Monday, January 18, 2016

Stastny, Steen, Brouwer's eight points fuel Blues' 5-2 win against Penguins

Stastny's four points most in St. Louis uniform; Elliott strong again with 36 saves.

ST. LOUIS -- Paul Stastny knew he would have a different look when he returned from a nasty facial cut on Thursday.

Stastny, who missed two games, returned Thursday wearing a full face cage. Needless to say, it didn't suit him well and gave him visual problems.

So Stastny decided to go with a clear full face visor Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The plan worked after Stastny had a goal and three assists and Brian Elliott made 36 saves to help the Blues to a 5-2 win against the Penguins at Scottrade Center on Monday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brian Elliott makes one of 36 saves for the Blues Monday in a 5-2 victory
against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"It’s like a new lease on life — felt like I could see so much more and not playing so hesitant," said Stastny, whose four points were the most he's had with the Blues and first four-point game since Dec. 2, 2009 with the Colorado Avalanche. "I had to switch right away. It’s a little different, but it’s so much more clear, you can see. Especially for me, because I try to slow it down. For me, it’s easier looking kind of on the outside of my shoulder. It gives me a little more time to know where the guys are coming. Whether it’s in D-zone or O-zone, I think it’s a lot easier."

Troy Brouwer had a goal and an assist, including the go-ahead goal early in the third period; Alexander Steen had a goal and an assist to give the Stastny, Brouwer and Steen line eight points in the game, and Vladimir Tarasenko and Kevin Shattenkirk scored for the Blues (27-15-7). 

The Blues are 4-1-0 in their past five games after a five-game losing streak. They have points in 22 of 24 games (18-2-4) when scoring three or more goals.

"I thought the first period was even. I thought we played a pretty good first period, they played a pretty good first period," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought we were outplayed a lot in the second. They were on us and they won most of the puck battles. 

"I think typical of what's going on in the games, we responded the right way in the third period where we just played heavier. We got on the puck, we competed for the puck, we played through the checking and we won the period because of it, and it felt the same as our last win here too. Against Montreal (Saturday, a 4-3 overtime win), it was the same thing. They outplayed us significantly in the second period and we had to have some type of response in the third and we did. We started to check better, we started to compete at a higher level and had success because of it."

Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin scored and Kris Letang had two assists for Pittsburgh (21-17-7), which is 2-7-1 in the second of back-to-back games. Jeff Zatkoff made 20 saves.

Steen opened the scoring 12 minutes into the first period, his first in 10 games, after Brouwer skated past defenseman Ian Cole, beat Zatkoff to a puck and kept it alive for Stastny, who fed Steen for the easy goal with Zatkoff out of his net. 

The Penguins tied it on a Kunitz breakaway, his third goal in four games, with 1:57 left in the second after getting a stretch pass from Letang following a blocked shot in the Penguins zone. Kunitz beat Elliott five-hole to make it 1-1. 

Sidney Crosby's assist on the Kunitz goal gave him 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in the past 14 games. 

Malkin's team-leading 20th of the season came after the Blues lost control of the puck in the neutral zone, Carl Hagelin fed Malkin, who skated around Bouwmeester and beat Elliott stick side at 15:16 of the second to make it 2-1. It was Hagelin's first point with the Penguins in his second game after being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks. 

Tarasenko answered 1:18 later, getting a pass from Joel Edmundson at the blue line and in similar fashion to Malkin, Tarasenko moved around Ben Lovejoy and beat Zatkoff high stick side to tie the game 2-2.

"Tarasenko's goal was, again, as timely as it could be, because we were being outplayed, our goalie was standing on his head and to score that goal, that's a great sign for us," Hitchcock said. 

It's one Russian trying to outdo the other.

"A simple pass out to him," Edmundson said. "His body strength, he just pushed that guy and went right around him and made it look too easy. Good players like that, you just get the puck to them and they do something special."

Said Stastny: "The battle of the Russians there. I think once Malkin had that nice goal, then Vladi got upset. He took it in his own end and basically did the same thing a little nicer, a little more power move and a nice shot. I think that was a big response."

It's the third time in two games the Blues have had the proper response after falling behind.

Against Montreal, they twice tied the game relatively close after falling behind. Stastny's tying goal came 1:07 after Max Pacioretty made it 2-1, and Ty Rattie scored 44 seconds after Tomas Plekanec made it 3-2 Montreal in the third period.

"It shows the resilience of our team and the character of us wanting to get back into games," Brouwer said. "We've spent way too much time chasing the game this season and coming from behind, trying to get wins. We've done a great job of doing that, but it is tough to continuously try and do it. But we have the confidence in ourselves, knowing that we're never out of games. It's a great thing to have. We know we're never out of it, so we just keep pushing on and we'll see what happens."

Blues defenseman Colton Parayko kept a puck alive at the blue line, Stastny deflected the puck into the air and after it bounced in the slot, Brouwer's slap shot beat Zatkoff five-hole 2:10 into the third period put the Blues ahead for good. 

"It came surprisingly flat to be honest with you when it bounced," Brouwer said. "I just put a good swing on it, hopefully I get a bunch of it and I did. It was a good job by (Parayko) keeping the puck in at the point. [Hitchcock] doesn't like it when we hang below the puck very often, but it kind of worked out."

Stastny tried to split the Penguins defense sending Brouwer to the goal, but the puck got tangled up and Stastny collected it, took a stride into the slot and beat Zatkoff with a wrist shot 11:38 into the third to give St. Louis a 4-2 lead. 

Shattenkirk scored an empty-net shorthanded goal with 16 seconds remaining.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko pumps his fist after scoring the tying goal in the
second period Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Elliott has made 82 saves on 87 shots the past two games in the absence of Jake Allen (upper-body injury).

"Yeah, you never want to see a teammate go down and we practice every time like you're going to play," Elliott said. "And when Jake went down it's just good to get in there and play your best."

Hitchcock said of Elliott: "He's just working. He's battling, he's working, he's competing. He's competing at a very, very high level now. He's taking advantage of a situation that was thrust upon him, but his competitive level's as high as I've seen it right now. It's really good to see."

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