Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Brouwer's late goal helps Blues blank Predators 1-0

Goal with 1:05 remaining difference in game; 
Elliott's 16 saves nets his 22nd shutout in Blues uniform

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A shift that was a microcosm of many stretches of the Blues' game Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators produced the only goal.

Troy Brouwer's goal with 1 minute, 5 seconds remaining in the game gave the Blues a hard-fought 1-0 victory against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

Brouwer's 10th of the season came after he was able to get a piece of Alex Pietrangelo's one-timer from the right circle. Pietrangelo took a pass from behind the net from Robby Fabbri after the Blues (29-16-8) kept the Predators (24-19-3) hemmed in the defensive zone for a 57-second shift. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Troy Brouwer (left) watches the puck go into the net that proved
to be the lone goal in a 1-0 victory at Nashville on Tuesday.

Jay Bouwmeester, instead of dumping the puck into the corner and having teammates go hunting for a loose puck, made a pass to Fabbri, who took it behind the net to find Pietrangelo.

"We were able to recover the puck quite a few times, keep them hemmed in their zone," said Brouwer, who has 10 goals the past 12 games against the Predators. "The puck came out of the zone once, but we were able to put it back in and not let them change, which is always a key to try and grind them down. 

"... Any time you can keep guys on the ice for an extended period of time, it wears them out pretty quick."

Pietrangelo said he and Fabbri nearly hooked up on a similar play before the goal. They were going to make good on a second chance.

"We almost did it about 15-20 seconds before, didn't work," said Pietrangelo, who has a goal and four assists the past four games against Nashville. "He kind of looked at me the same way coming over and saw the two guys in front. It was obviously right on the spot, too. Pretty pass.

"I was just trying to get it towards the net. When you've got a guy in front, you never know what's going to happen. Obviously a good bounce, but 'Brouws' got rewarded."

Added coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team was persistent on the puck in the offensive zone: "I just think the way we were structured, we got more hunt on the puck; that's what we talked about. We had more forecheck, we had more hunt on the puck. ... The goal was a perfect example; we turn it over on the forecheck four times and ended up scoring a goal because of it."

The goal was the Blues' first in the past 145:58, dating to the second period at Colorado (Jan. 22).

"We know there's goals in here to be had," Brouwer said. "We know we have good enough players to score goals and they will come."

"We played so much better in the second and third period," Hitchcock said, noting the Blues allowed eight shots in the first and eight the rest of the game. "We really played well in both periods. They were really good in the first period. We knew weathering the storm was a difficult challenge, but I thought of the three games (prior against Nashville), this is the best we've played over 60 minutes here. Felt very much like a playoff game. There was not much room out there, not much space. You really had to earn your scoring chances. I thought both teams made it really hard on each other."

Brian Elliott made 16 saves for his 22nd shutout with the Blues (building on his franchise record) and 31st of his career. 

Elliott is 6-2-1 with a 1.77 goals against average, a .944 save percentage and one shutout. Elliott went 2-1-1 on the four-game trip and allowed four goals despite only getting four goals of offensive support. 

"He's the best player on our team right now," Hitchcock said of Elliott. "He's playing exactly how we need him to play right now. Bottom line."

Elliott, who made a point-blank stop on Ryan Johansen with 9:47 remaining in the first period, may have made his best save of the night on Ryan Ellis in the slot with 15:07 remaining in the third period. It came moments after Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne robbed Magnus Paajarvi on a one-timer off a Paul Stastny pass.

"I saw (Ellis) kind of hiding hiding behind the two guys and he got lost there for a bit," Elliott said. "I just kind of tried to stay calm and not move too much. He shot it where I thought he was going to shoot it and able to get a piece of it."

"A few more chances (for Nashville) in the first period, and then it settled down in the second. Neither team really had that much. ... It's just a tight game. The ice was kind of chopping up and the puck was bouncing up. It was going to take a shot on a tip and screens for something to go in. It was a big game for us."

The 16 shots allowed were a season-low for the Blues, and they were able to hold Nashville to eight shots over the final two periods. The Predators average 30.5 shots per game.

"We did a good job of getting in lanes," Elliott said. "I think 'Gunny' (Carl Gunnarsson) had a few huge blocks. You can go down the list of guys blocking (shots). They had a lot of attempts, but when you have guys sacrificing bodies on guys like (Shea) Weber ... 'Gunny' goes down and taking one in the leg, that's huge for me."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jay Bouwmeester (right) comes into celebrate with (left to right) Paul
Stastny, Troy Brouwer, Alex Pietrangelo and Robby Fabbri.

"'Gunny' stepping in front of Weber's shot that first period, that's not an easy thing to do," Brouwer said. "It can be nerve-wracking, but I thought guys did a good job coming back, getting sticks on plays. We gave up a couple odd-man rushes, but guys worked hard to make them even-man rushes. As a result, they didn't get a whole lot."

The Blues, who are 4-0-0 against Nashville this season, 5-0-0 the past five against the Predators and 8-2-0 the past 10 visits to Bridgestone Arena, can't ignore they've only scored four goals in four games, and the power play is now 0-for-21 the past seven-plus games after going 0-for-3. 

"We only scored one tonight; it's not like we scored five or six," Pietrangelo said. "We can still certainly get better in that aspect. Defensively, we're not giving up much."

* Opilka honored -- Blues prospect Luke Opilka was named the Canadian Hockey League goalie of the week.

Opilka, a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, went 2-0-0-0 with a 0.50 goals-against average and .979 save percentage and one shutout for the Kitchener Rangers last week.

On the season, the Effingham, Ill. native is 23-5-2 with a 2.42 GAA and .917 save percentage.

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