Blues goalie helps set record for consecutive shutouts with four
after Elliott's three in a row; St. Louis keeps pace with Dallas in Central
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Blues knew what the Dallas Stars already had done earlier in the day, so like a heavyweight tennis match, they had to hold serve.
Easier said than done against the team with the best record/most points in the NHL looking to clinch the Presidents' Trophy.
The Blues put those plans on ice for one night, even though it will eventually be a formality for Washington, but the Blues held their end of the bargain and kept pace with the Stars in the race for the Central Division title with an impressive 4-0 victory against the Capitals on Saturday night at Verizon Center.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Jake Allen's 32 saves Saturday helped the Blues establish a franchise
record with their fourth straight shutout in a 4-0 win against Washington.
Jake Allen made 32 saves for his sixth shutout of the season and 11th of the season. Along with Brian Elliott's three previous shutouts helped the Blues establish a franchise record with their fourth shutout in a row and consecutive shutout minutes, which sits at 240 minutes, 18 seconds.
They haven't allowed a goal with a goalie in net for 261:51.
And the Blues (45-22-9, 99 points), who've won four in a row and 10 of their past 12, got second-period goals from Kyle Brodziak, Colton Parayko and Vladimir Tarasenko to break a scoreless duel. Patrik Berglund scored in the third period.
It was a happy homecoming for Troy Brouwer, who spent the past four seasons here in D.C. before getting traded to the Blues last summer in a package for T.J. Oshie, who missed the game because of the flu.
Allen, who allowed nine goals on 43 shots his previous two games against Calgary (a game in which he was pulled) and Edmonton, played one of his best games of the season against the highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference.
Perhaps he was jealous watching his friend Elliott throw up goose egg after goose egg.
"No, I'm just so happy for 'Ells' to be able to come off an injury and playing so well and playing the best in the league from Christmas on is pretty incredible," Allen said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can to keep up. Tonight was a good step for me after a nice little break."
Allen said after the time off and Elliott's re-emergence that he needed some practice time. He got little to none after being thrust into action after missing six weeks of his own when Elliott went down with a knee injury.
"No, I had a great week of practice," Allen said. "I worked really hard. Just got back to being myself and felt good out there. I just wanted to keep it simple and slow the play down, back-to-back, tired legs a little bit. We did a good job tonight."
It's to the point where the Blues don't really care who's in goal. They're getting the necessary work from a great 1-2 punch.
"I feel like it just goes back and forth," said center Paul Stastny, who had two more assists Saturday to give him 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) the past nine games. "Early on it was 'Snake,' then he got hurt, then 'Moose' came in and he got hurt. 'Snake' came in and started playing great again. I think it's that internal competition that can be bad for you and sometimes it can be good. These two guys have found a way to make it competitive on a good standpoint that benefits the team.
"... 'Snake' was phenomenal. There's so much I can say about both of those goalies. Throughout the year when we're playing our best, we're getting chances and they're letting us take chances. Today early on, (Washington) had a couple chances, almost kind of off turnovers where they kind of had quick point-blank chances and 'Snake' just read it well, controlled the rebounds. When it was 2- or 3-0 there, we kind of turned it over a few times and one of the d-men walked in and Ovechkin got a couple shots, but he held his ground. He played good. It could be tough a little bit because he's been watching lately and obviously 'Moose' has been playing unbelievable. These guys kind of support each other; keep your head down, keep working and we're comfortable playing with either goalie."
The Blues had to play the game without another injured player. This time, defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (lower-body injury) joined Jay Bouwmeester (upper-body injury) on the shelf. Already down Alexander Steen (upper body) and Steve Ott (hamstrings), and the Blues' season-long injury list grew more against the Capitals (53-16-5), who had previously lost only six home games in regulation.
Petteri Lindbohm stepped into Gunnarsson's spot, and he formed half of the Blues' defensive unit with rookies Joel Edmundson and Parayko, who was a plus-4 in the game making him a rookie-best plus-27.
"I though they were not fun to play against," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "(Robert) Bortuzzo, Lindbohm, Edmundson, they weren't fun to play against. They made full account of themselves. They're big guys, they're physical, not a lot of fun to play against, and I thought they did a great job in managing the game properly, managing the puck properly. There was a lot of good players on other side that put pressure on you and I thought they handled it real well."
Brodziak's second in as many games, both coming in consecutive days after the birth of his third son (Luca) when he was on the doorstep and tapped a puck into an empty net after Scottie Upshall's initial shot was blocked, David Backes fired a quick wrister from a sharp angle that Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer couldn't handle and Brodziak was there to make it 1-0 4 minutes, 45 seconds into the the second.
"I don't know, same thing happened with 'Reavo,'" Brodziak said of linemate Ryan Reaves, whose wife recently delivered the couple's first child and he scored the next game. "He scored right after; it's funny how it works that way. ... Thursday morning had our third boy and family's very excited about it.
"I actually thought we came out and had a really good start. Second half of the first, they really started to pour it on a little bit. We weathered the storm and Jake was great for us. We found another gear in the second period, I think. We were fortunate to capitalize on a few bounces and carried us over to the third."
Parayko scored 4-on-4 on a shot that may have surprised Grubauer after the Blues' defenseman raced coast to coast from behind his goal, entered the zone and fired a wrister from the high slot at 11:05.
The Capitals challenged offsides on the play and Jaden Schwartz was close to entering the zone, but replays seemed inconclusive and the goal stood.
Tarasenko's team-leading 35th of the season and 200th NHL point made it 3-0 after Stastny's cross-ice feed to Jori Lehtera, who found Tarasenko in the slot for the quick strike at 12:45.
"Brody's goal, Tank's goal, both of those goals started just from a good forecheck and controlling the puck for 10, 15, 20 seconds," Stastny said. "That's when we're at our best. It's not the most exciting hockey, but conditioning-wise, it's way easier playing offense than defense, so for us as offensive players, it's nice when we have the puck and we're controlling and moving with each other.
"I think it was a good challenge for us, especially both teams are coming off back-to-backs. Early on, you just want to get your feet under them. First period I think we kind of played their way a little bit and it's kind of open hockey. Once we started playing the way we wanted to play, we wanted to try and get more puck possession and create that cycle. That's when we started getting those chances."
The Blues were content to play smart and not take too many chances in the third leading by three and keeping the Capitals in front of them.
Berglund capitalized on an Alex Pietrangelo pass with 2:15 remaining.
Then it was all about preserving Allen's shutout and capping off another stellar defensive gem.
And of course, Allen said it's about the team in front of him, not all about the goalies.
"Yeah it is; it's huge," Allen said. "Especially on a couple of those shutouts we limited the teams and the shots. That's an aspect from mine and Brian's standpoint where that's a credit to all the 20 guys in front of us. It's not just us. It goes to show we're on the upswing right now, we're playing well and the playoffs where we want to be."
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Paul Stastny (26) gets a shot off that Washington goalie Philipp Grubauer
saves Saturday during the Blues' 4-0 victory.
Allen's rebound control was key, especially with the Blues playing at home on Friday and not getting to their hotels until roughly 2:30 a.m.
"Yeah, especially for the guys. It gives them a chance instead of scrambling around, just to refresh, get a whistle, take a breather and start again," Allen said. "That was the objective coming into the game and we did a good job."
"They really earned them," Hitchcock said of the shutouts. "Today we scored on our chances, they didn't score on theirs. Both teams pressured each other into a lot of mistakes in your own zone. We were able to capitalize on it because of it. Tarasenko's goal was a big goal, it gave us some mental breathing space because I thought both teams with back-to-back looked a little bit tired in the third."