Friday, November 4, 2011

Blues drop Canucks with goals in dirty area

Oshie scores twice, Backes nets game-winner; Elliott backstops 29 in win

ST. LOUIS -- T.J. Oshie readily admitted that he's been too much of a perimeter player and he hasn't been getting into those dirty areas to have success.

Oshie's collective thinking brought him into those areas around the blue paint and in the low slot area. He was rewarded handsomely.

Oshie scored twice, assisted on David Backes' game-winner and Brian Elliott stopped 29 shots with another impressive effort in the Blues' 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks Friday night at Scottrade Center.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Jason Arnott (44) has his shot stopped by Canucks goalie
Roberto Luongo in the Blues' 3-2 victory Friday night.

Oshie's only other two-goal came on Feb. 19, 2011, as did his last three-point game, which was also the third of his career.

Oshie, who was benched for a period in Philadelphia recently, was briefly thrown onto the fourth line with Scott Nichol and Evgeny Grachev. He scored his first goal by driving the net hard, which prompted coach Davis Payne to elevate Oshie back to the top line.

"To get goals in this league, you've got to go to the tough areas," Oshie said. "Unfortunately, it took me 11 games to learn that this season. ... It hasn't been so much this year until tonight. That's something I've got to incorporate into my game a lot more.

"(Getting into the dirty areas) is one thing we haven't been doing as much this year. We've been outshooting teams. We didn't get a lot of shots on net tonight, but getting in there and getting that second or third chance, that's where those goals all came from."

Payne was impressed.

"Pretty darn close," Payne said when asked if this was Oshie's best game of the season. "It's hard to argue with the production.

"They (Oshie, Backes and Vladimir Sobotka) played a lot against the Sedin line. You've got to make very very smart decisions. You have to defend well and when an opportunity's there, you've got to make them play in their own end."

Backes got the game-winner, driving the net and poking his own rebound past Luongo 5:59 into the third period.

"Stay around there and keep digging until the whistle blows," Backes said. "It's no secret that's where goals are scored in front of that blue paint. You pay a price to get there, but that's where you need to be."

Luongo was incensed on the play that a whistle didn't blow.

"Yeah, I had it in my gear there for a while," Luongo said. "(Backes) kind of stuck his stick between my legs and jarred it loose and in.

"Those are unfortunately the breaks of the game. Unfortunately, that was the difference tonight."

Backes took a pass from Kevin Shattenkirk, who pinched in along the right boards and made a nice play taking a pass rimmed around.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Evgeny Grachev (78) is being pursued by the Canucks' Alex
Edler Friday night.

"One of our rules is if you see that D-to-D pass behind the net to the weak side, you have the opportunity to pinch and I saw some support back," Shattenkirk said. "I just made a read on that and had some good talk with Oshie in the corner and he makes a nice little soft chip. If it's too hard, it's to the other side of the net and we don't get that play. It was a great play by him and I just threw it front knowing Backes was there.

"I took a quick little peak before and just kind of set that in my mind that that was my play. Once I felt their defenseman come on me, I knew he had to have left (Backes) open. It was a no-brainer."

The Canucks struck first on Alexandre Burrows' fifth of the season but in actuality, the puck was batted in with the glove of the Blues' Chris Stewart with 6:47 left in the opening period. Burrows left the game in the second period with back spasms.

Oshie got the Blues on the board by driving the net hard and taking Scott Nichol's pass, beating Luongo with a backhand at 14:50 of the first. Defenseman Roman Polak got the play going with hard work in the corner to spring Nichol, who picked up his first point as a Blue.

Oshie then struck again 1:28 into the second, getting into the low slot area and throwing a shot through a crowded crease that snuck past Luongo after good work down low by linemates Vladimir Sobotka and Backes.

"(Getting into the dirty areas) is one thing we haven't been doing as much this year," said Oshie, who helped the Blues improve to 6-6 on the season as they travel to Minnesota to play the Wild tonight. "We've been outshooting teams. We didn't get a lot of shots on net tonight, but getting in there and getting that second or third chance, that's where those goals all came from."

Said Blues coach Davis Payne, "As the game wore on, we got to enough of the right areas to get rewarded. Sometimes, they're not the pretty ones.

"A goal like Backes' to be the eventual winner, it's just finding a way to get it there, playing the interior and having numbers and sticking with it. In tough, tight hockey games, sometimes that's how it has to be done."

Elliott made the start for the Blues and was given a shot after blanking the Canucks (6-7-1) on Oct. 26, stopping all 34 shots in a 3-0 win. He stopped 29 Friday night.

"They came at us, and we weathered the storm pretty well," said Elliott, who sports a 5-1 record with a 1.72 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. "... It just shows our composure and the consistent type of game we wanted."

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