Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cole, Porter help Blues to win over Ducks

Both players' status unknown until game time; Shattenkirk misses game with flu

ST. LOUIS -- Maybe the element of not thinking about playing can be helpful to Ian Cole. The Blues' defenseman had no clue he was playing Thursday night.

Cole was driving to the rink as if he were going to be a healthy scratch for the second straight game against the Anaheim Ducks. But when he got word from coach Ken Hitchcock that he was playing, there was no time to think about anything.

Cole made the most of a spot start, chipping in his second career goal and adding an assist to tie a career-high with a two-point game to lead the Blues past the Ducks 4-2 at Scottrade Center, the 900th home win in franchise history.
(Getty Images)
Blues defenseman Ian Cole (right) after scoring in the second period to
give the Blues a lead in a 4-2 victory over Anaheim.

Cole was in the lineup for the Blues (16-9-3) because Kevin Shattenkirk was a late scratch because of the flu. It's the second time this season the Blues have had to suddenly deal with flu-like sickness. Alex Pietrangelo missed a game last month because of it.

"I just found out when I came to the rink for the game today," Cole said. "They didn't know if (Shattenkirk) was going to go or not. I knew he wasn't feeling well, but it was definitely up in the air until game time.

"I was preparing like I was going to play no matter what. If it didn't happen, it didn't happen, but luckily it did and I came out and had a great game."

Cole, a 2007 first-round pick by the Blues, has played well in his 11 games this season, tallying one goal and three assists. He's trying to make the decision hard for Hitchcock.

"Maybe he'll have the Petro flu where he's out for a couple games instead of just a quick one," Cole joked about Shattenkirk. "Whenever I can get in, I relish that opportunity."

T.J. Oshie added two goals and Chris Porter also scored and Jamie Langenbrunner added two assists for his first multi-point game for the Blues, who are 10-2-3 under Hitchcock.

"Both Cole and Porter were pending the health of Shattenkirk and then depending on what lineup was in there (for the Ducks), and both guys scored for us," Hitchcock said. "That was really helpful.

"The other thing that was helpful was our third and fourth lines really gave us good minutes today. ... When your first two lines aren't starting with the puck, that puts a lot of heat on a lot of aspects of the game. Those guys contributed. They were in on a couple goals ... they really helped us."

Jaroslav Halak made 21 saves to lower his goals-against average to 2.37 after being a season-low 3.53. Jason Arnott also played in his 1,200th career game.

"I felt good tonight," said Halak, who's stopped 187 of the last 200 shots he's faced. "I knew I needed to be better for us. I knew I had to make some key saves to keep us in the game. In the second period, I made some key saves there, even for myself to keep me in the game. That was huge for me."

The Ducks (8-15-5) got a goal and an assist from Bobby Ryan and a goal from Devante Smith-Pelly, but it wasn't enough as Anaheim is now 1-2-1 under new coach Bruce Boudreau.

"We played a pretty good game," said Ducks winger Teemu Selanne, who had an assist in the game and now has six points in four games. "The difference was we had a couple more mistakes than they had. That's a hot team right there and they made less mistakes than we did."

Added Boudreau: "Every time we made a mistake, I thought it was in our net. When you can hold a team like that that's a great home team to 24 shots -- and they had 11 of them in the first period -- that's not a bad game."

The Blues grabbed control of the game with second-period goals by Cole and Oshie.

Cole tallied his second career goal when he followed up Matt D'Agostini's shot and fired the puck into an empty side past Jonas Hiller 7:39 into the period.

"It just happened to come right to me," Cole said. "I'm not the most skilled guy, but hopefully I can finish that with a wide open net."

Trying to dump the puck deep into the Blues' zone, Carlo Colaiacovo picked off Cam Fowler and sprung Oshie loose, who snapped a shot over Hiller's glove into the top-half corner with 1:46 left in the period.

"I thought that they were going for a change, so I thought I might have a breakaway," Oshie said. "They did a good job to get back. I just tried to get a shot off as quick as I could. ... I actually thought I held the puck as long as I could. The defenseman did a really good job getting back, so I waited as long as I could until (Hiller) got close to me and just tried to fire it."

They tried to give Cole another assist on the Oshie goal, which would have been a career-best three-point game. Cole tried to take it.

"Twenty-three and 28 look a lot alike," Cole joked, referring to Colaiacovo. "... It was a nice pass from the bench. I did a little nice quick-up there from the bench. It was a great pass. It would have been nice to get a phantom assist, but that's not going to happen in the NHL."

The Blues had the better of the play in the first period, outshooting the Ducks 11-4 but it was a 1-1 game.

Porter put the Blues ahead by following up Langenbrunner's shot from the top of the right circle. Hiller made the initial save and thought he had the puck covered but it was loose behind his right skate, and Porter came in and swooped it into the net 9:19 into the game.
(Getty Images)
T.J. Oshie scores the first of his two goals Thursday night against the
Anaheim Ducks.

A pair of broken plays led to the Ducks tying goal, as Ryan connected on a one-timer from Selanne past Halak at 14:31. Carlo Colaiacovo lost a loose puck battle behind the Blues' goal and Ryan got in behind David Perron, who lost track of Ryan for the quick one-time shot.

"When they scored their first goal, the whole game changed," Hitchcock said of the Ducks. "We played fast and (had) lots of scoring chances in the first period, but they got out of it 1-1 and then they dialed it up. We never started with the puck, so we chased the game the rest of the night. It really caught up to us in the second and third.

"I think we competed hard for the most part. We could have really made it an easier night after the first period but once they got out of it, it was game on."

Smith-Pelly got Anaheim within one 3:17 into the third period, knocking in a shot off the skate of Patrik Berglund.

"In the third period, we had some golden chances," Boudreau said. "When you get some golden chances, you've got to put those in.

"You see that we never quit. Our team's got a lot of heart."

But the Blues were able to maintain their lead and Oshie added an empty-netter with 45.3 seconds remaining. The Blues are now 12-0-1 when leading after two periods.

The Blues have won two in a row and have rebounded well after a humbling loss to Chicago Saturday.

"It was a tough loss, obviously," Oshie said. "Any time Chicago comes into town and they beat you by a couple goals, it's tough to swallow. But the guys have done a really good job of getting back at it. We had a couple good practices and then a great game against Detroit and again tonight.

"Not the way we wanted to win, going kind of back and forth like that. But I'll definitely take the two points any day."

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