Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blues prevail on Pietrangelo goal

Second straight 1-0 result helps St. Louis
keep pace in West; Halak nets another shutout

ST. LOUIS -- When a team can win without its best, it's a sign of good things.

The Blues have taken it to the limit in their last two outings. In the end, they have found a way.

The Blues felt like they left the Edmonton Oilers hang around long enough to steal two points away from them Thursday night.

But a team that just doesn't allow much defensively was able to prevail once again with a key third period goal.

Alex Pietrangelo extended his career-best streak with points in a game to eight. It couldn't have come at a better time.
(Getty Images)
Blues forward David Perron (right) celebrates with goalie Jaroslav
Halak after the Blues posted a 1-0 win over Edmonton Thursday.
It was Halak's second straight shutout and third in four games.

Pietrangelo's wraparound with 5:14 remaining proved to be the game's only goal as the Blues blanked the Oilers 1-0 Thursday night at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (28-12-6) momentarily jumped into first overall in the Western Conference with 62 points but were quickly bumped back to fourth place after the Detroit Red Wings' shootout win in Phoenix, which gives the Wings 63 points.

Pietrangelo, who now has a team-best four game-winning goals after he curled around the Oilers goal and slid a shot past netminder Nikolai Khabibulin.

"I had a couple chances that shift," Pietrangelo said. "(David Backes) made an unbelievable pass. I can't believe he found me. Lucky enough, the puck ended up being behind the net. I was just kind of able to give it the old-fashioned wrap-around."

Jaroslav Halak earned his second straight shutout and third in four games, extending his shutout streak to 148:25. Halak stopped 15 shots and is 10-0-3 in his last 13 starts after earning his fourth shutout of the season and third in four games. Halak, who has 20 career shutouts and 11 with the Blues, has a 1.50 goals-against average . He was also in goal for the Blues' last game, a 1-0 home win against Dallas on Monday.

"I feel good, but when you look at the shots, I didn't have to stop many shots, many scoring chances tonight," said Halak, who is 13-7-5 on the season with a 2.00 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. "Every game is a different game. The guys are playing really good hockey right now and hopefully we can at least keep doing it until the All-Star break."

The surging Blues improved to 7-0-1 in their last eight games. They've earned at least a point in a franchise-best 14 straight home games (12-0-2), and they've also gone 10 straight games without allowing a third-period goal while winning an NHL-best 20th home game (20-3-3).

Even if it wasn't their best game.

"That's what signifies a good team growing," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "When you're still finding ways to win when you're not at your best, it's a sign of a good thing and a sign of a team coming together wanting to win and learning to win.

"I think that's what we've found within ourselves in this room. If it takes a third period to win a game like we have in the last couple games and we end up gutting it out and finding ways to win ... hey, two points is two points. You're not going to ask how."

St. Louis spent the night pelting the Edmonton net but couldn't get a shot past Khabibulin until Pietrangelo beat him.

"They played an unbelievable game," Oilers defenseman Andy Sutton said of the Blues. "They came with amazing pressure and intensity. That's the way hockey is meant to be played."

Khabibulin was often spectacular while stopping the other 37 shots he faced as the Oilers fell to 17-25-4. Edmonton has lost five in a row on the road and 12 of its last 13 away from home and fell to 0-9-2 when tied after two periods. The game was scoreless.

The first period was one-sided -- the Blues had the first 17 shots before the Oilers' Ryan Smyth got one on Halak with 12:07 remaining in the period. St. Louis wound up outshooting the Oilers 19-4 in the opening period, including 14-0 in the first four minutes, but could not solve Khabibulin.

"I think it's fair to say we were outplayed in that first period," said Khabibulin, who made 19 of his 37 saves in the first 20 minutes. "We just seemed like we were a step behind. I thought we were better in the second."

It was the kind of start the Blues were looking for but not the result.

"We started the game with the pace we wanted to play at, but for some reason, we got away from it and let them get into the game," Colaiacovo said. "The game ended up slowing down instead of playing at our pace.

"The game could have been over early, really one-sided, but at the end of the day, it was a battle to get that goal and it was a battle to get the two points. That's all we've got to continue to focus on is to make sure we're getting the end result we want."
(Getty Images)
Blues forward T.J. Oshie (right) gets to the net against Oilers goalie
Nikolai Khabibulin Thursday night.

The second period brought more of the same: no goals -- and, from the Blues' standpoint, not enough shots on Khabibulin. They had 24 seconds of a two-man advantage but did little with it -- and after Khabibulin lost his stick in the ensuing moments, the Blues couldn't get any shots toward the net. They also had another 28 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage in the third but the game remained scoreless.

"We kind of saw this coming in the last game ... our offensive intensity isn't what it should be, so we let teams hang around," Hitchcock said. "We leave the game out there. We're just going to have to figure out a way to bear down a lot more, we're going to have to show a lot more of intensity in the offensive zone.

"Once Edmonton figured out that they were still in the game after the first period, it was game on for both teams. ... This is now four of the last five games if we had the necessary intensity around the net offensively, it could have been a much easier night for all of us."

Fortunately, Pietrangelo made it a good night for the home side as the Blues now have an NHL-best nine shutouts.

"If you can win games 1-0, it's a good thing," he said. "That's a sign that you're doing something right."

* NOTES -- Defenseman Kris Russell (groin) returned to action after missing nine games. Winger Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) was expected to return but missed his 10th consecutive game after the team ruled following the morning skate he's not 100 percent.

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