Friday, April 19, 2013

Blues make it nine wins in 11 games with 2-1 victory over Stars

Stewart, Reaves net goals; Elliott stays hot with 21 saves

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues won another game. It's their job, something they need in the midst of a heavy playoff push.

But roughly in the middle of the second period when the Scottrade Center jumbotron flashed breaking news that the Boston Marathon suspected bomber had been captured, loud applause filtered throughout the 19,328 spectators and then it got a bit chilling:


Not all players noticed, but some did, including Kevin Shattenkirk, a Connecticut native who called Boston home after playing his collegiate hockey for Boston University.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Jay Bouwmeester (right) battles with Dallas' Reilly
Smith for puck possession Friday at Scottrade Center.

"I had seen something kind of before warm-ups that they possibly had caught him or whatever it was," Shattenkirk said of suspected bomber, 19-year-old
Dzhokar Tsarnaev following the Blues' 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars Friday night. "I did get a chance to peek up and see that on the jumbotron. It was a great feeling ... not even being there, but hearing the crowd chant. It's just been a pretty hectic and pretty stressful few days for Boston. I still have a lot of friends there and that's something that I've been following closely. You wouldn't expect it to happen here, and let alone in the city where you have been a part of for a few years in your life. Hat's off to the Boston (police department) and everyone involved and sticking with it and catching him. Tremendous."

Added Blues goalie Brian Elliott: "The whole country's behind that whole city. It's a tough city. Wrong one to mess with."

As for the game, when the Blues can get offensive contributions from guys they rely on to be heavy checkers and provide the grit and energy on a nightly basis, good things typically happen.

Ryan Reaves doesn't score often, but when he does, he makes them count. The Blues' fourth-line enforcer netted his seventh career goal and third game-winner as the Blues made it nine wins in 11 games.

Reaves' goal 7:52 into the second period provided the winning margin for a Blues team that has no intention of merely settling for a playoff berth. They still have their sights set on home-ice advantage.

Reaves actually had a golden chance in the first period to score from the slot but fired a shot high over the net. His teammates were giving it to him on the bench with some playful humor, but Reaves atoned for it with another chance.

"I don't put too many in the net," Reaves said. "When I get the opportunity like that first one, it's tough to put it wide like that. I took the second opportunity and put it in.

"It's not that often you're talking to me about [scoring]. Usually I'm the physical aspect, kind of getting the crowd into it, getting the boys into it. When I can do something like that, it's a good feeling."

Chris Stewart and Reaves scored for the Blues, who got 21 saves from Elliott.

The Blues, sixth in the Western Conference, improved to 26-16-2, good for 54 points -- one behind both the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks with four games remaining for all three teams. The fourth-place finisher will have home ice in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They've gone 9-2-0 in April, allowing only 14 goals in 11 games.

"The whole story for me here for the month of April has been defense and goaltending," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They've done an outstanding job. ... To me, defense and goaltending ... I was just thinking watching us play, we're not easy to play against in our own end. You're not going to get any free looks."

Both teams came into the game hot, but the Stars' ability to score [27 goals in seven games compared to the Blues' seven goals in seven games] made it an impressive victory for the Blues.

"We're doing well with our matchups," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I think we're doing a great job with their top lines and not really allowing them to generate a lot of sustained pressure and scoring chances. We're doing a great job defensively as a team. We're limiting as many shots as we can, Ells is playing phenomenally and we're doing a great job taking away second chances."

The Stars (22-19-3), who had won six of seven coming in, hit a pothole in their bid to grab the eighth and final playoff berth in the West. The loss left their two points behind the eighth-place Columbus Blue Jackets (49 points) and even with the ninth-place Detroit Red Wings (47). The Stars have four games remaining, the Blue Jackets have three and the Red Wings have five.

The Stars got a third-period goal from Antoine Roussel and Kari Lehtonen stopped 18 shots but fell to 8-3-1 lifetime against the Blues.

"It was a game of two tired teams," Lehtonen said. "We played a tough game [Thursday] night [a 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks

Stewart's 17th of the season broke the Blues' 0-for-18 power play slump. He cleaned up Alex Pietrangelo's slap shot from the left circle that Lehtonen stopped but left a big rebound on the opposite side of the post. Stewart fired it home at 10:10 of the first period.

"We're kind of waiting to get rewarded," Stewart said of the power play. "I think we've been doing some things with it well as of late. Petro teed one up there, a heavy clapper and I jumped on the rebound."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Brian Elliott makes one of his 21 saves Friday night in a
2-1 victory over Dallas.

Elliott preserved the lead when he made a right skate save on Loui Eriksson from the top of the crease with 1:09 left in the period after a Blues turnover deep in their own zone. Elliott is 8-1-0 in April with a 1.01 goals-against average and .960 save percentage.

"It's game by game, trying to keep going, stay level-headed," Elliott said. "Don't change anything and just try to play your role. I think that's what everybody needs to do right now."

Reaves' second goal of the season and first in 16 games came after he intercepted a failed clearing pass near the blue line, got the puck to Chris Porter, who threw it off the side of the net. Reaves crashed the net and popped a backhand over Lehtonen 7:52 into the second period for a 2-0 lead. The Blues improved to 6-1-0 this season when getting a goal from a fourth-line forward.

"Ports made a great play," Reaves said. "I put it in his feet and he handled it real well, put it off the net ... real Gretzky-esque."

The Blues play their final road game Sunday in Colorado, before finishing the regular season with three home games against the Avalanche Tyesday, Calgary Thursday, and Chicago April 28.

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