Friday, February 3, 2012

Halak, Blues begin second half with shutout win

Netminder's 22-save effort, Langenbrunner's goal hold up in 1-0 win over Kings

ST. LOUIS -- Forget about any rust. The Blues picked up where they left off in the first half of the season.

They got great goaltending once again from Jaroslav Halak, they got a timely goal from veteran Jamie Langenbrunner, and the stingiest defense in the Western Conference helped Halak hold down the fort.

Sound familiar? It should. They've been the typical formulas for victories this season.

It all produced a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings Friday night at Scottrade Center, hoisting the Blues (30-13-7) back into fourth place in the Western Conference past Nashville, who the Blues play tonight in Music City.

(Getty Images)
Jaroslav Halak (left) makes one of his 22 saves against the Kings' Justin
Williams in the third period of a 1-0 St. Louis victory. It was Halak's fifth
shutout of the season and 21st of his career.

Halak stopped all 22 shots faced, his fifth shutout of the season, fourth in seven starts and 21st of his career. He's 12-1-3 in his last 16 starts with a 1.53 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in that span.

"To be honest, I was a little bit worried," Halak admitted. "Before the game, I didn't know if I was going to come out strong. The first five minutes, we were kind of rusty. We gave up a few shots, but after five minutes, we settled down and we started playing our game.

"I've got to give our D credit because they kept the shots under 25 shots. That's all you can ask for."

Langenbrunner, who notched the 57th career game-winning goal of his career and second as a Blue, scored at 8 minutes 38 seconds of the second period, beating Jonathan Quick with a high shot from the high slot.

"For a first game out of the box, it was a great playoff game," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Both goaltenders were great. Their guy was good early, our guy was really great late ... three great saves in the third period. Both teams really went at each other physically. It's the same game I've been involved with that coach (Darryl Sutter) for a long time. It's the same game every night. Both teams put a lot into this.

"If we ever played each other (in the playoffs), it would be one heck of a series."

The Blues continued their home dominance, winning an NHL-best 22nd game at Scottrade Center (22-3-4). They are 14-0-3 in their last 17 games on home ice. It's also their NHL-leading 10th shutout of the season.

The Kings (25-17-10), playing the opener of a six-game road trip, were blanked for the sixth time this season despite a 32-save performance by Jonathan Quick.

"St. Louis has the best home record in the league for a good reason," Sutter said. "They came out and physically established themselves."

Langenbrunner's fourth goal of the season came off a strong play by Matt D'Agostini, who kept his feet moving and was able to create a 2-on-1 after chipping a puck past Drew Doughty along the right boards. D'Agostini found Langenbrunner in the high slot for a one-timer past Quick 8:38 into the second period that turned into his 57th game-winning goal.

"He did everything," Langenbrunner said, deflecting the credit to D'Agostini. "I was just able to get open. He laid it right on my stick. It was a pretty easy one. He did a great job skating by the D, making a great pass.

"From how far wide (D'Agostini) made that pass, it was pretty tough for that goalie to get across on that. I wasn't thinking of anything but hitting it hard and getting it up a little bit."

D'Agostini was trying to induce a penalty. He got more than he bargained for.

"I tried to chip it early enough that if he held me up, it would have been an interference call or something like that," D'Agostini said. "I think I caught him in a little in-between play and managed to slip by him.

"It was good that it happened right by our bench there so they were letting me know right away that I had another guy with me. I saw Langs open up there and the lane was there and I gave it to him."

Said Quick: "D'Agostini made a good pass and Langs made a pretty good shot. He's been around a while. You give him a one-timer like that, he'll make you pay more times than not."

Once with the lead, the Blues rode their goalie once again. And again, it was Halak.

Halak preserved the lead with two spectacular stops with his left pad before the second intermission. First, he robbed the Kings' Dustin Brown at the right post by extending the left pad on a Kings power play with 5:29 left in the second. He also stretched to stop Colin Fraser's turnaround backhand attempt with 1:16 left in the period.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Scott Nichol (left) battles with the Kings' Colin
Fraser Friday night in St. Louis.

Halak's best save came with 5:10 to play to preserve the 1-0 lead. He robbed Williams in the doorstep -- against with his left pad. Williams was looking for a point in his 10th straight game.

"I was just in the right place at the right time," said Halak, who is 15-8-5 with a 1.96 GAA and .921 save percentage on the season. "I was just trying to get there as soon as possible. Lucky for me, it hit my pads a few times. I'll take it any time.

"That's what I'm there for, to stop the puck. If our guys make the mistake, I'm trying to be there. When I do the same, they're there for me."

The Kings had a 5-1 shot advantage early in the game as the Blues needed some time to find their legs. Once they did, they outshot L.A. 11-1 the rest of the first and had the best scoring opportunities.

David Perron hit the left post after beating Quick with a shot with 9:42 left in the period. Langenbrunner had a terrific chance late to get the first goal but fired his shot wide from the slot after another turnover.

"All-in-all, I think we got into it pretty good right away," Langenbrunner said. "(The Kings) a hard team to play against. They're big and strong and play very sound in their zone. It was a battle all night.

"Considering for not playing for (10) days, we didn't waste a whole lot of time to getting back to the way we needed to play."

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