Saturday, February 18, 2012

Blues get goals from unlikely sources, top Wild 4-0

Jackman, Reaves, Sobotka snap goalless droughts; Elliott bags sixth shutout

ST. LOUIS -- For a change, the Blues didn't have to rely on top-end scoring.

The Blues have found ways to score in different fashions. Most of it them have come from their top-end players. Secondary scoring has been pretty anemic.

For one game, they can add eliminating scoring droughts from a pair of players that hadn't seen the back of the net in a while.

Barret Jackman held the distinction for longest goalless drought for roughly 18 hours -- after Anaheim's Sheldon Brookbank ended his at 166 games -- by ending his after 150 games, and Ryan Reaves broke a 63-game drought in a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Wild Saturday afternoon at Scottrade Center.
(Getty Images)
Defenseman Barret Jackman (middle) celebrates with Patrik Berglund and
Jamie Langenbrunner (15) after scoring in the second period Saturday.

Jackman's last goal came on Jan. 7, 2010 when he scored twice in Anaheim, and Reaves' last goal came on Jan. 13, 2011 in Los Angeles. Throw in Vladimir Sobotka's first goal in 29 games for good measure.

"When the three of us are chipping in, it's definitely a good sign for offensive production," Jackman said. " ... It's not like anybody's expecting me to score. Guys were pretty excited for me."

Added Reaves: "It's about time. It's been a while. I don't even know how to celebrate anymore.

"Today was a couple guys who don't score very often contributing. Our team's going to need that down the stretch. Our big guys can't be our big guys every day. They get tired too. Glad to chip in anytime I can."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who is 30-8-7 since taking over on Nov. 6, was happy for a couple guys he calls "warriors."

"When Jacks and Revo scored, the bench was so excited because these are warriors for us that have done all the dirty work and have done all the grind for us," he said. "To play like they did was good."

The goals helped the Blues (36-15-7) improve to 18-0-3 in their last 21 home games, outscoring their opponents 62-31. The Blues passed Detroit for most home wins in the NHL with 26 (26-3-4). St. Louis is 28-0-0 when scoring three or more goals and 25-1-1 when holding a 40-minute lead.

"I think we played fast in the second period and we took the game over because of it," Hitchcock said. "We had our slow start again and I thought we really dialed it up in the second like we did against the (New York) Islanders (Thursday). When we play fast defensively, when we get it going quickly with the puck support, we're a much better team. When we play slow, it's not effective.

"We had 25 minutes against the Islanders and we had 30 tonight, so we're getting better, but we've got to play fast for 60 minutes if we're going to get effective and we're starting to understand that concept, the difference between the first and the second period is pretty dramatic."

The game got chippy late, as David Backes was cross-checked to the head by the Wild's Warren Peters, who was tossed with a five-minute major, a 10-minute misconduct and game misconduct.

"I've got to be more responsible with my stick," Peters said. "There was in no way malicious intent to go to his head. But my stick made contact with (Backes') head so I'll take the consequences."

Said Reaves: "It's unfortunate when they're down 4-0, they start doing stuff like that. Teams don't really forget that stuff. A little respect goes a long way. But it's hockey, we're not playing badminton here. It happens."

Hitchcock said Backes was fine afterwards.

"They're frustrated. It's both teams' responsibility," Hitchcock said. "We've got to dial it down. We've got to go quieter.

"There's a game tomorrow (at Chicago), and we're a young team, pretty revved up and we've got to find a way to just go quieter. ... We've been frustrated, too, before, just like in Detroit. That's just the maturing of a team. If we can act just a little more mature, then we can go a little more quieter into the night."

Brian Elliott, who was supposed to back up Jaroslav Halak, earned his sixth shutout of the season by stopping 13 shots and matched Halak. Halak missed the game after coming down with the flu Friday.

"It's pretty unbelievable watching what we can do with the puck and when we're skating and when we're on the same page," said Elliott, who lowered his NHL-leading goals-against average to 1.55 and tied Henrik Lundqvist in save percentage at .941. "It's exciting to see what we can do. We know what we can do. Maybe they didn't have their best game of the season, but we definitely didn't give them a chance to get into it. I think we just need to carry that on. Tomorrow's a perfect chance to do that on the road in a great building."
(Getty Images)
Brian Elliott only stopped 13 shots but it was enough to earn his sixth
shutout of the season Saturday.

Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk added two assists each, with Pietrangelo now tallying nine points in the last five games.

"We're scoring goals," Pietrangelo said. "A couple of them is just getting pucks to the net and guys are finding ways to put them in. I'll take them.

"Me and Shatty have pretty good chemistry going right now on the power play. That's leading to a lot of goals."

The Wild are now winless in seven straight, going 0-5-2 in that span. Mikko Koivu missed the game with an undisclosed injury and is listed as day-to-day. Josh Harding stopped 30 shots in a losing effort.

"It's pretty tough to pinpoint what it is," Wild coach Mike Yeo said of the team's losing skid.

"We started out OK," he said. "The first period wasn't bad. We came out with the right mindset."

Known more for dropping the gloves and throwing hard checks, Reaves netted his first goal since Jan. 13, 2011 and third of his career. Kevin Shattenkirk flipped a pass to Scott Nichol, whose wraparound caromed off Harding and into the crease where Reaves one-timed a shot off the right post and in 9:50 into the game.

The Blues outshot the Wild 17-3 in the second period and of course, scored the only two goals, with Jackman and McDonald doing the honors.

Jackman's one-time blast from the left point beat Harding 4:36 into the period for a 2-0 lead after the Blues had sustained pressure and forced a Wild turnover.

The Blues got a power play goal as Alex Pietrangelo's shot-pass to Andy McDonald in the slot was the perfect hand-eye coordination. The redirection past Harding made it 3-0 with 41 seconds left in the period and was McDonald's second in as many games.

Vladimir Sobotka's also jumped into the foray, netting his first goal in 29 games. It came off a feed from David Perron for a one-timer from the slot 8:11 into the third period to make it 4-0.

The Blues have now earned points in nine consecutive home games against the Wild, going 6-0-3.

"They work hard and they made it hard on is," Wild defenseman Justin Falk said of the Blues. "Through the 1st period, we matched their intensity. Their intensity is where we want to be. They're big and they're strong."

* NOTES -- Ben Bishop was recalled from Peoria Saturday to back up Elliott. He will also back up Elliott Sunday, as Halak did not accompany the team to Chicago. ... The Blues scratched Chris Porter and Carlo Colaiacovo, even though Colaiacovo, who injured his right wrist at practice Wednesday, deemed himself fit to play after practicing Friday.

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