Thursday, January 24, 2013

Another home game, another shutout for Blues

After blanking Detroit in home-opener,
St. Louis follows up with 3-0 win over Predators

Scottrade Center has become a place where visiting teams dread coming to.

The Blues have been the best on their home ice since the beginning of last season. They added the Nashville Predators to that list, improving to 32-6-5 over that span.

Berglund had a goal and an assist, helping the Blues to a 3-0 victory against the Nashville Predators in a rematch of Central Division foes, who played in Nashville on Monday.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Kevin Shattenkirk (22) is being pursued by Nashville's Mike
Fisher Thursday night.

St. Louis is 8-2-3 in the last 13 meetings which include four wins in a row. It's also the first time in franchise history the Blues have started their home schedule with back-to-back shutouts (they blanked Detroit 6-0 in the season-opener).

"Last year we talked about putting work ahead of skill, and that took some convincing," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "If you look back on it, we won against Chicago and Detroit with that attitude, and I think it just reinforced the way we had to play the game to win. I think our players bought into it because they saw against two good teams how effective we can be. It became a little easier sell because we had success right away."

Berglund and Jan. 24 seem to go hand-in-hand.

One year ago on this date, Berglund scored his first career penalty shot goal. He added his second on Thursday night.

Of course in asking Berglund, he had to be told of the feat. It's easy to chuckle about it in victory.

"Bernie (Federko) just told me about that," Berglund said, referring to the Blues' Hall of Famer. "I can't really believe it, but I guess that's the only day I can score on a shootout, so hopefully it comes more often.

"I haven't been really successful in that area of the game, so it's obviously nice that I can score one."

The Blues, who also got goals from T.J. Oshie and rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, have thrown a blanket over the Predators on home ice, blanking them for the second game in a row dating back to last season. Nashville hasn't scored in 182:44 at Scottrade Center since Dec. 30, 2011.

"Tonight, we were trying to get a bounce-back game after a tough loss against Chicago," Oshie said. "Guys are just playing well, goaltending's great obviously. Everyone's just been good at home."

Jaroslav Halak had to stop only 13 shots as picked up his 24th career shutout and 15th as a Blue, moving within one of tying Glenn Hall for the franchise record.

The Predators got very little in offensive chances and lost to the Blues for the second time in four days.

"You come into St. Louis, it's a bee's nest," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "They swarm you, they get on you. They have purpose and they work as a group and tonight, we weren't willing to play the game we needed to play to compete at that level. You're not just going to walk in here and have success playing like that. You're going to have to battle. Their battle was a lot harder than ours."

Captain Shea Weber agreed: "We didn't have too many quality chances. They just played a lot better than we did tonight. They just beat us all over the ice."

The game also marked the return of defenseman Wade Redden to the NHL after nearly a three-year absence. The Blues signed Redden after he was waived by the New York Rangers last week. Redden had spent the past two seasons with the Rangers' AHL farm team.

"Even at the best of times, there's always a little bit of butterflies," said Redden, who logged 17:23 minutes with one hit and a pair of blocked shots. "That's what you play for and in a lot of ways, the excitement is a different environment than what I've been used to, so it was a lot of fun."

Oshie scored his second power-play goal in as many games and the Blues' seventh in 11 tries when he slid the puck past Pekka Rinne's outstretched left pad. Berglund's gritty work in front popped the puck to his teammate at the side of the goal at 12:59 of the opening period to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.

The Predators, in the second game of a seven-game trip, mustered only three shots on goal in the period; they went 16:10 between the first and second shots.

Berglund gave the Blues a 2-0 lead when he beat Rinne 9:26 into the second after being awarded a penalty shot when he was tripped by Mike Fisher as he broke down the right side and made a sharp cut to the net. Berglund beat Rinne, who came out to cut off the angle, with a quick snap shot.

"I kind of just went in there, faked it once and shot one," Berglund said. "Luckily it went in. ... The only thing I was thinking about was coming in with a lot of speed."

Berglund also scored on a penalty shot one year ago against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 3-2 shootout loss. He is now 2 for 3 in his career.

Tarasenko added his fourth goal in four games when he beat Rinne coming in off a weak-side line change after taking Alex Steen's pass from the half-wall 9:04 into the third period. The rookie has six points to begin his NHL career.
(Getty Images)
Vladimir Tarasenko (left) scored his team-leading fourth goal Thursday
night against Nashville.
"It's a really interesting line (with Andy McDonald and Steen) because it's a throwback line," Hitchcock said. "It's a line that I think the hockey purists ... anybody that you talk to that saw the game back in the 80's and 90's would really appreciate this line. It's a puck-possession line, a line that has three guys with the innate ability to find open space on the ice in a game that has no space. They find space. They find room to make plays, they find open people, they see the ice. It's a fun line to watch from the bench."

In two home games this season, which also includes the season-opener against Detroit, the Blues have allowed no goals and only 27 shots.

"If you look at territorial, it's 65-35 (percent), 70-30, we're occupying the offensive zone," Hitchcock said. "We're keeping it in the zone. We're wearing people out. Maybe it doesn't manifest itself in shots tonight, because they're a good team, a good defensing team. But we occupy the zone. That's the way you have to play defense. It's not always pretty at times."

But it is effective.

* NOTES -- The last time Halak was pulled in a game (Feb. 9 at NJ), he responded by going 10-1-1 with a 1.39 GAA and .950 save percentage in 12 starts, including a career-long eight-game winning streak. ... The line of McDonald (four), Steen (four) and Tarasenko (six) have 14 points through four games. ... David Perron's assist Tuesday in Chicago was the 100th of his career. ... Defenseman Jeff Woywitka cleared waivers and was assigned to Peoria. Ian Cole, assigned to Peoria on Wednesday to make room for Redden, was recalled Thursday but was a healthy scratch. ... Forwards Jamie Langenbrunner and Matt D'Agostini were also healthy scratches.

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