Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fabbri's game-winner helps Blues top Oilers 3-1

Rookie stole spotlight from top overall pick Connor 
McDavid; Elliott sharp with 23-save effort in season-opener

ST. LOUIS -- After he whistled the puck past Cam Talbot after a terrific no-look, behind-the-back pass from teammate Jori Lehtera, Robby Fabbri didn't remember much.

But the 19,327 at Scottrade Center roared in approval, and Fabbri knew he had just done something special.

Fabbri scored his first NHL goal, a game-winner in the third period of a 3-1 season-opening victory against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Brian Elliot makes one of 23 saves during a season-opening
3-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night.

The spotlight shined brightly on Oilers center Connor McDavid, and rightfully so.

McDavid, the No. 1 pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, will have a spotlight on him throughout his career. However, it was Fabbri that stole the show, at least for one game.

Fabbri took Lehtera's pass in the slot and beat Talbot high glove side 9 minutes, 29 into the third to break a 1-1 tie.

Fabbri, whose parents Len and Stef were in attendance, jumped into the corner boards with a wide grin on his face and was immediately mobbed by his teammates.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Fabbri (19 years, 259 days) is the youngest player in franchise history to score a goal in his NHL debut.

"I can't really remember, but it was a great feeling," said Fabbri, the Blues' first-round pick of the 2014 NHL Draft who was a plus-1 with three hits in 10:28 of ice time. "Getting in that huddle there with the guys felt great.

"I came off the bench and I saw the play there. I wasn’t sure if (Lehtera) saw or heard me, so for him to make that play, it was an amazing pass." 

It was the first NHL game for several players, including McDavid. He was minus-1 with two shots in 18:07 of ice time.

Fabbri and McDavid are friends and were teammates for Canada at the World Junior Championship.

"I guess I’ve got some bragging rights," Fabbri joked. "We'll see how long that lasts."

McDavid was not in such a humorous mood.

"I did some good stuff, did some bad stuff," McDavid said. "Whenever (Fabbri) scores late in the game, you never want to see that when you're the opposing team. The Blues are obviously a great team, tough to play against for sure. Kind of move on from here. 

"There was a lot of attention on (the game); glad it's over. As the game went on, I felt better about it. Had a couple of chances." 

Vladimir Tarasenko and Troy Brouwer scored for the Blues, and Brian Elliott made 23 saves. 

"All the talk that you have, all the preparation that you have for exhibition, you don't really know the level until you experience it," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought where we turned the game around a little bit was in the the second half of the second period. We started to really check and create turnovers and really got after them a little bit and started to put a bunch of shots up. We really started to check in the second period and that kind of turned the momentum for us a little bit."

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the Oilers; Talbot made 28 saves in his and coach Todd McLellan's first game with Edmonton, who had mixed emotions regarding McDavid's debut. 

"If you're going to start in the National Hockey League and go against big, strong (and) heavy, this is the place to do it," McLellan said. "They play that way. At times, I thought (McDavid) was very dangerous and at other times I didn't think that line had a lot going. It's a matter of timing and chemistry and finding  the right combinations for him and his linemates."

The Blues carried the play at the outset of the first period before the Oilers settled in, and Nugent-Hopkins gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead without actually shooting the puck. 

After he lost an offensive-zone faceoff to David Backes, Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo's clearing attempt caromed off Alexander Steen's knee backward past Elliott with 2:38 remaining. 

Tarasenko scored being sprung on a breakaway by a Pietrangelo outlet pass. Tarasenko beat Talbot between the pads 9:10 into the second period to tie the game 1-1.

"I didn't need to look. I knew it was going in," Pietrangelo joked. "He's going to score those. Makes it look awfully easy, that's for sure. Impressive."

Elliott was sharp. He kept the Blues in the game when they were behind or tied, and gave his team a chance to win.

"Yeah, we did a lot of good things," Elliott said. "You saw some of the young guys make some pretty big back-checks when it was odd-man rushes ... just kind of turned it the other way and I didn't even see a shot. So, little efforts like that go a long way and we had a lot of those tonight."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues winger Jaden Schwartz (17) makes a pass in front of Edmonton's 
Griffin Reinhart (8) and goalie Cam Talbot Thursday night.

Hitchcock can't defend his goalie enough. He's seen strong play from the 30-year-old since the start of training camp.

"Look, he's been sound since the first day of training camp; he's been very good," Hitchcock said of Elliott. "It looks like, even an older guy, it looks like he's improved even from last year. It's a good sign."

Brouwer, making his Blues debut after being traded by the Washington Capitals, scored into an empty net with 17.4 seconds remaining.

"It was a first game for us and them," Pietrangelo said. "There's going to be ups and downs. If you look at the overall game, I was pretty impressed with our effort. We got away from it there for a bit in the second, but overall, you've got to be proud of a game like that."

Defensemen Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko made their debut for the Blues; forward Alton Slepyshev debuted for the Oilers. 

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