Monday, December 8, 2014

Brodeur wins home debut with 32 saves

Fourth-liner Porter nets game-winner, Lapierre, 
Cole also score in Blues' 4-2 win against Panthers

ST. LOUIS -- The chants of "Marty! Marty! Marty!" rained down from Scottrade Center as if the Blues have known Martin Brodeur for ages.

They may know him from afar playing for the New Jersey Devils for 21 years, but now the 42-year-old is their own, and Blues fans wouldn't have it any other way.

And Brodeur's repayment for their gratitude: he still has what it takes. 

Brodeur made 32 saves, including 17 in the second period, to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 4-2 victory against the Florida Panthers on Monday. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Goalie Martin Brodeur (left) and Chris Porter were key to the Blues' 4-2
victory against the Florida Panthers on Monday in Brodeur's home debut.  

The 42-year-old Brodeur collected his 690th career victory, second in as many games and 41st against the Panthers. He also earned another $20,000 in bonus money as part of his contract for every point the Blues (18-8-2) earn when he's in goal.

"I didn't know what to expect coming in," said Brodeur, who received a pregame video tribute welcoming him to St. Louis prior to the game. "It's all about winning. When you win, I think the fans are able to be a little more cheerful.

"They acknowledged before the game with a little video, and I didn't expect that. A lot of good things. I'm really happy to be here. For the first visit in front of these fans, we didn't disappoint. We played well. I did my part." 

And with playing the game without Alexander Steen (lower body) and David Backes, who left the game in the first, came back but left again in the third period after he took a puck to the mouth off a teammate's stick, the Blues turned to their gritty fourth line players.

"He tried to go, but just too much pain," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Backes. "That's a lot of dental work for one night. 

"The doctors pulled him out and we were in the process of going back there just to tell him, 'Thanks, but you've got to take a break here.' Hopefully he's ready for Thursday."

Chris Porter's redirection of a Barret Jackman point shot with 1:54 remaining provided the winning goal. Paul Stastny scored into an empty net with 31.3 seconds remaining. 

Maxim Lapierre and Ian Cole scored for the Blues, who jumped over the Chicago Blackhawks into first place in the Central Division. Porter had a goal and an assist for his first points of the season. 

"We had a very solid period in the first period, kind of got away from it in the second and then the third was very solid and played well," Cole said. "Still probably gave them way too many chances." 

"We showed some character again tonight," Lapierre said. "We maybe didn't play the way we wanted, but we still found a way to win the game. Now we need to regroup and fix what we need to fix and play a better game next game.

"We're happy with the way we're playing. When we're playing hard, we can chip in too to help a little bit."

The Blues lost Backes for more than half of the first period after he was struck in the mouth by a T.J. Oshie shot on a power play. Backes left but returned in the second, only to leave again in the third. He came back wearing a cage.

That's when the grinders took some offense into their own hands.

Porter was parked in the high slot and was able to redirect Jackman's shot over the right shoulder.

"No, but I saw he was going to shoot and just trying to get a stick on it and hopefully it'll go in," Porter said when asked if he called for Jackman's shot. "... They're harder to get a read on [tips from the high slot], but I think a lot of those ones from up high tend to go in just because the goalie's not able to get a great read on it."

The Panthers (11-8-7) got goals from Nick Bjugstad and Aaron Ekblad. Roberto Luongo, a teammate of Brodeur's on the international level with Canada, made 24 saves.

"Tough way to lose," Luongo said. "We battled back and carried most of the play. Heartbreaker to lose like that. Obviously the first was unacceptable. We weren’t happy with the way we played. We showed some character the way we came back against a tough team in a tough building."

Down 2-0, the Panthers came back on a second period goal from Bjugstad, and equalized with Ekblad's goal with 5:06 remaining.

"To me, it was like a tale of three games," Hitchcock said. "The first period was a really good period for us and so was most of the third. The second was, 'Yowza!' I haven't seen that from us for a little while. ... Florida's a like we are. They're hard-working, they're determined. When we dialied it up in the first period, they didn't have an answer, and then when they dialed it up in the second, we had a real difficult time. Their checking and their 1-on-1 determination on the boards was very significant in the second period." 

After the Blues failed to convert on a two-man advantage for 1:55, Lapierre came out from behind the goal, turned and whirled the puck into the slot and it deflected off the skate of Florida's Vincent Trocheck and past Luongo at 11:17 of the first. 

Cole's third of the season came off a nifty give-and-go play by Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera. Cole skated down the slot for a one-timer off the stick of Jonathan Huberdeau with 2:26 left in the first for a 2-0 lead. He joked that Lehtera's pass on a platter could have been a little better. 

"It was actually a little behind me," Cole said. "I couldn't really get it as high as I wanted to. I'm a little miffed that he didn't put it right in my wheelhouse. I had to adjust to it a little bit."

Did Cole tell Lehtera that?

"I didn't tell him that. I don't speak Finnish," Cole joked. 

Bjugstad's team-leading 12th of the season snapped Florida's goal drought against the Blues and cut the deficit to 2-1. He beat Brodeur with a shot stick side at 15:21 of the second period for Florida's first goal against St. Louis in 202:14. The Panthers' most-recent goal against the Blues was Oct. 17, 2011 by Mike Santorelli. The Blues shut the Panthers out in two games last season. 

Brodeur made several nice saves during Florida's 18-shot second, including a point-blank save on Brandon Pirri one minute into the period. It was the most shots the Blues have allowed in a period this season in a period that the Blues made some of their biggest mistakes in the game.

"These things are creeping in our game every single game," Brodeur said. "We're getting in areas of our game or time of our game where we look like we don't know how to play a little bit. But we were able to turn it back on.

"They're all good signs, but you get burned on it once in a while. The guys that grind the puck, they're the ones that made us win." 

Ekblad's fifth of the season, which extended his point streak to five games (three goals, four assists), came after Kevin Shattenkirk's stick broke in the Blues zone. Shattenkirk got a stick from Oshie, who momentarily vacated his spot to try and retrieve a stick, which left Ekblad open for the cross-ice pass from Jussi Jokinen. Ekblad's shot caromed off the stick Oshie gave to Shattenkirk past Brodeur with 5:06 remaining to tie the game 2-2.

But Brodeur made his St. Louis debut a successful one by playing his third game in five nights. After not playing competitively in eight months, Brodeur said he needs a little work.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Ian Cole scored his third goal of the season Monday.

"Yeah, I think it's time to practice now a little bit," Brodeur said. "... I'd like to be a little more steady, but I've only had two full practices starting my journey here in St. Louis. I'm looking forward to the next two days getting everything sharpened again.

"I think we survived. It wasn't pretty,  but we got it done. There are games that are going to be a lot easier to win. This one was a tough one."

"He's a Hall of Fame goaltender and it's great to have him on our side," Porter said. "It's nice to pick his brain about certain things, different situations. Great response by the fans for him and nice for us to get two points in his first game."

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