Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Elliott returns triumphantly to help Flames douse Blues 4-1

Former St. Louis goalie makes 23 saves; Brouwer adds 
assist upon return, Tkachuk plays in front of hometown for first time

ST. LOUIS -- It's no surprise as soon as Brian Elliott hit the ice, 'Moose' chants would soon reverberate throughout Scottrade Center.

Elliott was beloved by Blues fans for the past five seasons he spent here, the ones who rattled the roof of this building every time Elliott came through for them.

But this time, Elliott was at the opposite end, and he wanted to give the fans another rousing performance and did so with a 23-save performance in a 4-1 Calgary Flames victory against the Blues before 17,337 on Tuesday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Former Blues goalie Brian Elliott makes a save in front of Blues forwards
Nail Yakupov (middle) and Dmitrij Jaskin (23).

Elliott, who won for the second time in as many nights after beating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout on Monday, could have pitched a tent the first two periods considering how bad the listless Blues (4-2-1) were.

But he had to come through in the third despite allowing a Kevin Shattenkirk two-man advantage goal with 12 of his 23 saves. 

"I don't know if I was surprised because I knew how much the fans kind of loved that," Elliott said of his nickname. "It was special for me, hearing that, and really kind of got me into the game. I'm sure they don't like the result now, but it meant a lot and that video tribute meant a lot too." 

The Blues said they simply made life too easy on Elliott.

"He was great tonight," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said of his former teammate. "We didn't make it too hard on him either. He's too good of a goalie to not have traffic in front of him, not have Grade A scoring chances. He made a couple big saves but for the most part, we know how sound he is and how sound he can be and we didn't really do anything to make him uncomfortable."

Said captain Alex Pietrangelo: "Every goalie, we've got to make sure we find ways to get in front of the net. 

"... We had some lazy plays and communication wasn't there like it usually is. Mentally we weren't as sharp as we needed to be. It showed."

Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and assist and the Flames (3-4-1) avenged a 6-4 loss to the Blues on Saturday.

It was a triumphant return for Elliott, was traded to the Flames June 24. He won for the second time after starting 0-3-0. 

And there was no doubt Elliott wanted this game.

"I saw that on the schedule in the summer," Elliott said." You want to come back here, I had so much fun playing in front of these fans in this building, I wanted to do it again, even though it's another team. The guys did a heck of a job in front of me to get that win for me." 

Blues goalie Carter Hutton made 26 saves. 

But let's make no mistake about this: the Blues were sloppy, slow, careless with the puck and Alexander Steen put it best.

"No brains," he said. "I think we were too slow in our actions. They made us look sloppy on a team that was on a back-to-back.

"We thought it was going to be a cookie cutter and it wasn't. We had to play with our brains and we didn't." 

The Flames scored their third power-play goal in as many games on Dennis Wideman's wrist shot from the slot. He was all alone after the Blues got caught with four skaters on the same side of the ice and he took a pass from Troy Brouwer and beat Hutton 3:54 into the game for a 1-0 lead.

"We were trying to pressure and that stuff happens," Steen said. "There's a scrum on the wall, so we want to try and pressure them as much as we can to create turnovers. It squeaked out the wrong way."

An odd-man rush led to Deryk Engelland converting on a backhand at 10:30 of the first after he took a pass from Kris Versteeg. 

Bennett scored 2:16 into the second for a 3-0 lead after he was open in the left circle and shot through traffic on the near side. 

Shattenkirk cut the deficit to 3-1 with a two-man advantage at 5:49 of the third. 

Gaudreau scored an empty-net goal with 1:11 remaining. 

Coach Ken Hitchcock warned of the Blues returning from a week-long road trip and having a lack of energy. It was quite evident Tuesday in arguably the worst effort of the season.

"I don't know. I think it's what caused the energy," Hitchcock said. "I think we turned the puck over a lot, through the neutral zone and that causes a real drop in energy. We didn't manage it very well. We played almost completely different to the way we played on the road. I think that ends up being frustrating. You're constantly going back and getting the puck. When you're not winning a lot of puck battles early in the game, you're constantly chasing it. That was a major factor. I don't think we put the work that we have put in until now, I don't think we put in tonight. I think we just ... we played sideways when we should have played with speed and gone north, and we played light on the boards when we could have really won some puck battles and really played with a higher level of determination."

Hutton, who made a number of key saves that prevented the score from being a wider margin, had to fend off some break-in chances that Hitchcock was asked about the amount that the Blues have allowed this season.

"I'm alarmed by the way we're playing at home," Hitchcock said. "I'm alarmed by that. I'm alarmed that we're playing much better on the road than we are at home. We're not doing the things at home that we need to to win hockey games. We're playing a different game at home and on the road. I'm concerned about the collective effort and focus that we're putting in at home, and that's what we'll talk about tomorrow."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Patrik Berglund (21) is being hounded by former teammate 
Troy Brouwer during Calgary's 4-1 win Tuesday.

The Blues are 2-1-0 at home, but this lack of home dominance goes back to last season, and it needs to change.

"I think it's a sense of cooperation from the players to the coaches," Hitchcock said. "The players have to feel the same urgency that we do. They're not happy either. I wouldn't imagine anybody in there is very happy with the way we played today. There was a sense of frustration at times. It's why the frustration comes in. Sometimes you want it to be different than it is, but you've got to fight through things. We're in that area where we've got to deal with adversity in a better way and we've got to have a game plan that's collective and everybody is on that page and proud to be on that page. We weren't like that today. We constantly turned the puck over and we did not do the hard things that you need to do to win games that we were more than prepared to do on the road. We're not doing them in the last two games at home and that's now our team. So we've got to get that out of the way."

* NOTES -- Flames right wing Troy Brouwer also returned to St. Louis for the first time since leaving the Blues after one season to sign a free-agent contract with Calgary on July 1. ... St. Louis native Matthew Tkachuk, son of former Blues great Keith Tkachuk, was in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games; he had an assist on Bennett's goal. "It was really kind of an eye-opening experience, to play in the rink you kind of grew up in. It's great to get the win and I had a lot of people here watching, so I'm sure they're pretty happy. ... It was crazy. There were some friends and family on the runway just as I went outside for warm-ups. I heard a big roar when I started to go out for warm-ups so it was cool."

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