Goalie stops career-high 45 shots; power play, penalty kill pivotal in road victory
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The emergence of a No. 1 goalie seems to be taking shape for the Blues.
Jake Allen was scintillating in goal. He stopped a career-high 45 shots for his seventh NHL shutout and second this season, and the Blues' special teams played a large role in a 4-0 victory against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.
Allen, who's stopped 72 straight shots dating to the victory Wednesday at Chicago, challenged shooters all night long. He was at the top of his crease and turning aside all shots with confidence.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Jake Allen (34) makes one of his career-high 45 saves during a 4-0 Blues
win at Nashville on Saturday night.
It was the kind of performance consistent with his game in his recent starts, the kind of a guy ready to take the reigns as the No. 1. He's 5-1-0 in his past six games with a 1.03 goals-against average and .968 save percentage.
Alexander Steen had a goal and an assist, Scott Gomez had two assists -- both on the power play as the Blues were 2-for-3 with the man-advantage -- and the penalty kill thwarted the Predators on all five of their chances, including a pair of 5-on-3's.
"The game is goaltending and our power play, and that's how you win on the road," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We gave up a lot of scoring chances today. A couple games in a row now where we've given up too many, but Jake's been stellar. To win on the road, you need to win the special teams' game and that's what we did. We did this in Chicago, and then we did it again tonight."
The Blues put things together in a number of ways despite being outshot 45-28, but the talk has been Allen, who
"Outstanding. Two 5-on-3's, just unbelievable," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "It's fun to watch. On a team side, we can't give them 45 shots every night. He's been standing on his head here the last couple games. He's playing extremely well right now, but we need to be better in front of him too."
Colton Parayko's power play goal, after some nifty tight passing by the Blues, put the visitors up 1-0.
With Mike Fisher in the box for interference, the Blues won the faceoff, then made seven consecutive passes, with Troy Brouwer's being the final one through the crease to Parayko, whose one-timer from in tight beat Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who had no chance 8 minutes, 23 seconds into the first period.
The Blues, who had been 0-for-22 on the power play before Jay Bouwmeester's goal in Chicago on Wednesday, scored on consecutive man advantages with Parayko's goal.
Brouwer's assist gives him a point in seven straight games against the Predators (seven goals, two assists).
"Unbelievable play down in the corner there, a couple guys on them," Parayko said. "Brouwer in the slot, I don't know if he faked the shot. He just slid it over to me and it looked like Pekka had much of the net. It was a great play by those guys.
"I think just putting it all together. Sometimes things don't always go the right way. Stay the right course and making sure we hold the course that we're supposed to and doing the things that are going to make us successful."
The Blues protected that 1-0 lead in the second period, and largely due to the play of Allen, who was the catalyst during the Preds' two-man advantage that lasted for 1:20 late in the period.
The Predators had the majority of zone time, while Steen, Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo were the three players busy killing most of the penalties.
Allen made six saves during the entire sequence, including a ridiculous lunging stop of Mike Ribeiro's wipe open attempt at the side of the net in which Allen sprawled to net a piece that deflected the puck off the post with 2:05 remaining. Nashville had five shots during the 5-on-3.
"You've got to understand where to be aggressive and where not to be," Allen said. "This team is a very dangerous team we're playing against. They're one of the best in the league for a reason. They like to throw pucks at the net, big bodies at the net. It was tough to find pucks tonight, but guys helped me out."
"It's desperation," said Allen, who is 6-3-0 on the season with a 1.71 GAA and .945 save percentage. "Got tripped up; do whatever it takes. ... That was a tough spot. Only a few minutes left in the (second). If they get a couple goals on that, it changes the game completely. I told myself, 'Battle.' We did the best we can to kill it off and we did that. They have some dangerous weapons out there. Guys did a great job."
The Blues converted on a huge power play 2:30 into the third period when Pietrangelo scored his first of the season on a slap shot in the circle to the right of Rinne, beating the Predators' goalie near side after a Steen pass.
"Yeah, it's about time," Pietrangelo said. "I had a couple good looks the last couple games. Felt like it was going to come.
"We kept it simple. Obviously great pass by 'Brows' on that first one. We did a better job tonight getting pucks towards the net. We talked about it before, taking what they give us. They gave us those shots up high, we did that."
It has been a culmination of getting the power play back on track the past couple games. The Blues are 3 for their past 5.
"We weren't really sure because we practiced it yesterday and the ice wasn't very good, so it was a hard read, but we like what Gomez's group is doing," Hitchcock said. "This is two games in a row where they've given us a goal. That's a good sign and I thought for confidence, it was good to see Backes' group get us a goal. It's a good sign for us, too.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Alex Pietrangelo (27) scored his first goal of the season to help the Blues
blank the Nashville Predators 4-0 on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.
"We're going to need our special teams moving forward. We're going to have to check better. We can't keep giving up these shots and expect to have our goaltender stand on his head, but this is the formula. You're going to need big saves on the road, you're going to need the special teams' game."
Scottie Upshall's third of the season three minutes later gave the Blues a 3-0 lead after a puck rimmed around the boards, the Blues' winger looked off Backes and Brouwer on a 3-on-1 and whipped a shot five-hole on Rinne.
With the Predators pressing down three, Vladimir Tarasenko set up Steen's one-timer from a sharp angle at 12:51.
The rest was on Allen's shoulders, much like it was throughout the game to salt away another shutout.
"Without the goaltender, without the goaltending display that we had, especially in the first two periods, he held it together and then we started to play our game in the third period quite a bit better," Hitchcock said.