Saturday, October 29, 2016

Allen, Schwartz help Blues end homestand with 1-0 win against Kings

Goalie makes 27 saves; St. Louis goes 1-1-1 in three games, scoring three goals

ST. LOUIS -- If the Blues are trying to live on that fine line between winning and losing, they're doing a good job of it.

Scoring one goal a game will eventually catch up to them, but the way the goalies are playing and the penalty killing unit is in shutdown mode, any way the Blues can get points early in the season, they'll gladly take.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen (left) makes one of 27 saves to help the Blues top
the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 on Saturday at Scottrade Center.

The Blues concluded their homestand 1-1-1, which is pretty remarkable considering they scored just one goal in each game.

But one goal was enough on Saturday when Jaden Schwartz scored early in the third period and Jake Allen made it stand up with a 27-save effort for his 12th NHL shutout in a 1-0 victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday before 18,631 at Scottrade Center.

The Blues are 5-2-2, which is good. But they've scored all of one goal in five of nine games this season, including five of the past six games.

"Nobody really cares a month from now what the score is going to be," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They just care is it a 'W' or a is it a loss. I was happier today with the quality of the scoring chances. 

"The first 15 or 20 games of the season is like the playoffs. Every game feels like an immense playoff game. The intensity is through the roof. Most teams are healthy and this is the type of energized hockey you get. You get a lot of good hockey now, a lot of hard hockey. This was no day at the beach for either team. This was a heavy, hard, well-played hockey game."

Kings goalie Peter Budaj was nearly as good as Allen, making 24 saves, but Schwartz was able to break the scoreless duel 3 minutes, 43 seconds into the third period after Jori Lehtera -- who was as colorful as ever with his postgame quotes talking about the goal -- was able to check Trevor Lewis off the puck along the boards after defenseman Jake Muzzin's backhand flip. Carl Gunnarsson took the initial shot, which was blocked, but Vladimir Tarasenko made a blind backhand pass to Lehtera, who found Schwartz alone in the slot and he slammed the puck past Budaj for the only goal of the game.

"It was a huge play," Schwartz said. "Vladi made a nice pass to (Lehtera). Him and Vladi sometimes, I think they don't see me, but they still see me. It was a great play by them. It was nice to see it go in. ... I just got it off my stick as quick as I could. Don't like thinking about it too much. I wanted to rip that one. I've had a few of those this year and missed. I was a little bit frustrated not to see them go in.

"It's nice seeing it go in. We've had a lot of chances as a team. A little bit snakebit here now. Good defensive play, good goalies, we're managing to get points, but I feel like the team has gotten a lot of chances and I as well and have been missing too many so it was nice to see it go in."

Lehtera on the goal said, "That was a good pass by Vladi, a nice Bulgarian pass. Then Schwartzy got a good spot there, a good goal."

And what is a Bulgarian pass?

"Behind the back," Lehtera said, who added, "We're playing kind of like Italian soccer, 1-0, good defense, and it's just one goal. It's enough.

"That's kind of Juventus style."

The Kings (4-4-0), who saw their four-game winning streak snapped, challenged the play that Schwartz was offsides on the play, but replay officials confirmed the play to be a good goal.

"I was 100 percent sure he was offside because that was Schwartzy's first goal," Lehtera joked. "We were pretty sure he's not going to get the decision, but finally he got it.

"Yeah, I saw Muzzin was in the wrong spot kind of. It makes that pass easier for me to pass to Schwartzy."

Hitchcock said it was the kind of goal that was going to be scored in this type of game.

"What created the goal was we checked the puck back twice on that shift and maintained zone time and that's where they made mistakes," Hitchcock said. "That was how we were going to score. We had to get into their defensemen and create turnovers and use our quickness and speed down low and for them to win it they had to get in our defensemen and physically handle them. Early in the game, they came at us in waves and as the game went on, our speed and our quickness down low seemed to really have a major impact for us positively wise."

Before that, it was a goalie show.

Budaj auditioned first and came up with the first big saves.

Paul Stastny thought he had a lay-up goal, but Budaj was able to move right to left and get his left skate on a shot Stastny didn't get all of after getting a pass from Alexander Steen with 15:06 left in the first to keep the game scoreless. 

Budaj then robbed Blues left wing Robby Fabbri, who was sent in with a pass from Patrik Berglund, but Budaj was quick with the right pad with 10:31 left in the first to keep the game scoreless.

Allen's turn came in the second period when he was able to get a glove on a shot from Anze Kopitar from the high slot with 7:41 left in the second, but the rebound fell to the stick of Tanner Pearson, who was denied by Allen with the left pad with 7:34 remaining.

"I gave him a good little pass, I passed it right on his tape," Allen said of Pearson. "I just had to stretch as much as I could to get over there and get a little bit of a pad on it."

He also came up big when the Kings, who were 0-for-5 on the power play, had 22 seconds of 5-on-3 in the first period.

"It's just work, work, work, battle, battle, battle," Allen said. "It's 5-on-3 and it's never usually pretty."

Budaj stopped David Perron with 20 seconds left in the second from the high slot, then got a mask/shoulder on Berglund's effort in tight in the third with 7:57 to play to keep it a one-goal game.

But for Allen, who got his first shutout of the season, his thought process never wavers. If the offense isn't going, he's just going to do his job, no matter what the score is.

"No, I don't think that way," Allen said. "That's when they score on you. You just keep playing your game and try not to let anything phase you. If you need one goal, if you need a shutout, so be it, but you don't want to get too far ahead of yourself. It's just sort of one minute at a time.

"Find ways to get points with one goal. You see the chances we had tonight, it's just one of those little stretches where pucks are either hitting a stick, hitting a post, when most of the time they're going in. That's going to turn for us soon. We've just got to work through it. The goals will come. Tonight was a big win. Whether it's 1-0, 4-0, doesn't really matter. A huge win to cap off what would have been a rough homestand for us and take some momentum on the road."

The Blues will head on the road for games against the New York Rangers on Tuesday and Dallas Stars on Thursday. The goal scoring will need to pick up, but given the drought they've been on, 12 of a possible 18 points isn't too shabby.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Kyle Brodziak (right) and the Kings' Drew Doughty battle for
a puck along the wall Saturday at Scottrade Center.

"You've got to get points," Hitchcock said. "It doesn't matter what the score is. You can't keep playing well and not get points. We were on the verge in these last two games, if we don't get points in these games, then you start trying to play possibly a different way. You lose confidence in the way you're playing but when you're continuing to get points and playing well, so the belief system is starting to grow. 

"I think today was a big step for our team because our belief system of being able to stay with it won us a hockey game. It's hard when you're not scoring and playing well and you think you're doing a lot of things well, it's hard to stay on the's really hard. We've had a season so far where except for two games, New York and the second game against Calgary, that's nine games, eight games we've played awful well and haven't gotten production for it and you don't want to see the guys leave the page, because then it gets to be a whole another mess. They stayed with it today, they stayed with it against Detroit in the third period which is a real good sign."

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