Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Miller, Blues blank Flyers in shootout

Goalie earns first shutout in 101 games, Oshie, Shattenkirk 
score to help St. Louis stay in hunt for Presidents' Trophy

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Ryan Miller sat at his locker after a 4-2 defeat to the Dallas Stars Saturday night. The Blues goalie was obviously feeling some burden of not performing up to par in the defeat.

But the 33-year-old veteran has been through the battles before. And there's no better way to atone for a sub-par outing than to shine the next time when called upon.

Not only did Miller shine, he was at his best since being acquired by the Blues on Feb. 28.

It was most certainly 'Miller Time.'

This was why Miller was acquired by general manager Doug Armstrong. This was what the Blues felt like they were getting and what could be the difference in the playoffs between going golfing and competing for Lord Stanley's Cup.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Ryan Miller (left) denies Vincent Lecavalier in the shootout and helped
the Blues blank the Flyers 1-0 Tuesday night.

Miller earned his first shutout in 101 games dating back to March 21, 2012 against the Montreal Canadiens. He stopped 31 shots and denied Vincent Lecavalier and Claude Giroux in the shootout and was aided by shootout goals from T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk in a 1-0 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.

The shutout was the 29th of Miller's career and first with the Blues and he was busy right from the start.

After Miller had to make a stop on Scott Hartnell from the slot 12 seconds into the game, then faced a 2-on-0 with Miller stopping Michael Raffl 2:28 into the game after Alex Pietrangelo tripped over the skates of Shattenkirk, it was a telltale sign that it was going to be a special night.

"We had a good player. He was terrific," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Miller, who improved to 10-3-1 with the Blues, including a 2.01 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. "He was focused and competitive and whatever else we needed of him. We needed him badly today. 

"We had a very loose start to the game and he stood tall. It was a game that was 1-0 in overtime and it could have been 7-6 easily. We really needed him tonight and he came through big time."

To get a shutout on top of what was considered a below average game made the game even sweeter for Miller, who helped the Blues improve to 51-17-7 on the season, tying a franchise record for wins (1999-2000). They lead the Anaheim Ducks by three points (109-106) in the Western Conference race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and trail the Boston Bruins by one point for the Presidents' Trophy. 

"It's a nice feeling, especially against a team that's playing really well from the East and coming on the heels of a couple games where I've been trying to reestablish and bounce back and get back to the form that I need to be in," Miller said. "Definitely was trying to be aware of some of their [players]. They get loose, they get open. I was just trying to be aware of where they were on the ice. I got a couple early looks, but I was able to set my feet and get a piece of them." 

Oshie continued his mastery in the shootouts and Shattenkirk provided the winning margin. 

Oshie gave the Blues the lead in the shootout with a backhand shot over Flyers goalie Ray Emery and improved to 9-for-12 this season, but all he could do was marvel at Miller's performance.

"Not playing personally my best game," Oshie said. "Millsie standing on his head, that's what we brought him here to do. He did something pretty special out there tonight with the saves he was making."

Shattenkirk snapped a shot past Emery in the third round after Miller snagged Giroux's wrister.

"Yeah, I've seen a little bit of him. He's burned me a few times," Miller joked. "I think he kind of knew maybe I'd been watching. I thought he was going to do his little backhand move. He's done that three or four times this year. I think he was trying to take me in another direction. I saw he didn't set that up, so I thought he was going to maybe change sides of the net. The glove was in the right spot."

Shattenkirk is now 3-for-6 this season in shootouts, and with Vladimir Tarasenko out with a thumb injury, it was his spot to jump into the rotation.

"It's a heck of a lot easier to be shooting for the win than trying to keep the shootout going," Shattenkirk said. "I applaud T.J. there for putting me in that position, and the goalie as well. It's kind of an opportunity I really enjoy , going out there and trying to score the last one to win it."

Miller pumped his fist when Shattenkirk scored.

"I didn't want to make another save," Miller joked. "I was happy it was a win. It's been a while since I've had a shutout. It felt good to finish the job and keep building the right way towards the playoffs."

Emery's second shutout of the season came after stopping 28 shots. He blanked the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 20, 2013.

The Flyers (39-27-9) have 87 points, one fewer than the New York Rangers.

Neither team could score in the second period, but each team missed out on prime scoring chances. 

Jaden Schwartz intercepted a Braydon Coburn outlet feed and clanked the cross bar from the slot eight seconds into the period. 

Raffl was robbed by Miller on a one-time shot coming in from the right circle when the Blues goalie kicked over the left pad to keep the game scoreless 2:48 into the second period.

Pietrangelo was in the slot and fired a shot off the left post with 17 seconds left in the second to keep the game scoreless. 

In overtime, Miller stopped Flyers forward Jakub Voracek twice on the doorstep with his right pad with 1:30 remaining.

"I was happy to get that one because it gave us a chance to get the win and push the game on as far as we can go and see what can happen," Miller said. "... It was a fun night. When pucks are hitting you, it's a lot of fun."

"I think what you saw today was how competitive he is," Hitchcock said of Miller. "That's his calling card. He's a competitive person. 

"He was really disappointed with the way he played the last game. We really needed him today and he was really competitive. I haven't seen that for a long time in anybody really since (Ed) Belfour where a guy makes that many great saves. It was really neat to watch to be honest with you. The feeling on the bench for me was they weren't going to score. I haven't had that feeling in a game where I've been outplayed. There's been lots of times where Ells (Brian Elliott) and Jaro (Halak) played well, but we also played well in front of them. But we really needed a goalie today. He came through big time."

Hitchcock was also pleased with some of the changes he made the forward lines. Derek Roy played on the fourth line with Maxim Lapierre, Brenden Morrow was moved up to the second line with Vladimir Sobotka and Jaden Schwartz and Magnus Paajarvi played right wing with Steve Ott on the left and Patrik Berglund ion the middle.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' Ryan Reaves (75) looks for the puck during action against
the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.

"I thought Derek Roy was excellent," Hitchcock said. "I thought he played a real strong game. I thought Steve Ott looked a lot more comfortable playing left wing. He played with more tempo in his game. I thought Berglund looked really good at center ice. There were some good things. Brenden played a strong game. 

"Putting people back in their natural position helped us. But I thought for me, we got lots of good minutes out of Lappy's line, lots of chances, lots of end zone stuff. To me, Derek Roy was a good player in the game tonight."

And the win helped the Blues stay seven points in front of the Colorado Avalanche for the Central Division race and 10 ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks.

"The thing I was in fear a little bit was watching Colorado win," Hitchcock said of the Avalanche's 3-2 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday. "Now you're looking at five points and that would really tighten everything down. We're up seven now. I think that's why the two points for me, however we got it, was really valuable because those are two points we're going to need to bank here next week."

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