Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shattenkirk strikes against former squad as Blues bury Avalanche 3-1

Victory in penalty-marred game is first
for St. Louis in eight tries against Colorado

ST. LOUIS -- Kevin Shattenkirk had no qualms about biting the hand that once fed him.

The same franchise that gave him a shot to play in the National Hockey League.

Shattenkirk played a big role in enabling the Blues to finally defeat the Colorado Avalanche. His goal and assist aided his new team to a 3-1 victory over the Avs Tuesday night in a penalty-infested game that had a more resembling feeling of two teams getting ready for postseason play, not being on the outside looking in.

Shattenkirk, who along with Chris Stewart were traded to the Blues on Feb. 19, continues to be a real jewel for a team that would not have pulled off the trade had the Boston University product not been included in, according to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong.

Shattenkirk now has two goals and 14 assists in 24 games with the Blues to go along with nine goals and 33 assists (42 points) in 70 games this season. Only Buffalo's Andrei Sekera has more assists (15) than Shattenkirk's 14 since the trade.

"I just wanted to go out there tonight and prove that I've found my niche here," Shattenkirk said. "It's been a blast. It's been pretty easy to play on this team. All the guys and coaches have made it pretty easy for me."

The Blues (37-33-10), who play in Chicago tonight (7 p.m. on Versus and KMOX 1120-AM), downed the Avs (29-42-8) for the first time since April 12, 2009, a span of eight games.

"We had some down spots where we weren't at our best, but both teams played pretty hard," said forward Andy McDonald, who added his fifth three-point game of the season with a goal and two assists. "This team the last couple years has kind of had our number. We talked about it before the game and we realized we wanted a better effort."

The Blues, 5-1-1 in their last seven, began rough but escaped the first period thanks in large part to some solid net play from Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 26 shots, including the final 16 after allowing a first-period goal to Kevin Porter.

"We gave up just about close to 50 minutes of scoring chances in the first 20," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "For them to only have the one is because of Jaro. I thought he was real solid. There were moments there because of their skill and ability, he was going to be called upon. He did a great job tonight."

Each team lost four players in the game due to extracurricular activity, including the Blues' Cam Janssen and the Avs' David Koci, who were each given automatic ejections for being the second fight while another altercation is going on, according the Section 7, Rule 46.7 of the NHL rule book.

The Blues' Ryan Reaves and Colorado's Cody McLeod got things started simultaneously with Janssen and Koci near the end of the first period.

Then the fun stuff began in the third period when the Blues' Barret Jackman was clipped in the face by the Avs' Ryan Stoa, and a melee ensued. In the end, Jackman, B.J. Crombeen and Vladimir Sobotka and Colorado's Stoa, Porter and Mark Olver were done for the rest of the game.

"Both teams made statements about some hits out there," Payne said. "That's sometimes how hard hockey's played."

The game itself also saw David Backes reach 30 goals for the second time in his career, one off a career-best 31 established two seasons ago. Backes, who dropped to 17 goals a season ago, feels satisfaction with the personal milestone that also includes 30 assists and a plus-30 rating after going plus-2 Tuesday.

"A lot of guys give me grief. They thought it was a fluke the first time I did it," Backes said of reaching 30 goals. "We're there again, and 30 assists to go with it. I'd give it all back to be in a playoff spot. I'd take five goals and five assists right now if we could be playing after April 9th. The fact is we're not, so I'll take the personal achievements the way they are.

"I'm satisfied and I have a lot of great teammates to give a lot of credit for setting me up and making great plays around me."

Shattenkirk happens to be one of them, as he slithered a puck into Backes in the first period to give the Blues a 1-0 lead after the tip-in goal past Peter Budaj.

"I saw him get body position in front," Shattenkirk said of Backes. "The puck was coming to me rather slowly, so I just had my head up and saw his stick. Just put it in the area. I've been pretty good at finding him lately and he's been pretty good at finding the back of the net."

After Porter tied the game 1-1, Shattenkirk's power play goal (the Blues had a two-man advantage) pinballed off a pair of Avs defenders, including former Blue Erik Johnson 4 minutes, 7 seconds into the second period which turned out to be the game-winner.

"He's got a lot of confidence with the puck," Payne said of Shattenkirk. "He's got a lot of confidence with his reads. His ability to take that extra step, create that extra lane I thought was real solid. Stepping up against his old team, he obviously finds a way to be involved in the first couple. I thought this was another one of those games on both sides of the puck where he was sharp."

The Blues withstood a furious Avalanche rally and added an empty-netter with 40 seconds remaining.

The Blues have been playing winning hockey recently and will try to do so once again in Chicago.

"It's frustrating being in the position that we are," McDonald said. "We'd rather be getting ready to play in the playoffs and getting ready for the second season, but we know we're getting ready for next year and we definitely want to leave the season on a good note."

Added Halak, who is 4-1-1 in his last five starts, "Right now, our team has been playing some pretty good hockey. Too bad it's too late. We just need to finish up strong and get ready for next season because the summer is going to go by fast."

The Blues will try to play spoiler tonight in Chicago, which is currently tied for the eighth and final playoff position in the Western Conference, two points better than Dallas and Calgary.

"There's plenty to play for," Backes said. "Whenever you get a rival team like Chicago, if you can spoil their postseason hopes, there's plenty more to play for."

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