Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blues win fourth straight, gut out gritty win in Detroit

Porter nets only goal, Elliott earns shutout in 1-0 victory

DETROIT -- A month ago, Chris Porter was in Peoria and thriving for the Rivermen, waiting for his time to make an impact with the Blues.

First, Porter's play earned him a two-year extension that was signed Thursday. Sunday, he scored a big goal that got the Blues another two critical points in the race for the playoffs.

Porter's second goal of the season late in the second period was all the support Brian Elliott would need in goal, as the Blues won their fourth in a row with a 1-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko (left) is being pursued by the Detroit's
Danny Dekeyser during Sunday's game in Detroit.
The Blues (21-14-2) have won three of the four on the road, they have jumped over Detroit (19-15-5) in the standings and pending Minnesota's game at Columbus Sunday, the Blues could hold the sixth seed by day's end.

It was the type of win that saw glimpses of how the team won last season: tough, gritty, clutch goaltending and even sometimes winning ugly.

But the two points is all that matters at this point, and the Blues have 11 more regular season games to reinforce their position.

"It's that time of year. Find a way to get it done," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We played a great first period, managed the game well in the third.

"This is the third game in three-and-a-half days. Both teams poured a lot into this. This was a playoff game with a playoff atmosphere. Both teams had hard matches going. I thought we really did a good job."

The Blues, who shut out the Red Wings at Detroit for the first time since Dec. 9, 2009 (by the same 1-0 score), had to do it with a bit of a makeshift lineup with the late scratch of Andy McDonald, who missed the game with the flu. And with T.J. Oshie still nursing a lower-body injury, it forced the team to elevate Porter to a top-six role and insert defenseman Kris Russell into the lineup as a forward.

"Chris Porter is one of our better players now," Hitchcock said. "He was a minor league player a month ago, and now he's one of our better players. It shows you if you're a hockey player and you stay committed, you stay enthusiastic, good things can happen. He's not just a fill guy now. He's a very important player. He plays 5-on-5, he kills penalties. Down there, he was a scorer and he started to gain confidence with the puck here now.

"Russ has played for us in Columbus as a forward. That's a no-brainer. I really liked Russ today. I know they only got six or seven minutes. It was that type of game, but I really liked the energy he brought to the team too."

When Russell was asked when he last played forward, "I can't even remember," he said.

"Just keep it simple. Try and do what they ask, try and follow our systems."

Throw in a Blues penalty kill that is ranked in the top 10 in the league now after stiffling Detroit all three times. The unit has killed off 18 straight dating back seven games and 27 of the last 28 over 12 games.

"I think everybody is moving well, and we're on our toes being aggressive," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "Everybody is moving as one. That's the key, making the power play uncomfortable and not giving the power play what they want."

Porter's goal came with 3 minutes 32 seconds left in the second period. He got into the gritty area in front of Jimmy Howard and was able to lift a puck into the net.

"We didn't find out until this morning what was going to happen," Porter said. "They had to shuffle all the lines. Everybody did a good job of kind of meshing with their lines. We played a great 60 minutes.

"Howard's a great goalie. The less he sees, the better. We just had really good emphasis getting pucks toward him and getting some traffic in front of him. My goal there is exactly what happened."

Added Berglund: "It's all Ports pretty much. I don't know what I tried to do ... push it away somewhere else. When everybody went to the net there, it was chaos and he found a way to find the puck. It's what we talked about. Battle in front of the net, and it was that type of goal. It was huge."

The rest was up to Elliott, who earned his 19th career shutout, first this season and 10th as a Blue.

He made a number of solid stops on the afternoon, including a glove- and point-saving stop on Pavel Datsyuk with 20 seconds remaining.

"I don't know if we stopped playing a little bit and didn't know how much time was left," Elliott quipped. "Kind of a lapse in judgment for a second there.

"(Datsyuk) made a good shot. I almost really didn't see it. I just kind of predicted it was going to get through somehow and it landed in my glove. Not all the time you're going to get those. I'll take it for sure."

Elliott was able to see the puck well, and Detroit's best chances came on longer range shots that the Blues' netminder was able to swallow up without allowing any rebounds. But earlier in the season for Elliott, who is now 6-6-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average and .879 save percentage with three straight wins, those pucks would have squirted through.

"They were firing from the outside," Elliott said of the Wings. "The guys did a good job of keeping it to the outside. Those are a lot easier to handle. Sometimes the puck's sticking to you. You want to bottle that and bring it every night. Just not put too much pressure on yourself and go play. That's the way I looked at it."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brian Elliott makes a glove save Sunday in Detroit. Elliott stopped 28 shots
in a 1-0 victory.

Hitchcock likens his goalie to what he saw last season.

"It looks like it," he said. "Both guys (Elliott and Jake Allen) are back. It looks like both guys are playing really well.

"We're going to really need this. I think every game for the rest of the year is going to be like this until there's more separation. To me, we need both goalies to play well. Jake probably gets the start one of these next two games. We've just got to keep it going.

"They didn't get any second and third shots, yeah. (But) it's not fun watching 40 (Henrik Zetterberg) and 13 (Datsyuk) come at you in the third period because we were gassed. ... The Chicago game was really emotional. And then the Columbus game was physical beyond belief. And then to come back and play like we did today, it's really impressive. These were hard, physical hockey games. Not just skating, but skating with all the body contact. I was happy with our guys."

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