Near-regular lineup helps out in 3-1 victory; Fabbri continues to earn his keep
ST. LOUIS -- The lesson the Blues learned playing with as close to a regular season lineup as they can get was justified with a strong performance Tuesday night.
After a rude awakening against the Columbus Blue Jackets last Thursday in which the Blues fell behind by four goals in the first period before falling 5-4, the Blues came out with a strong effort early, got some timely goals and earned their first preseason victory with a 3-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at Scottrade Center.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Vladimir Tarasenko (left) and Jori Lehtera (12) celebrate Tarasenko's goal in
the third period during a 3-1 victory Tuesday against Carolina.
Alexander Steen, who was initially credited with two goals, didn't get any but had a hand in two of them. David Backes, Joakim Lindstrom and Vladimir Tarasenko did score goals, and Brian Elliott was strong in goal with a 19-save effort.
The Blues (1-3-1) close the preseason with home-and-home games Thursday and Saturday against the Minnesota Wild and feel they played the kind of game they've been gearing towards for the regular season.
"I thought we got a real good evaluation on a lot of things today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought we played really well the first two periods. We really controlled the tempo of the hockey game and I thought they started to play with a risk in the third and then with us killing penalties, we seemed to really be on our heels for most of the third. I thought for two periods, we did a lot of things you like, a lot of things we can build on. Obviously, the first 25 minutes were what we're looking for in our team anyways.
"Today was the most organized we were, but we've had some tremendous efforts. The effort we had in Columbus was about as good for a first game out of the box."
The first period was played in brisk style with few whistles -- at one point, there was no stoppage in play from the 14:34 mark to the 5:35 mark (8:59). The Blues outshot the Hurricanes 14-6.
Playing a heavy lineup in front of their home crowd again, the one valuable lesson the Blues learned from their previous game here was -- using a Hitchcock term -- not to throw their sticks on the ice and think they can just play.
"Win or lose, that was how we wanted to play," said Elliott, who was especially strong in the third period when the Blues had to kill off three minor penalties and five in all. "It's hard sometimes in preseason to get up for games that don't really mean too much, but the guys came out tonight and really battled, wanted to win that one, to get on that positive path towards this beginning of the season here."
Backes put the Blues ahead 1-0 just 33 seconds into the second when he converted Kevin Shattenkirk's shot from the high slot with a tip in front.
After the Hurricanes (1-3-0) tied it on Ryan Murphy's goal at 5:59 of the second, Steen gave the Blues the lead for good with 1:22 left in the second. He cut into the middle and wound up with a slap shot that beat Ward high blocker side. But as it turned out, Lindstrom also got a tip on the shot.
"I got credit for two and I didn't score any of them," Steen joked.
"Obviously team-wise, I thought we played really solid, especially the second period," Steen added. "We didn't give them much. We held onto the puck and made the play we wanted to make. 'Moose' was stellar for us when we needed him to. It was a good all-around game."
Tarasenko scored the highlight goal of the game, when he converted a tic-tac-toe play after passes from Alex Pietrangelo and Jori Lehtera with 2:15 remaining in the game.
Hitchcock was appreciative of Elliott and the four veteran defenseman that played (Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Shattenkirk and Barret Jackman).
"I thought Elliott was good, and we got really good efforts from the veteran defensemen," Hitchcock said. "I thought the four vets that we played today really played well. Lots of stuff to build on now and we can start moving forward."
Robby Fabbri, the Blues' first round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, made another strong case for himself to make the roster.
Fabbri, who played with Jori Lehtera and Tarasenko, totaled 13:16 of ice time and was a plus-1. He made a couple strong plays in the offensive zone that nearly resulted in goals. One, he tried to thread a pass to Lehtera in the second period that was broken up by a good defensive play and then threw another puck to the net that hit the right post.
"He's not missing a beat. He's not going to go away," Hitchcock said of Fabbri. "The first two shifts, he probably was a little nervous and then he really settled in and played really well again. He's pushing for a job here right now. He's a legitimate guy that's looking for work right now.
"It might be a surprise to people, but the people in the Ontario Hockey League that coach against him, this is not a surprise. We don't have any background on him, but as I said to people before, I had his coach tell me before we drafted him that he was a special player. He's really competitive, he's got great vision and hockey sense and that was in the middle of June. ... People said he's going to push for work here. We're looking at age. We should just look at the player ... never mind the age. He's a young guy; I get that fact. There's going to be some ups and downs, but right now, he's got tremendous hockey sense and awareness on the ice that's pretty unique."
Hitchcock was actually more impressed with a play Fabbri made without the puck in the third period.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues' first round pick Robby Fabbri (15) looks to break away from Carolina
player Victor Rask Tuesday night. Fabbri had another strong game during
the Blues' 3-1 victory.
"It's not the play so much. It's this moxie on the ice," Hitchcock said of Fabbri. "He made a play in the third period ... he pushed two guys out of the zone and then cleared the puck himself. That's something a 35-year-old does that. That's not an 18-year-old. We're all waiting for the shoe to drop here, but the shoe's not dropping. He's putting it on, he's lacing it even better every day. We ought to just give him the respect that he's just a really good player and not worried about the age right now because he just thinks he's a hockey player and that's the way he's playing."
No matter what happens at the end of the week, Fabbri has given himself every opportunity to make the final roster.
"I just go in every day with the mindset to make this team," Fabbri said. "It's nothing to talk about. It's something to earn.
"I've done my best so far. If I get sent back, it's another year to develop and come back even stronger next year."