Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Blues gain redemption with 3-0 shutout of Devils

Halak stops 23 shots; team avenges 7-1 drubbing in 
New Jersey a week ago, moves into tie for Central Division lead

ST. LOUIS -- Last week against the New Jersey Devils, both Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak couldn't keep a puck out of their net.

The Blues couldn't do anything right, and it resulted in the worst loss of the season (7-1) in New Jersey.

Tuesday night, redemption came in the form of a shutout, as the Devils couldn't get any of their 23 shots past Halak.

Alexander Steen, Brenden Morrow and Maxim Lapierre took care of the scoring, the Blues' defensive structure and Halak took care of the rest in a 3-0 win against the Devils Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) is congratulated by teammate Barret
Jackman after shutting out the New Jersey Devils 3-0 Tuesday night.

The Blues (36-11-5) were able to blanket the Devils (22-21-11), who made seemingly every Blues mistake last week turn into a goal. New Jersey chased Elliott after he allowed three goals on nine shots. Halak was no better, allowing four goals on 14 shots.

"It was a really weird game we played in Jersey," said Halak, who earned his fourth shutout this season, 29th of his career and a franchise-record 20th with the Blues. "Everything seemed like it went in. Everything they touched seemed like a scoring chance. We just couldn't react. We were standing there.

"I can speak for myself hoping that the game was over after the second period. Tonight was a different game. We knew we had to adjust."

The Blues adjusted accordingly, despite some tense times when the Devils would force turnovers and move out in transition. But what the Blues couldn't do last week, they were able to do precisely Tuesday, and that was keep the Devils on the perimeter and not allow much ice with the puck between the circles.

"I think we just played our style of game," Steen said. "We got away from that in New Jersey. I think it was a completely different game. 

"Jaro came up big when we made mistakes tonight. Credit to him, he played a heck of a game for us."

The Blues moved into a tie for first place in the Central Division with the Chicago Blackhawks, who lost 5-4 at Calgary in overtime late Tuesday night.

The Devils got 22 saves from Cory Schneider, but New Jersey was shut out for the sixth time this season.

Steen's 27th of the season put the Blues up 1-0 on their first shot of the game, an odd-man 3-on-2 rush that was set up by David Backes and Jaden Schwartz, who laid a puck off to Steen and he beat Schneider with a wrister from the slot on the short side 3:25 into the game.

The game-winner was Steen's seventh this season in 41 games. He had six the previous two seasons combined in 83 games.

"I think all three of us kind of realized how that was developing," Steen said of his 100th goal as a Blue. "Backes made a great play, kicked it out and drove them back a little bit. Schwartz found me in the slot."

The Blues outshot the Devils 9-8 in the first period, and Halak had to make one key save on Steve Bernier after he skated in alone with 5:48 remaining after a bouncing puck got past Ian Cole.

Neither team could score in the second period, but the Blues had the best chance when Vladimir Sobotka wired a shot off the left post off another odd-man rush. This time, he moved in from the right on a 3-on-1 with 4:48 remaining in the period.

Halak was tested a couple times, as the Devils outshot the Blues 10-5 in the period. Halak's best save came off a backhand rebound off the stick of Jaromir Jagr.

"Especially in the second period, they went a little stretch without shots, but after that, they started shooting more," Halak said. "When they had the chances, they were shooting. I was able to stay sharp tonight and stop the pucks, but tonight was a lot of great blocks from all the guys and a huge performance."

Halak's right pad stop on Damien Brunner 2:25 into the third period preserved the Blues' lead, then Schneider came up big on a Vladimir Tarasenko one-timer with 7:36 left in the game to keep the Devils within one goal.

Both teams had three power play opportunities, and the Blues struck on their third when Morrow's 560th career point gave St. Louis a 2-0 lead. Jay Bouwmeester stepped into a slap shot from the right point, and Morrow deflected it past Schneider from the low slot 9:22 into the third period.

The timeliness of Morrow's goal came at an opportune time with the Blues trying to fend off the Devils' push late.

"They've won a lot of hockey games and they've had some players roll through there, but Lou's got his guys that he believes in," Morrow said of the Devils and their general manager Lou Lamoriello. "They've got some guys that have been there a long time. They're not going to crack. You can play them as hard as you want. They're going to stay with their structure. A one-goal game on them's pretty tough.

"Some of them are lucky. That was definitely a lucky (goal) more than anything. I didn't really see it. I just put a stick out where I thought it may end up and it ended up hitting it."

Lapierre's empty-netter with 2:08 gave the Blues a 3-0 lead and their third straight win after the debacle at 'The Rock' last week.

"Both teams went at each other pretty hard," Hitchcock said. "I thought the third period was our best period. They play structured, disciplined hockey with a lot of weight. You have to be prepared to dig in from the dots to the boards if you expect to beat them. They control the boards, they control the tempo of the game by controlling the boards. They make you pay for being careless with the puck. 
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues center Derek Roy (12) checks New Jersey's Bryce Salvador into the
boards in action Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.

"We had some just-abouts early in the game when we weren't ready for that they were doing, but after as the game word on, we got more and more prepared to skate with the puck. As we started to skate, things really started to open up for us in the third period, which was a good sign."

Halak, who is 7-1-1 in his past nine starts with a 1.77 goals-against average and .940 save percentage, credits his teammates.

"It's always nice to get a shutout, but I always say that two points is two points and it's always a team effort," Halak said. "Without my teammates tonight blocking the shots and doing the little things in front, I wouldn't be able to get it."

The Blues improved to 30-1-3 when scoring first, 21-0-2 when leading after one period and 24-0-3 when leading after two periods.

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