moving your feet, when you're not coming up the ice together. But we stayed patient, we didn't crack and just continued to find plays."
The two teams will play again tonight in Orlando, Fla. at Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic. The game was originally scheduled for Winnipeg.