Saturday, November 23, 2013

Blues cruise past Stars 6-1

Six different goal scorers light the lamp; Elliott
strong in goal; Reaves lost four weeks with broken hand

ST. LOUIS -- Once the St. Louis Blues caught up to the Dallas Stars' speed, they were able to put the game in cruise control Saturday.

In the end, the Stars' road winning streak ran into a major speed bump.

The Stars came into their game against the Blues winners of six in a row away from home, but one of their new Central Division rivals and top teams in the Western Conference had other ideas.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Brian Elliott (left) makes one of his 34 saves in a 6-1 victory over the Dallas
Stars Saturday at Scottrade Center.
The Blues got goals from six scorers, with T.J. Oshie leading the way with a goal and an assist in a 6-1 victory against the Stars at Scottrade Center.

"I thought we struggled at the start of the game to catch up to the speed," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who got his 621st career victory to move past Bryan Murray into eighth place on the all-time list. "As much as you talk about the speed of Dallas, I thought we struggled to get up to tempo in the first period. They were on us pretty hard and I thought as the game wore on, we got more and more up to the tempo of the game and started to counter-attack and get some scoring opportunities because of it."

Vladimir Sobotka, Vladimir Tarasenko, David Backes, Derek Roy and Chris Stewart also scored for the Blues, who got two assists from Alex Pietrangelo.

Brenden Morrow had an assist against his former club to give him a point against all 30 NHL teams.

St. Louis improved to 10-1-2 on home ice, 8-1-1 in their past 10 games overall and 11-2-1 in their past 14.

"We started trading chances there for a little bit, and that's not our game," Oshie said. "We got a hold of it pretty quick and it seemed like they had some trouble with our reloads and our tracking and our forecheck. That's what all our offense came off of.

"When we can go at them in waves with four lines, not just three but four, I think that's when we're at our best. Tonight, having six different scorers shows that."

Brian Elliott remained unbeaten in regulation, improving to 4-0-1 making 34 saves as the Blues continued their franchise-best start. They are 16-3-3 and have beaten the Stars six of the past seven times.

Elliott, who has a 1.79 goals-against average and .932 save percentage, and Jaroslav Halak have formed one of top tandems in the League. It's very reminiscent of the Jennings Trophy season the duo had following the 2011-12 season.

"You always want to get in there and fight for the guys and be a part of it," Elliott said. "I think that's what our strength is as a tandem. We can push each other.

"I think Jaro's playing well and I want to play well so we can just keep moving this train forward."

Brenden Dillon scored for the Stars, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 13 shots before being pulled early in the third period in favor of Dan Ellis; Dallas (11-9-2) dropped its fourth straight in St. Louis.

"I felt I had a bad night," said Lehtonen, who came into the game 8-3-0 with a 1.62 GAA and .946 save percentage lifetime against the Blues. "They stayed patient and got a couple of opportunities and scored.

"There's going to be a bad game at some point and it came tonight. I just have to forget about this one."

Outshot 12-4 in the first period, the Blues scored on half of theirs to take a 2-1 lead.

Sobotka's power move around Stars defenseman Sergei Gonchar, and a shove from behind by Dallas forward Jamie Benn, pushed Lehtonen deep into his net, but the puck crossed the goal line 1:39 into the game. It was the 100th career point for Sobotka, which includes 30 goals.

"We're a momentum team," Oshie said. "When nothing's going our way, I think we play really well. When we get off to a good start like that, we seem to feed off it and keep going."

The Stars tied it when Dillon's shot from the middle of the ice inside the blue line bounced past Elliott, who seemed to be screened by Pietrangelo, at 10:53.

Tarasenko gave the Blues the lead nine seconds later when he powered his way past Cody Eakin and snapped a shot through Lehtonen.

Sobotka was the opening act in the fight department, taking on Rich Peverley, but Ryan Reaves was the main event, as he pummeled Dillon in a fight 12:09 into the game after a solid hit that sent rookie Valeri Nichushkin flying into the Blues' bench.

Reaves hit Dillon so hard, he would not return to the game, and Hitchcock confirmed afterwards that Reaves suffered a broken hand -- he has a split over his right pinky and ring fingers -- and will be out four weeks.

"We get to take a hard look at Cracks and Magnus on a full-time basis," Hitchcock said of Adam Cracknell and Magnus Paajarvi. "Magnus has played a lot of right wing, so this is a good fit to get him going and Cracks has played a lot of right wing. We got replaceable (players).

"I know Revo only played five shifts before he got hurt, but they were five really good shifts. We're going to miss him, but other guys are going to step up. ... He hit that fella quite hard."

The Stars entered the Blues zone with speed in the second period but mishandled the puck; the play turned into a 2-on-1 for Backes and Jaden Schwartz. Backes kept the puck and wristed a shot from the slot past Lehtonen to give the Blues a 3-1 lead at 6:56. It was Backes' 10th goal in 22 games after scoring six in 48 last season.

Roy, who played part of last season for the Stars, deflected a Steen shot past Lehtonen 50 seconds into the third period, a power-play goal and his sixth point in six games, to give the Blues a 4-1 lead. It was Steen's first point in four games after briefly holding the NHL lead in goals and points last week.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Vladimir Sobotka (17) gets knocked into Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen as
he scores the first goal of the game Saturday night.
Stewart's shot from the left dot, assisted by Morrow, gave the Blues a 5-1 lead 5:39 into the third period, chasing Lehtonen.

Oshie's eighth point in six games came on a deflection of Pietrangelo's right-point shot past Ellis 11:02 into the third period, making it 6-1.

On the heels of an emotional 3-2 shootout victory Thursday against the Boston Bruins, the Blues kept to their winning ways instead of going through an emotional letdown. They went through it following a 2-1 victory against Pittsburgh and subsequent 3-2 overtime loss to Phoenix. Not so Saturday.

"I guess that's a good learning experience for us after an emotional win coming back trying to play the same way," Pietrangelo said. "I thought we did that tonight. It's a good answer, a good learning lesson obviously."

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