Coach reaches 700th NHL win, goalie ties franchise record
with 20th shutout; St. Louis could tie Nashville for first in division
ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock could only think of his closest friend, Pat Quinn, after his 700th NHL victory Thursday night.
Hitchcock knew he was getting close to 700 NHL victories, and in doing so, he thought about one of his closest friends at the time.
Earlier this season, the St. Louis Blues coach caught and passed Quinn, who passed away in November, for fifth-most most victories in the NHL with 684 and had his sights set on 700.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Brian Elliott (1) makes one of his 28 saves and earned his 20th shutout
with the Blues, which tied Jaroslav Halak for most in franchise history on
Thursday in a 1-0 shootout victory against Philadelphia.
Hitchcock became the fourth coach to No. 700 when the Blues defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 in a shootout at Scottrade Center on Thursday.
Hitchcock is 700-424-95 with 88 ties having coached the Blues, Dallas Stars, Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets. He is 167-74-25 with St. Louis.
"I've been thinking about that since Pat, since I tied Pat there a while back," said Hitchcock, who coached the Flyers from 2002-07. "It's been fun. Doesn't feel very long. I've really enjoyed most of the stops. I've really enjoyed working with this group. Hopefully continue working on what we've got.
"It really started to impact me emotionally the number I got where Pat was at and then him passing away suddenly and stuff like that."
Hitchcock joined Scotty Bowman (1,244), Al Arbour (782) and Joel Quenneville (745 before Thursday) at the milestone.
"There's nobody in the company of Al and Scotty," Hitchcock said. "Between (Stanley) Cups and wins ... I think if Al wanted to coach a few more years, he would have been way up there too.
"I've said this before, first thing is the guy you work with ... it's the general manager. That's the key for me. I've been really fortunate that way. And then secondly for me is you've got to have good teams. I came right out of the gate in Dallas and had good teams and I've had good teams that were really building something in Columbus that kind of derailed a little bit, but other than that, I've been on nothing but good teams. That's how you get where you're at."
T.J. Oshie and Vladimir Tarasenko scored for the Blues (43-19-5), and goalie Brian Elliott stopped Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds.
Elliott made 28 saves and tied Jaroslav Halak for the Blues record with his 20th shutout for them. He did it in his 131st game with the Blues; Halak accomplished the feat in his 159th game.
"It's cool when you get individual accolades, but you always say when you get a shutout, especially in a game like that, it's a whole team thing," Elliott said. "It's a team stat how the guys play in front of you. You're not out there alone."
Pending the Nashville Predators' game against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, the Blues caught Nashville in the Central Division with 91 points with two games in hand.
"We went through the slump and they kind of pulled away," Blues right wing Ryan Reaves said of the Predators. "But I've been saying this all season, every team kind of goes through that. They're just going through it right now. It allowed us to catch up. We've just got to keep plugging away because you don't know what they're going to do over there."
On Feb. 24, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Blues would have a chance of catching Nashville. The Predators had 89 points at the time and Blues had 80.
Now the Blues have their sights set on winning the division and gaining the highest seed possible.
"I think you can't dismiss home ice and you can't dismiss the highest seed possible, you're going to need it," Hitchcock said. "Every little advantage you can take advantage of ... you want to get the highest seed. The highest seed for me means you've always got this ace in your back pocket. You've always got the extra game at home that you can rely on your fans, you can rely on your own bed. It does make a difference."
Goalie Steve Mason made 35 saves for the Flyers (28-27-14). Mason is the third goalie to have multiple shootout shutout losses in same season. He joins Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who did it in 2009-10, and Stars goalie Marty Turco, who did it in 2008-09.
He stopped all 17 Blues shots in the third period, and many of them were high-scoring chances.
"It was a hard, well-played (game), sense of urgency on both sides," Hitchcock said. "We probably started a little bit slow. They'd lost three in a row; they were probably desperate. They've got a good club over there, lots of good pieces and with Mason in goal, I told the guys, I said, 'You're going to have to outwork this guy because he's focused and determined,' and every time I coach against [Mason], we're getting the same product. I just thought as the game went on, we just got better and better. Our third period was our best, but even in saying that, you've got to take it to a shootout.
