Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reaves, fourth line propel Blues to 4-1 win over Flames

Enforcer nets first two-goal game; St. Louis closes in on fourth place in West

Blues enforcer Ryan Reaves wants to make one thing clear:

"I never turned into the team sniper," Reaves said after his first career two-goal game in a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames Thursday night. "The hands felt good today. Luckily I can pot a couple."

Reaves did pot a couple, and for the Blues, it's one victory nailed down, one more to go.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan Reaves (center) celebrates one of his two goals Thursday in a 4-1
victory over the Calgary Flames.

Knowing that wins in their final two regular-season games would clinch the fourth seed in the Western Conference and home ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blues took a businesslike approach and applied it to their game against the Flames for a season-high fifth straight home win.

The Blues' fourth line took center stage in the scoring department -- with Reaves leading the charge, Adam Cracknell added two assists and Chris Porter added an assist.

St. Louis got second-period goals by Reaves, Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen, and Chris Stewart added a pair of assists.

The Blues (28-17-2) hopped over both the idle Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks into fourth place by one point. They can lock up fourth place and home ice against the winner of the Sharks-Kings game late Saturday by winning season finale earlier in the evening against the Chicago Blackhawks -- who have wrapped up the Presidents' Trophy and have nothing left to play for.

"It's an important game," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Saturday's finale. "You move on one way or the other, but it's an important game. It's two good teams. Chicago's arguably the best team in a long time in the league the way they've played. It's a good challenge. We're going to have to be at our best to win the hockey game, but I think it's a fun game to finish the season with. It's obviously more important for us than it is for them."

Brian Elliott set a Blues franchise record with his 10th victory this month, improving to 10-2-0 by stopping 18 shots.

"Tonight we took care of business," said Elliott, who now has a 1.14 goals-against average and .947 save percentage this month. "We got one more chance to do it again."

The Flames (19-24-4), playing out the string in their fourth consecutive non-playoff season, got a goal from Sven Baertschi, and Joey MacDonald stopped 16 shots.

"They were much better than us," Flames coach Bob Hartley said of the Blues. "They took advantage of a couple of mistakes. They are a good skating team and a good transition team. They can shoot the puck. You give them a little room and they will make you pay. That’s what they did."

Added Flames defenseman and St. Louis native Chris Butler: "I thought we got out-worked. We didn’t play hard enough. There was a big difference in the two teams tonight. You look at the way they played and the way we played and there’s a reason why they are where they are in the standings and why we are where we are. We turned over too many pucks in the neutral zone and we didn’t defend hard enough. We probably got the result we deserved."

After a scoreless, practically lifeless first period, the Blues found their offensive game in the second.

Reaves scored his eighth career goal but second in four games at 3:21 when he took Cracknell's feed and sniped a wrister on the near side past MacDonald using Porter as a screen.

"Ports brings a lot of speed with that first goal he kind of set up," Reaves said. "Cracks made a good pass."

The Flames got the equalizer when Jaden Schwartz lost an offensive zone puck, Elliott came out to the high slot to play it but threw it poorly off the right boards, got caught out of the net and Jiri Hudler fed Baertschi for a one-timer at 7:58 as Elliott tried diving back into the goalmouth.

"It was kind of a play that the communication wasn't there," Elliott said. "The way we were playing, I knew we were going to come out on top in that period. ... A mistake like that can cost you, so we need to clean some stuff up like that."

The Blues got the lead back when McDonald scored his second in as many games, taking a feed from Stewart and snapping a shot high into the top left corner at the 10-minute mark.

Steen was able to score despite being hooked by Maxwell Reinhart -- he stuck with the play and was able to lift a backhand over a sprawled MacDonald with 4:33 left in the second after the Blues initially won a faceoff on the power play.

It's the first time since March 7, a 6-3 win against the Phoenix Coyotes, that the Blues scored three goals in a period.

Reaves added his second of the game, ninth of his career and third in four games when he crashed the net and slammed home a Porter dump into the crease 2:10 into the final period.

"I don't know what he had for pre-game, but I wish I had some of that," Cracknell joked. "He scores goals going to the net, has a a quick shot and that's what we practice on all the time. To get rewarded the way we did tonight, it's a good feeling knowing that if our line can contribute and get chances like that, we're going to pot some and hopefully help our as much as we can."

Hitchcock will have a hard time limiting this unit's ice time when the playoff begin.

"I just think they've got great chemistry," Hitchcock said. "I think everything is work-based, they compete, they're strong on the puck, they're smart. I don't really know if you can call it a fourth line. We've got four lines. I think if that line continues to play at that pace, I don't think you're going to be using it as a fourth line either. They're going to be using up quite a bit of ice time if they play at this level.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Ryan Reaves pumps his fist after scoring a goal as
teammates Chris Porter (second from right) & Adam Cracknell (right)
join in during a 4-1 win over Calgary.

"You could see it coming for a month now. Every time we play them together, they play well. I think they've got the right combination. They've got size and smarts. I think the confidence with scoring a couple goals now is really going to help them ... as long as Revo doesn't think he's a goal-scorer now."

Elliott stood his ground on a couple close calls, first extending the right toe on a shorthanded breakaway on Roman Horak with 11:49 remaining, then thwarting a rebound of a Mike Cammalleri chance with eight minutes left. Elliott topped it off with a fabulous glove save on former Blues prospect Mark Cundari, part of the trade that brought Jay Bouwmeester to St. Louis, with 3:13 to play.

"Make the ones you should, maybe a couple you shouldn't and you should be OK," said Elliott, who heard chants of ELL-IOTT, ELL-IOTT tonight. "

I don't know if it's warranted, especially in a game like that where I didn't get much work. I was chanting REVO! REVO!"

* NOTES -- Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to play in his 200th career game Thursday. ... Bouwmeester playd his first game against the team that traded him to the Blues on April 1. ... Defenseman Kris Russell played in first game on 'D' since April 1. Russell had only played in one of last 12 games, and that was left wing at Detroit April 7. He logged 15:51 ice time, had two shots and blocked four more.

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