Friday, November 25, 2011

Elliott, Backes intrumental in Blues' 2-0 shutout of Flames

Netminder earns third shutout of season; captain collects goal, assist

By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Those chants of E-L-L-I-O-T-T bellowing from every corner of Scottrade Center are not for the ET character that pops up on the jumbo-tron. They've got Blues netminder Brian Elliott, who's quickly becoming a fan favorite even though he doesn't realize it.

"I think it's the ET on the screen that's the fan favorite," Elliott joked.

(Getty Images)
Blues goalie Brian Elliott (right) makes one of his 24 stops on the Flames'
Mikael Backlund during Friday's 2-0 victory.
No Brian, it's you.

There's a reason for it, too.

Elliott continued his dominance this season. He pitched his third shutout of the season, which ties him for the league lead with a 24-save effort in a 2-0 win over the Calgary Flames Friday night before 19,150 pleased spectators that cheered every Elliott save.

The Blues' netminder improved to 9-1 and lowered his already sparkling league-leading goals-against average to 1.34 and save percentage to .951.

"I just try to stay even-keeled, not really get up on yourself," a modest Elliott said. "Those things can sneak through just the same.

"I try not to really think about it. You can be playing the same way and not getting the wins or results. You just try to keep it rolling when you can."

David Backes scored shorthanded and Alex Pietrangelo scored his second goal in as many games and the Blues (12-8-2) moved into sixth place in the Western Conference.

If Elliott doesn't want to talk about himself, his teammates have no problem doing so.

"Lights out ... both goalies (including Jaroslav Halak) have been," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who also scored in the game.

"He's making saves he has no business making," captain David Backes said of Elliott. "When you've got that behind you, it gives you confidence to make a few more plays in front of him. ... Kudos to him."

The Blues needed every bit of Elliott, who will start again Sunday at Columbus based on Hitchcock rewarding goalies that earn shutouts, made three key stops in the third period when the Flames (8-12-1) were buzzing around the goal.

He stopped Brendan Morrison, who walked in from the side of the net, then made breakaway stops on Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay to preserve a one-goal lead.

"I was lucky enough to make the saves and keep them out of there," Elliott said.

"We got two major goals from our top players, we got a great goaltending display and our fourth line was terrific," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team is 6-1-2 since he took over for Davis Payne. "That was the difference.

"It wasn't clean, it wasn't pretty. It was a really physical, hard game again. We seem to be in a lot of these games right now where they feel like playoff games."

Backes was the key source of both goals, playing his hard-hitting, physical style with a hint of grittiness. He used every bit of his 6-foot-3, 225-pound body in scoring a goal and assisting in a key third-period goal.

"He's a machine right now," Hitchcock said of Backes. "He's given us everything he's got. He's playing in every situation.

"That line (with Alex Steen and T.J. Oshie) is good right now. We need that line because they're carrying an awesome responsibility. They're scoring and checking and that's hard to do. It's easy to check, as long as you can focus, but when you've got to finish the plays off like they're doing, that's a hard thing to do. And they're doing it for us right now."

Backes got an outlet pass from Kevin Shattenkirk and was able to beat defenseman TJ Brodie, power his way past the Flames D-man and lift a shot over the glove hand of Blues killer Miikka Kiprusoff, who was 19-4-2 with a 1.90 GAA and .927 save percentage in his career against the Blues coming in. The goal came 10 minutes 39 seconds into the game.

"Just keep your legs going," Backes said. "Hopefully, if worse comes to worse, you get a stride on a guy and he hauls you down and you play four-on-four.

"All of the sudden, there was a little open ice in front of me and I just tried to get a shot to the top half of the net and found a little twine there."

The Blues outshot the Flames 13-4 in the middle 20 minutes but produced no goals. Their fourth line of Scott Nichol and wingers Brett Sterling and Ryan Reaves produced the best scoring chances. The Blues did get a shot off the post from Matt D'Agostini during a lengthy shift that had the Flames scrambling.

"They gave us the shifts that mattered," Hitchcock said of his fourth line. "They gave us shifts early in the game and we weren't able to build on it. Then they gave us the shift that started the momentum in the second period. It really led to a lot of energy ... energized the bench.

"You get those type of shifts from your fourth line, it gives you a really good feeling. ... That's a very effective line for us right now."
(Getty Images)
Blues enforcer Ryan Reaves (left) lands a knockout blow to Calgary's Tim
Jackman during the first period Friday night.

The Blues got Pietrangelo's all-important goal with 6:43 left when Backes crunched Kirkwood native Chris Butler in the corner, creating a loose puck for Steen. Steen was able to slot Pietrangelo in front and the Blues' defenseman roofed a shot over Kiprusoff.

"Good timing again," Pietrangelo said. "Obviously another great pass by Steener. A good heads-up play. I almost fell down there. Kind of a funny play, but I was able to get it to the back of then net.

"... We're feeling pretty good in here right now. It wasn't our best game, but we got away with two points."

* NOTES -- The Blues assigned defenseman Cade Fairchild to Peoria after the game. Fairchild was brought up as insurance. ... Backes now has four goals and six points in five games after scoring four goals in the first 17.

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