Thursday, April 18, 2013

Blues continue to thrive in shootouts with 2-1 win over Coyotes

Victory overshadowed by Hitchcock's displeasure
with officials that led to Phoenix getting tying goal

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues won again. They picked up two more points in the race for the playoffs. That's the good news.

There could have been bad news, which had coach Ken Hitchcock and the Blues so irate at the end of Thursday's 2-1 shootout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Blues (25-16-2) moved into sixth place ahead of Minnesota -- pending the Wild's outcome at San Jose Thursday night -- when Andy McDonald netted the lone goal in the shootout. But the goal that tied the game for the Coyotes (18-17-8) late in the game is what had the Blues fuming.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Andy McDonald (right) beats Chad Johnson in the shootout, helping
the Blues beat the Coyotes 2-1 Thursday night. 
Radim Vrbata scored with 1 minute 7 seconds left in regulation, but Hitchcock was steaming with the non-call on Coyotes' Martin Hanzal, who cross-checked Alex Pietrangelo in the corner boards that sprung the puck loose, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson fed an open Vrbata and he beat Brian Elliott with a backhand short side.

David Backes was serving a boarding penalty on Ekman-Larsson in the offensive zone that gave the Coyotes a power play, but the non-call on Pietrangelo was one Hitchcock felt should have been called because his player could have been injured. He received a 10-minute game-misconduct at the end of the shootout and had to be restrained by a linesman giving referees Mike Leggo and Tim Peel an earful.

"The penalty that David took, you can't take that penalty," Hitchcock said. "Can't take that penalty at that time, and he knows that. But that's not the one that bothers me. The one that bothers me is the dangerous play. We could have lost a player. Never mind they scored the goal. We could have lost a player, and that bothers me. When you're killing a penalty, you're trying to clear a puck, you're in a very vulnerable position. That one bothered me."

Hitchcock was asked if he got an explanation. "Nope. Not happy at all. ... No explanation, didn't wait around.

"A guy almost went to the fifth row. There's no ice in the fifth row last I looked ... from behind."

Pietrangelo did not want to comment on the play, saying: "I'm not going to talk about the end of the game. You guys probably want to hear something.

"It wasn't our best game, but we found a way to win."

Perron netted a first-period goal for the Blues, and Elliott stopped 33 shots. He also stopped Vrbata and Ekman-Larsson in shootout attempts. Antoine Vermette fired wide on the Coyotes' first attempt.

"No, I'd rather win it in regulation, but getting that goal like I said last game in the shootout is huge," said Elliott, who is 7-1-0 in April. "It gives you a little breathing room. It turns out that's what we needed tonight."

The Coyotes (18-17-8) got a goal from Vrbata, and Chad Johnson, making only his fourth appearance in goal for the Coyotes, stopped 29 shots.

The Blues jumped out in front 1-0 when Perron scored his 10th of the season. He redirected Backes' right point wrister past Johnson 9:58 into the opening period. Perron's last goal came in a 4-2 win March 12 against the San Jose Sharks to get the monkey off his back.

"It was more of a gorilla lately," Perron joked.

It was the Blues' first goal by a forward in 205:28 [four games ago]. Andy McDonald was the last forward to score, 9:30 into the third period April 11 at Minnesota.

"It's good to get one for sure," Perron said. "I didn't really see the puck come off David's stick. The D was in front of me and I was able to get my stick on it. My first reaction, I was happy to see the referee point at the goal. I knew they were going to review it and I'm just glad it ended up being a good goal."

The Coyotes had a bigger push in the middle period, but Elliott was up to the task by making 10 stops. Elliott also benefited from two posts. One came from Rob Klinkhammer on a break-in with the backhand early in the period, and then Zbynek Michalek's right point shot hit the near post late in the period.

"He was excellent," Hitchcock said of Elliott. "I thought our whole group of defensemen did a heck of a job because we put them under siege with turnovers in the neutral zone for the whole second period. I thought out [defensemen] did a great job bailing us out of trouble, helping us. We competed harder on pucks in the third period, but we did not compete near hard enough on pucks in the first two periods. Up front, we (had) too many turnovers, too many pucks came back on us, they stuck us on the three-quarter ice game. You're not going to win like that. The goalie saved us today."

Phoenix got the power play late when Backes was called for boarding Ekman-Larsson in the offensive zone.

"It created an advantage for them," Elliott said. "They got the puck and passed it to an open guy. Petro kind of got buried from behind, the same play we had a couple shifts before that. Unfortunate, but we'll take the W's any way we can get them."

Johnson kept the Blues from winning in overtime when he made a stop on Chris Stewart's breakaway attempt with 1:54 left in overtime.

"Just very solid," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of his goalie. "Very solid. All you can ask from your goaltender is give yourself a chance to win. Just stop the ones you're supposed to stop and the one that got by him was a high deflection and that's just the way the game goes sometimes. He made some great stops for us and kept us in the game, gave us a chance to get a point."

McDonald, who scored his 21st career shootout goal, was the first shooter and faked backhand before pulling it to the forehand and roofing a shot over Johnson.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Teammates rush the ice to congratulate Brian Elliott (1) after be made
the final save in a shootout victory over Phoenix Thursday night.
After failed attempts by Stewart and Alexander Steen, Elliott ended the game when he snagged Ekman-Larsson's hard wrister.

"I actually thought he was going to go on the blocker side," Elliott said of Ekman-Larsson. "It's all about just trying to be more patient than the next guy and just wait him out."
The Blues will turn back around and host the Dallas Stars Friday night. The Stars blitzed Vancouver 5-1 with a five-goal third period.

"I was not happy with the game in generalwell and got away with two points, so we'll take the two points and move on, but we didn't play the way we need to play. If we play like this tomorrow, it's not gonna look good. I was not happy with the way we played, and we can't play like that at this time of year.

"I'm not sure if maybe we looked at maybe we could play a different way again, but we found a way to play proper and to do things and we got completely away from it today."

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