Saturday, December 12, 2015

Backes, Allen help throw blanket on Stars in 3-0 victory

Captain has goal, assist on Captain's Night; Allen earns 
ninth career shutout, fourth of season, second against Dallas

ST. LOUIS -- When David Backes saw past captains in Blues history make their way onto the ice for the pregame ceremony as part of the team's Heritage Nights, it was only natural for the current Blues' captain to ignite some extra adrenaline.

With names like St. Marseille, MacInnis, Meagher, Gibbs, Brewer, Unger, Plager, Federko, Butcher, Hull and the widow of Barclay Plager, Helen Plager, Backes couldn't help but rev up the motor for the Blues against the NHL's best team.

With a little help from his teammates, Backes was able to prop his teammates on his shoulders, Jake Allen supplied the fortress in goal and the Blues -- at least for one night -- threw a blanket on the Dallas Stars in a 3-0 victory before 15,023 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Backes had a goal and an assist to help the Blues shut out the
Dallas Stars 3-0 on Saturday on Captain's Night at Scottrade Center.

Allen made 26 saves, and Backes had a goal and an assist.

Backes scored a power-play goal in the first period, and it held up as the 26th game-winning goal of his career, tying Brad Boyes for ninth in St. Louis history. Vladimir Tarasenko scored his Blues-leading 17th goal, and Ryan Reaves scored his first goal of the season.

The shutout was Allen's fourth this season, the ninth of his NHL career and his second against the Stars. He's tied with Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk for the NHL lead this season.

But it was fitting that Backes played arguably his best game of the season, which included a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, the first of his career.

"We're not going to complain about it," Backes said. "It's one of the better efforts we've had as a group and you've got the team with the best record in the League coming in and you know you're going to need it. We were able to limit their chances, but they had a few good ones and Jake was up to the task. A big 5-on-3 at the end and we find a way and Jake gets the shutout. 

"Things are trending in the right direction; we play like that or have a little bit better second period and we're going to like what we're doing. 'Reavo' and that line getting rewarded for all the hard work they do, it's not always a thankful job, there's a lot of great efforts tonight to help this team. It was nice to see."

When Backes got himself going like he did Saturday, his teammates took notice and followed suit.

"He's our leader; he leads by example most nights," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of Backes. "Tonight's no different. Obviously it's Captain's Night too, so a great night for him. He played outstanding. Overall, he brings that night in, night out. Good for him."

Pietrangelo didn't realize Backes got the Gordie Howe Hat Trick.

"Yeah, he got into a fight, too," Pietrangelo recalled. "He get a penalty? Don't you need a penalty? Does that count? Should need a minor too (laughing). ... He's a guy that does everything night in, night out. Everyone knows how hard he plays. He contributes at both ends. I think 'Vladi' did him a favor there with that shot too so he's probably happy about that."

Said coach Ken Hitchcock about Backes and the team's effort: "You reach a stage in your season where two things: first of all, it's a good lesson for all of us about not playing familiar opponents. It's hard for the coach to keep drumming up adversaries when the players know who the adversaries are. So we stuck in that malaise, where we didn't play anybody we knew and we weren't playing well. You need people on your team to provide the proper direction and that's what we've talked about for four years here is getting the right direction. 

"So to see David play like he did, and (Alexander) Steen and (Kevin) Shattenkirk and 'Petro,' (Jay) Bouwmeester was excellent today, I mean there was a lot of guys that have been here for a little while that were good players today to turn the ship the other way ... from just playing ice hockey to playing with passion and playing with a real sense of urgency. The opponent had something to do with it, but also those guys, they needed to play well and that's exactly what they did."

The Blues (17-9-4), who host the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday, took pride in being able to shut down two of the top scorers in the NHL, the Stars' Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who each came in with 40 points. Benn leads the NHL with 20 goals.

"You're not going to shut them down," Hitchcock said. "They had their scoring chances. But you've just got to make it hard for them and that's what we did today, at least for the first and third period. We at least made it hard for them. They're a dynamic team there. This was probably a game that was more to our liking than to their liking. I think from our standpoint, if we can find a way to put more minutes on this performance, we're still in the 40s, if we can get more minutes, we're going to get better and we're going to be able to control the game. We have a different way of playing the way we control the game as opposed to Dallas or Colorado ... We've got to find a way to control the game more in order to start winning more games here."

The Stars (22-6-2), who got 23 saves from Antti Niemi, were shut out for the first time this season and lost for the first time in eight games in regulation (5-1-2).

Dallas was playing the second of back-to-back nights after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on Friday.

"First period was our team to a 'T,' the way we have to play right now," Hitchcock said. 

St. Louis dominated the first period, outshooting Dallas 17-5, but built only a 1-0 lead, thanks to Niemi. 

Backes' power-play goal two minutes into the first period put the Blues ahead 1-0. He tipped Alexander Steen's one-time slap shot from the top of the right circle; it initially deflected off Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya's stick. Backes was between Oduya and Niemi at the top of the crease. 

Backes is tied with Red Berenson for eighth in Blues history with 53 power-play goals.

The Blues, despite the overwhelming edge in the first, left the door open for the Stars, who came in leading the league averaging 3.48 goals per game.

"Yep. They're the best team in the league for a reason," Allen said. "You give them chances, they're most likely going to capitalize and tonight we did a good job."

Tarasenko scored at 11:10 of the third period when he took Backes' drop pass and beat Niemi high to the glove side with a wrist shot. Tarasenko's past nine goals have come on home ice.

The Stars' Jamie Oleksiak hit the post moments before the Blues took off on the odd-man rush to set up Tarasenko's goal. 

Reaves scored to make it 3-0 at 15:35 of the third when he followed up Scottie Upshall's breakaway attempt. 

The Stars got their legs underneath them in the second period and outshot the Blues 11-2, but they couldn't solve Allen.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jake Allen (left) makes one of his 26 saves in front of Dallas' Antoine
Roussel in a 3-0 victory Saturday at Scottrade Center.

"He's a good goalie," Benn said of Allen. "He just made some big saves, I guess. You know, I thought his team blocked some pretty good shots for him, but he's a good goalie. He's going to make saves and we didn't make it hard enough on him tonight." 

The Blues went from tying a season high in shots in the first period (17) to tying a season low for shots in the second period (two).

"We took our foot off the gas in the second period, which we still need to improve on," Allen said. "Not the whole second period, but there were some parts where we can definitely get better, there's a long ways to go, but it's another step in the right direction."

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