Sunday, December 27, 2015

Backes scores shootout winner in Blues' 3-2 win against Stars

Fabbri ties it late; teams will play Sunday in second of back-to-back

ST. LOUIS -- Coach Ken Hitchcock felt anything less than two points would have had a negative ripple effect on the Blues if they came away with anything less than two points.

It came down to crunch time against the team with the most points in the NHL, the Dallas Stars, but the Blues got a big-time goal from a rising rookie and one of the unlikeliest of shootout shooters came through in a clutch moment.

The Blues' 3-2 shootout victory against the Stars on Saturday at Scottrade Center in the first of back-to-back games between the two teams (they meet again Sunday at 5 p.m. at American Airlines Center) came on the heels of another 60-minute effort (well, 65 counting overtime Saturday) in which the Blues played well but were on the cusp of coming away empty-handed.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robby Fabbri (15) looks back at teammate Jay Bouwmeester after scoring
late in the third period of a 3-2 shootout win against the Dallas Stars.

However, down 2-1, rookie Robby Fabbri came up with a big game-tying goal -- the third straight game he's scored -- and captain David Backes saw his number called in the ninth round of the shootout, which tied the longest in franchise history, and he came up with his first-career shootout goal.

So instead of going into Dallas 10 points behind the Stars (26-7-3) in the standings, the Blues (22-11-4) are seven back, they gained a point and have the chance at the sweep.

"We played very well, played very well from start to finish," Hitchcock said. "This is similar to the Boston effort (a 2-0 victory against the Bruins on Tuesday). We did a lot of good things. It would have just been an absolute shame to not walk away with points, but we did a number of really good things today. The goalies make a difference and their goalie was making a difference until Robby scored that goal. That's a huge goal because it gives you ... regardless of what happens in the shootout and the overtime, it gives you value for your 60-minute effort."

The Blues led on an Alexander Steen power play goal, scored 6 minutes, 18 seconds into the second period, a period they dominated for three-quarters of it and had an 11-0 shots advantage but wound up trailing when the Stars scored twice, including a goal from Tyler Seguin with 37 seconds left.

The Stars, who entered Saturday 17-0-1 when leading after two periods, were all set to protect the lead again. But the Blues kept coming and coming and if not for goalie Antti Niemi, who made 35 saves in regulation and overtime, the Blues may have pulled that game out in regulation.

"Their goalie made some good saves, key chances, like big chances," Steen said of Niemi. "He made some good saves and and then at the other end, ours did the same thing, especially that one where we were able to make it 2-2. That was huge."

Jake Allen, who made 22 saves for the Blues, did come up with a beauty 16 seconds prior to Fabbri's game-tying goal. He made an outstretched right skate save on Cody Eakin's redirection that would have made it 3-1.

"Yeah. I just wanted to give them a chance to get a goal," Allen said. "Obviously with about two minutes left, if that goal goes in, it's pretty much over. I just wanted to make sure that nothing was getting by me and they did the rest."

Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jori Lehtera and Dmitrij Jaskin scored in the shootout for the Blues, who led the shootout 2-0 before the Stars stormed back. The Blues had five opportunities to win it when Backes finally converted and Allen made the save on Fiddler.

"I figured around seven or eight (rounds) I should re-tie my skates and get ready," Backes said. "You never know what's going to happen. It's one of those things where we score, they score, we don't score, they don't score. I was put in a good situation by a lot of guys before me and able to come through. It was a good feeling to get two points. Now we've got to go into their barn and have another highly contested 60 minutes."

Hitchcock said once he gets past the usual shooters, it's time to rely on the help from assistant coach Kirk Muller.

"Helpless. It's wildly entertaining, but you're just standing on the bench guessing which number ... especially when you get past the third or fourth guys, you're guessing," he said. "I rely rely on Kirk a lot past the obvious four guys, five guys. He knows who's winning the competitions, he knows what moves, he watches the other goalies, he knows what moves are working and then he knows pretty much which guy, especially on a guy like Lehtera. We knew what he did well to score and how it would fit with the goaler.

"We didn't have any background because David doesn't stick around for it very often. He’s got such a great shot."

"You get down the ladder there, you just can't be afraid of the moment," Hitchcock added. "It's a lot of pressure on the shooter. You just can't be afraid of the moment. It was emotionally draining because we had it three or four times and then they got it back. Their right shots, that's tough for a goalie, especially if you're catching with your left hand. The right shot, they were the guys that scored all the goals for them."

The Stars got shootout goals from Jamie Benn, Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza and Patrick Eaves.

Sharp thought he won it in overtime but was robbed by Kevin Shattenkirk's stick. Sharp and Spezza went in on a 2-on-1, Spezza fed Sharp, who pulled the puck to his backhand around Allen and flipped the puck towards the net. However, Shattenkirk was at the left post and batted the puck down 3:11 into the overtime period to keep the game going.

"I just saw it out of the corner of my eye," Allen said. "I think (Sharp) deked like 12 times in front of me. I was like a fish out of water. 'Shatty,' what a play by him. He's playing unbelievable for us."

Fabbri's eighth of the season and third straight game with a goal tied the game 2-2 with 1:50 remaining after a pass from Jay Bouwmeester, who weaved into the Dallas zone before centering to the slot.

"It was a great play by 'Bouw,'" Fabbri said. "After the shot, I sort of got hit and turned around. I didn't see anything after that. I just saw the guys come over. It's a good feeling when you don't know if it went in or not."

The Blues took a 1-0 lead on Steen's power-play goal, a slap shot from the high slot that deflected in off Niemi's glove at 6:18. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues' Kevin Shattenkirk (22) gets off a shot past Dallas' Vernon Fiddler
during the Blues' 3-2 shootout win Saturday at Scottrade Center.

The Stars tied the game 1-1 on their first shot of the period, Colton Sceviour's goal from in tight on Allen. Sceviour took a through-the-legs feed from Eakin and beat Allen short side with a wrist shot at 8:15. 

The goal was the Stars' first off Allen in 184:36. 

Seguin's 150th NHL goal gave Dallas a 2-1 lead with 37 seconds left in the second. 

He took a pass from Sharp, sped into the Blues zone, and wound up with a slap shot that got through Allen. 

Instead of being shell-shocked, the Blues got back to work and found a way.

"It was exciting," Fabbri said. "I can only imagine what the fans felt. They were with us the whole game. It was a great way to come on top with back-to-back game tomorrow."

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