Saturday, October 11, 2014

Blues start fast, top Flames 4-1

Stastny, Shattenkirk each collect three assists in 
the victory; Lindstrom scores in NHL first since 2011

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues were looking for a quicker start Saturday night after coming out of the gates slow in their home opener Thursday against the New York Rangers.

Players and coach Ken Hitchcock made it a point of emphasis to come out of the chute much quicker, to set the tempo, get off more shots and for the Blues to get their game going in the right direction.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players (from left) Kevin Shattenkirk, Jay Bouwmeester, Vladimir
Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera celebrate a Blues goal against Calgary.

Scoring in the first minute of the game doesn't hurt, and the Blues were relentless the rest of the way.

Joakim Lindstrom scored his first NHL goal since 2011, and David Backes scored a first-period power play goal to stake the Blues to an early two-goal lead, en route to a 4-1 victory against the Calgary Flames before 17,120 at Scottrade Center.

"We had a lot more participants," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "... We managed the puck well, we really did a lot of things. We played on our toes. I thought we did a whale of a job. Still in saying that, we needed Brian (Elliott) today. Brian was really good today."

Paul Stastny continued his mastery of the Flames with three assists, giving him 49 points in 41 career games against the Flames. Kevin Shattenkirk had three assists, and Elliott stopped 23 shots as the Blues evened their record at 1-1.

"I think we just got more comfortable out there," Stastny said. "The first game, we were kind of getting the jitters out of the way. We knew the ice wasn't going to be the best this early in the season. I think we just kept it a little more simple and kind of created chances through turnovers.

"When you play a team that many times, you're going to get points against them. My first couple years, I played them eight times a year. If it happens to be like that, it happens to be like that. I can't really control it."

Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Pietrangelo scored for the Blues, who improved to 7-1-1 in the past nine games against Calgary and have defeated the Flames five straight times on home ice, outscoring them 18-6.

"We weren't really waiting for the game to come to us and taking it to them," Elliott, who made an acrobatic save on the Flames' Paul Byron in the second period, said of the Flames. "I think we executed for the most part the whole game. It's fun watching those guys working hard for you in front of you."

Added Shattenkirk: "We played simple early, we played hard and we did the things that make us successful. We chipped pucks in, played a physical game and we were able to be successful on the power play and 5-on-5 as well."

The Flames, who played their third game in four nights to begin the season, got a late goal in the third period from Curtis Glencross. Jonas Hiller stopped 35 shots in defeat.

"We were chasing the puck all night and we weren’t winning the battles," Glencross said. "It makes for a long night."

Flames coach Bob Hartley agreed.

"I think the game was in the image of their first goal," Hartley said. "A couple of our guys get tangled up and they get a 3-on1 out of it. Playing a team with so much talent, so much depth, you don’t want to give them early momentum  and they got this.

"They basically took the wind out of our sails." 

Lindstrom got the Blues on the board 48 seconds into the game with his first goal since Oct. 13, 2011 as a member of the Colorado Avalanche when he finished off a tic-tac-toe play in front after getting a clever little pass from Stastny in tight. Lindstrom redirected the puck past Hiller into the open side.

He even remembered the last time he scored in the NHL.

"Yeah, I think I do. I think it was against Ottawa," Lindstrom said. "But it's been a few years, so it was nice to put one in today. It was a nice play by my linemates there. I was holding my stick down and it was an empty net. It was nice.

"We all wanted some redemption from our first game of the year. We didn't play as well as we can. It was important to come our strong. I think we did that tonight. ... I think today we put work ahead of skill. It paid off for us."

With Calgary's Matt Stajan off for tripping, Backes redirected Shattenkirk's shot from the blue line past a screened Hiller 8:44 into the first for a 2-0 Blues lead.

The Blues were aggressive, assertive and they played the puck in Calgary's zone for much of the first 10 minutes, setting the tempo for their first win of the season.

Pietrangelo's first of the season gave the Blues two power play goals in two tries, after he collected a shot from Shattenkirk off the back boards around to the right circle. Pietrangelo wasted little time in blasting a one-timer past Hiller 3:12 into the second period to make it 3-0.

The power play finished 2 of 5 but was much sharper than the opener, when the Blues were 0-for-5 against the Rangers.

"We just got back to our identity," Hitchcock said. "Until the two weeks of the season, we were second place in the national Hockey League last year with a certain identity, and then we lost those players and we stopped scoring on it and it led into the playoffs. ... We just got back to it. That last power play in Game 1, led us into what we did today. We just followed that script and were very effective. We had quality chances on every power play with lots of traffic and lots of second and third opportunities because of it."

Shattenkirk quarterbacked the power play to perfection with Alexander Steen and led by example on the blue line.

"He was really good tonight," Hitchcock said of Shattenkirk. "He didn't lose his energy, he skated, he was mobile the whole night, he was a threat the whole night. He was a real good player in the game today.

"Shatty's been our best defenseman first two games. He's been excellent. If this is the type of quality play, he pretty much can play with anybody and help them."

Tarasenko made it 4-0, when he one-timed a shot from the low slot after Jaden Schwartz dug a puck out from behind the net and flipped it in front, and Tarasenko made no mistake at 7:10 of the second.

Hiller, who allowed four goals on the first 15 St. Louis shots, kept the game at 4-0 with several strong saves as the second period progressed. He faced 19 Blues shots in the period.

"Today, I thought the second part of the second period was the way we needed to play to win," Hitchcock said. "... There was a lot of penetration on the attacks and some good o-zone play. Things that we need to do to score goals. I thought as the game went on, our exits were better and better and more defined when we got better puck support."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Paul Stastny had three assists in a 4-1 victory Saturday night against the 
Calgary Flames, giving him 49 points in 41 career games against the Flames.

The Flames spoiled Elliott's shutout bid when Glencross redirected Mark Giordano's shot from the blue line with 4:13 remaining, but it didn't matter. The Blues were in complete control and got back on the horse after what they felt was a less-than-stellar game against the Rangers.

"You get in those summer hockey habits and you're playing a good team and you're trying to make it a little too cute at home for the home opener," center David Backes said. "... I think tonight we came out with a much better game, much concerted effort to get pucks deep, play our hard-nosed, heavy body type of game. Two power play goals never hurt the cause at all."

The Blues immediately chartered a flight to Palm Springs, Calif. for a team bonding trip ahead of their upcoming three road games on the West Coast. They will play at Los Angeles on Thursday, Arizona on Oct. 18 and Anaheim on Oct. 19. 

* NOTE -- Forward Patrik Berglund was a late scratch from the lineup after participating in the morning skate.

Berglund, who was injured from a slash against the Rangers, sat out with an upper-body injury and was replaced in the lineup by Maxim Lapierre, who initially was scratched in favor of Chris Porter.

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