"I was standing on the bench, and I think there was 9:22 on the clock, and I said, 'Whatever happens, happens, but this has been a really fun game to coach in.' When you get these type of games where every shift matters, every play matters, they're a lot of fun to coach in. Over the course of the season, you maybe get a dozen of these games and this was one of them."
The game had the intensity of a playoff game, and one that the Flyers could ill-afford not to come up with anything less than two points. Philadelphia sits 10 points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference after Boston defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in a shootout Thursday.
Goal scoring has been the Flyers' biggest issue. They've scored five goals in going 0-2-2 the past four games.
But this night belonged to the goalies, as both Elliott and Mason were flawless.
Mason made the save of the game with 9:30 remaining, stopping Jori Lehtera from the goalie's left after a Flyers turnover and a feed from Tarasenko. Mason then stopped Dmitrij Jaskin from the slot with 8:57 left.
St. Louis' Alexander Steen hit the post for the second time with 5:55 remaining. He had Mason beat on a second-period power play in the final minute but hit the post.
Elliott made his biggest save on Voracek, using his left pad after a Tarasenko turnover on a drop pass with 7:32 to go. He made a glove save former Blue Carlo Colaiacovo in overtime.
"Mason played unbelievable down at the other end, so I was just trying to keep pace," Elliott said. "We played our game that we wanted to, I think. My guys were blocking shots. You saw (Petteri) Lindbohm go down in a butterfly to take one kind of in the chest. That's the sacrifices guys were making."
The Blues inserted Chris Porter in the lineup in place of Patrik Berglund and moved Steen to a line with Paul Stastny and Jaskin, who arguably was the Blues' best forward.
"This has been growing. This is a confident young man," Hitchcock said of Jaskin. "He isn't thinking. He's just reading and reacting. He's just playing ice hockey now. Before, it was 'Where do I go, how do I play?' Everything was new and a little bit overwhelming at times, but it's not anymore. He's really a good player for us right now. He's a strong player. He really I thought gave Stastny and Alex real space on the ice and room to move. I thought they had great chemistry and nice to see.
"We had great chemistry in all four lines today. Porter came in and really gave us a boost today. He really gave us that jump that we need, which is a good sign."
Jaskin was glad to be part of it, and playing in his 40th game this season may have been his best all-around game despite nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
"It's just coming close to playoffs and every team's stepping up and turning up another level," Jaskin said. "Every game's going to be the same, hard. I think everybody gets used to it.
"I think our line played well. Steener got a couple chances too, Stas did, I did. I think maybe we score next game, but the important thing is we get some chances and build from it. ... I think we skated way better and we figured out some stuff, some system stuff and just did the right things, small things. That was the biggest difference. It was probably 20 scoring opportunities, but (Mason) was good. It doesn't matter. We've got a great 'Ells' too and we just score in the shootouts and that's it."
The Blues, who lost to the Flyers 3-1 in Philadelphia last week, also beat the Flyers 1-0 in a shootout on April 1, 2014 behind Ryan Miller.
The games were similar in style and the results came out exactly the same.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
T.J. Oshie (74) beats Flyers goalie Steve Mason in the shootout and
helped the Blues defeat Philadelphia 1-0 on Thursday night.
"They're physical and that's exactly what we needed to do, play physical to match them and kind of get them on their heels a little bit," Reaves said. "I thought up and down the lineup, we did that.
"'Moose' played unbelievable for us. He looked like he was a wall over there and Mason made some big saves to keep them in it. Hat's off to both of them."
The Blues have shut out the Flyers on home ice for 149:32 dating back to Oct. 9, 2010.
"They always try to play and build their team kind of 'Broad Street Bully-ish,'" Elliott said of the Flyers. "They've got some big bodies over there, big hits. I thought we did a good job. Backs had a huge hit in the third period I think and it kind of sets the tone and guys get amped up from that. Big hits, big bodies and it was a good game."