Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Elliott saves Blues in 2-1 overtime win against Lightning

Blues goalie spectacular with 30 saves; 
Schwartz scores OT winner, Tarasenko ties it late

ST. LOUIS -- There comes a point in the season when the team has little to offer and the player referred to as the last line of defense has to be front and center for a team if it has any chance to win.

Playing their fourth game in six nights, the Blues had little left in the tank Tuesday night.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had plenty of juice, but the Blues had an equalizer that provided more than enough ammunition to counter their dangerous opponent. 

His name was Brian Elliott.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Brian Elliott makes one of his 30 saves Tuesday night during
a 2-1 overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Blues' goalie made 30 saves, and he had an assist on Jaden Schwartz's game-winning goal in overtime to help the Blues defeat the Lightning 2-1 before 17,223 at Scottrade Center.

To cap off Elliott's spectacular night, in which he was named the No. 1 star, he had the secondary assist on Schwartz's winner. And per the Elias Sports Bureau, Elliott became the first Blues goalie since Darrell May to get an assist on an overtime goal since Nov. 3, 1985 against the Winnipeg Jets. He improved to 8-0-1 in the past 10 starts.

Elliott was the Blues' best player and on this night, they needed him to be.

"Yeah, we needed him tonight," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Four in six, four in five and a half, whatever you want to count. 

"We had nothing. We had probably a little bit in the second period. We pushed a little bit, but we had nothing. He gave us a chance and then (Vladimir Tarasenko) came through again and it was a great goal by 'Schwartzy,' but we needed our goalie tonight and he came through for us."

Elliott, who leads the NHL with a 1.95 goals-against average and is fourth in save percentage at .929, made countless timely saves throughout the game. Many came after the Lightning had a 1-0 lead. 

"I don't think we had the juice that we normally do, but we still (ground) it out," Elliott said. "We battled. We had a couple timely goals. ... They're a good team. They showed it, and they really come at you hard."

Schwartz, who stick-handled through a couple Lightning players, beat defenseman Victor Hedman and snapped the puck past goalie Ben Bishop from in close after the Blues (33-13-4) rallied from a 1-0 deficit late in the game. 

Vladimir Tarasenko scored with 3 minutes, 10 seconds remaining to tie the game for the Blues, who tied a team record with a point in 12 straight games (they were 11-0-1 in the 2000-01 season). 

The Blues are 11-0-1 in their past 12 and have won six in a row.

"He did a great job first of all driving the middle," Schwartz said of teammate Chris Butler, who passed him the puck before scoring. "He kind of took the other defenseman or forward, whoever it was, and kind of gave me a chance to have a 1-on-1 play there. Puck kind of bounced to my foot and tried to kick it up and kind of had a little bit of half-breakaway on 'Bish.' Lucky bounce there. Game happens fast. Once I got the puck, I wasn't really thinking too much.

"(Elliott) was really good. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have won. ... We weren't the best in front of him, but he gave us a chance."

The Lightning (32-15-5) got a goal from Cedric Paquette. Bishop came back to his hometown and made 16 saves. Tampa Bay was 3:10 away from its first-ever shutout of St. Louis, but Tarasenko changed that with one flick of the wrist.

"That would have been cool," Bishop said. "But obviously it didn’t happen so we’ll have to wait until next time.

"It’s just a little frustrating. We played a really good game, probably deserved a little better. Their goalie played well and we’ve got to be happy with the way we played."

The Lightning thought they played the better game but in the end, dropped their fourth straight on the road (0-3-1).

"To be honest, I thought we threw  together three really good [periods]," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "... Give them credit. They hung around, hung around. We had chances to score; their goalie kept them in it and a sniper put one in the back of the net, and in overtime, they got a good bounce there and another guy that can put the puck in the back of the net." 

That "sniper" Cooper referred to is Tarasenko, who got the puck when Paul Stastny won a faceoff draw to the left of Bishop back to him. Tarasenko wasted no time and wired a wrist shot from outside the top of the right circle and got it past Bishop high and to the glove side to tie the game at 16:50.

"That's what's so unique about him," Hitchcock said of Tarasenko. "There's people that score goals, but he's so unique. He blew it right through [Bishop]. Everybody played a little bit tired today, but in still doing that, he had four or five great scoring chances."

True to form, Tarasenko was more proud of the team win.

"I'm really happy to have these two points," Tarasenko said. "I think that's the way to build championship team.

"It was kind of a set play. Nothing special of myself. Make a shot."

Along with David Backes, who was 18-for-24 in the faceoff dot, Stastny won 11 of 18. None were bigger than the draw he poked back to Tarasenko.

"We really needed him today," Hitchcock said of Stastny. "We were struggling on the dot. He won big faceoffs. He won two big faceoffs in the third period when we tied it up, too, to help us. He was big on the dot for us. We really needed him in a big way today."

Paquette has six goals in four games and scored 5:20 into the first period when he followed up Alex Killorn's initial shot. Elliott left a big rebound in the left circle and Paquette scored his 11th of the season. 

Paquette became the first rookie in Lightning history to score in four straight games, and it was the only blemish on Elliott's night.

The Lightning outshot the Blues 11-2 in the first period. Elliott kept it a one-goal game with a couple of key saves on Ryan Callahan and Hedman, each off a rebound. 

Each team had terrific scoring opportunities to score in the second period, but the goaltenders came up with big saves. 

Elliott had the two biggest saves, one on Callahan in alone off a turnover 7:27 into the period, and a second against Nikita Kucherov off a 2-on-1 with Tyler Johnson midway through. 

Valtteri Filppula missed a great chance to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead moments later, but his shot from the left of Elliott missed the open side and caromed off the post.

It was Elliott again that kept the Blues within one shot of tying the game and perhaps winning it. He made two big saves on Paquette with under eight minutes to play in the third.

"Sometimes you need your goalie to keep you in games and win you games," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "Tonight was another example. We've had a really tough schedule the last little bit here. We're going to need everybody on board, including the goalies. They've really stepped up to the challenge. They've been fantastic.

"We were a little bit slow in our puck decisions, we were slow to get to position, some bouncing pucks out there didn't help the cause. It's a good learning lesson for us and we'll move on to Buffalo."

With each save, as long as Elliott kept the game 1-0, he felt the Blues had a chance.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz (right) gets off a shot by the Lightning's Luke Witkowski.
Schwartz scored in OT to give the Blues a 2-1 win Tuesday night.

"That's kind of the mentality in this whole room," Elliott said. "If we keep it close, we usually find a way to do something at the end of the game. It's not the way we really wanted to win it, but a huge win for us at home here. It shows us the level we need to get at. We escaped with two points there and we have to be happy with that but also look at our game and why we didn't do the things we wanted to."

The Blues remain two points behind the Nashville Predators in the Central Division after the Predators defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3. However, the Blues moved six points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks, who were shut out 3-0 by the Minnesota Wild.

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