Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blues get back to basics in 5-1 win over Islanders

Pietrangelo, Oshie earn three-point nights; Elliott stops 26 for 19th win

ST. LOUIS -- Practicing what they preach. The Blues got back to some of it Thursday night against the New York Islanders.

It wasn't quite enough, according to coach Ken Hitchcock, but it was enough to get back on the winning track.

And if the
Blues want a quick fix following a loss, just bring in an Eastern Conference opponent.

The Blues continue to feast on the East. But they also wanted to get back on the saddle after falling off the horse with a loss Tuesday against NHL-worst Columbus.
(Getty Images)
Jason Arnott (right) scored the Blues' first goal as Islanders goalie Al
Montoya (middle) looks back as the puck goes in during the first period.

T.J. Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo tied career highs in points, Oshie with a goal and an assist and Pietrangelo with three assists as the Blues blew past the New York Islanders 5-1 Thursday night.

Andy McDonald scored his first goal of the season, Kevin Shattenkirk and David Perron also scored as the Blues moved within three points of Western Conference-leading Detroit with 77 points. Brian Elliott stopped 26 shots for his 19th win of the season.

The Blues (35-15-7) are now 12-0-2 against the East this season, 13-0-2 dating back to last season. They are the only team in either conference without a regulation loss against the opposite conference. In fact, the Islanders (24-25-8) are the last team from the East to beat the Blues in regulation, 5-2 last season on Long Island.

The Blues have points in 20 straight home games, which continue to add on to a team record (17-0-3) and they now have 25 home wins, one more that the Red Wings for most in the league (25-3-4). They are now 27-0-0 when scoring three goals or more.

"We kept it pretty simple. We scored four goals from just shots and tips," Pietrangelo said. "Doing what we do best, just putting pucks to the net, getting in front of the goalie, banging and crashing. Every line contributed. A lot of guys answered the call tonight. It was a good response after the game in Columbus."

Frans Nielsen scored for the Islanders, who saw their four-game road winning streak snapped. Al Montoya stopped 21 shots as he was a surprise starter for Evgeni Nabokov, who along with defenseman Steve Staios were last-minute scratches with the stomach flu.

"Good-sized team," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of the Blues. "Good goaltending and I can see why they've had success here."

As Pietrangelo said, the Blues were able to practice what they preached. They preached shooting the puck at the net, specifically off goalie pads and pounce on rebounds. There were tip drill goals from Perron and Oshie on the night, and Backes provided screens on Islanders goalie Al Montoya throughout the game.

"We've got a team built for simplicity, but the skill's there," Pietrangelo said. "When we're playing our simple game, the skilled players are going to be the skilled players. Look at Osh's goal, Perry's goal, (David) Backes ... you can go on and on. Everybody has the skill to play that game. When we're playing the hard-nosed skill game like we can, we're a tough team to beat."

Hitchcock wants more. He was disappointed with the amount of time the Blues spent in their end. If that gets fixed, more shot attempts will come as a result.

"We're not there. Not there ... yet," Hitchcock said. "We're getting better, but we've got to get back to that .... I told the players today 40-50 shots directed towards the net, get those 60, 70, 80 attempts. We've got to get into that area. We're not there yet. A lot of it is we were trying to get there. We're trying to do that stuff, but we're getting bogged down in our own zone. We're getting hemmed in quite a bit. I think if we can clean up our Christmas in our own zone, spend less time there, we can play a lot more in the offensive zone.

"I think we're starting to do some really good things in the offensive zone. We just got to have way more time there."

The Islanders were able to go up 1-0 even though the Blues had the best chance in an eventful first minute of the game.

"Our start of the game was a little bit of a concern up to about the last five minutes of the first period, but from then on, everyone was going, everyone was playing good, getting back to that north game and coming back hard," Oshie said

Nielsen was able to coral his own rebound after Kevin Shattenkirk blocked his initial shot and scoop it over Elliott's right shoulder at the near post just 59 seconds into the game.

But the Blues came back with two goals for a 2-1 lead after one when Arnott's 13th of the season tied it when he lifted a shot from Montoya's right in tight over his left shoulder at 15:40. Arnott returned to the lineup after missing six games with a left shoulder injury. He, along with Kent Huskins, who returned after missing 46 games with a broken bone in his ankle, came back to the lineup.

Shattenkirk's first goal in 16 games came off a one-timer from the left point that got through the pads of Montoya. The power play goal came at 17:12 for a 2-1 St. Louis lead, with Backes supplying the screen in front.

The Blues kept up the pressure in the second as McDonald, playing in his third game after missing 51 with a concussion, got his first of the season for a 3-1 lead.

"It was nice for our line," McDonald said. "I think we were doing some good things, but we really haven't contributed that much offensively. It's nice to score at home too in front of our fans. It's a good feeling.

"(The goal) was the easy part. Langs made a good play to get it on net and certainly create a rebound there for me. I had an empty net, so it was an easy goal. I'll take it."

But the key sequence came at the other end. Elliott's key pad stop on Jay Pandolfo prevented the Islanders from tying the game, and the Blues were on the attack with an odd-man rush. Montoya stopped Jamie Langenbrunner's initial shot, but McDonald crashed the goal and backhanded the rebound in 2:53 in.

"Our best player tonight was our goalie. Our goalie was terrific," Hitchcock said of Elliott, who has an NHL-best 1.61 goals-against average as well as a League-best .940 save percentage. "Our goalie was our best player the last game that we lost.
(Getty Images)
Blues defenseman Kris Russell (4) battles for a loose puck with Islanders'
Michael Grabner during Thursday's 5-1 St. Louis victory.

"We're giving up far too many chances. We're getting beat in areas that we haven't gotten beat at in all year and we're going to have to address it and get going, get a little bit better."

The Blues showed no mercy to Montoya, who was a surprise starter when Evgeni Nabokov was a late scratch with the flu. Perron's tip of a Pietrangelo shot from the right point 8:52 into the period made it 4-1, making the Blues a perfect 2-for-2 on their first pair of power plays.

Oshie tipped another Pietrangelo point shot from the slot through Montoya's pads with 5:07 left for the Blues' fifth goal on only their 19th shot of the game.

"It's my job to be ready at anytime," Montoya said. "Tonight's one that I want back but you know, the puck had eyes. It was finding it's way through. It's tough to come away with this one and I could have had a better game, but I look it over and put it behind me."

The Blues come away with a win but know they can clean up some areas.

"It was a 5-1 win, but it wasn't a 5-1 game," Hitchcock said. "They had their chances, lots of chances. We had chances. I thought we were slow out of the blocks and then got going. Once we got caught up to the tempo, I think the start of the game, we had the debris from the last game. I thought we picked it up through the midpoint and then they took over in the third when they got the power plays.

"We're happy with the win, but we're leaving here in firm grasp of what we need to get better at quickly here. ... It was one of those games where it's nice to win from us, but now what we need to work on is really defining. We'll get to work on that tomorrow."

No comments:

Post a Comment