Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Shattenkirk OT goal lifts Blues to 2-1 win against Stars

Victory is third in a row, moves St. Louis to within five 
points of Dallas; Elliott srong again in goal, Schwartz scores again

ST. LOUIS -- It turned out to be perfect timing for a penalty the Blues could work off of.

Even though they had to kill off the remaining 14.1 seconds in regulation and allow the Dallas Stars to earn a point, the Blues were going to get 1 minute, 45 seconds of power play time in overtime, which meant 4-on-3 and extra ice. The end of regulation enabled the Blues to get some rest, draw up some plays and go to work.

It paid off after Dallas defenseman Jason Demers took an interference penalty negating the Stars' seventh power play, and Kevin Shattenkirk scored with 3:49 remaining in overtime to give the Blues an important 2-1 victory against the Stars before 18,156 on Tuesday at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Kevin Shattenkirk (22) celebrates with Paul Stastny after scoring in OT to
give the Blues a 2-1 win against the Dallas Stars Tuesday.

Shattenkirk's 10th of the season came off a Paul Stastny feed to the top of the right circle and one-timer past Kari Lehtonen to give the Blues (33-17-9) their third win in a row and points in five straight (4-0-1). 

"That's the first thing I thought of. I looked at the clock and realized we only had about 10 seconds left," Shattenkirk said. "You'd like to win it there (in regulation), but we all kind of knew we were going to go 4-on-3 to start the overtime period and we did a good job of going right to the board and figuring out what to do. The toughest part on 4-on-3 is getting it in the zone and we had a little bit of trouble there. Obviously once we got it in and set it up, it was easy to work.

"That play at the end there, I knew 'Steener' was going to go to 'Stas' and go through. I just felt like there was that room over the top. Sure enough, 'Stas' made a great play and found it."

Dallas (37-15-6), playing the second of back-to-back games, moved one point in front of Chicago for the top spot in the Central Division with 80 points, bu their lead over the Blues is five points.

Jaden Schwartz also scored for the Blues, and Brian Elliott made 18 saves to improve 10-3-3 since Jake Allen (knee) went down to injury Jan. 8. Elliott made his 15th consecutive start, a career-high.

The game for the Blues turned out to be another scintillating effort on the penalty kill. They thwarted Dallas on seven tries, including four in the first period and gave up a total of four shots on seven attempts.

The Blues are 31-for-32 the past seven games.

"We were able to work on them early and frustrate them early," Shattenkirk said. "You could see that kind of play into their game a little later in the game when they had power plays. They were kind of overthinking. We stayed with it. We know they're a power play that can answer the bell any time. We were able to just keep some of their weapons from having a big game."

Coach Ken Hitchcock said the key to stopping Dallas, which came into the game fifth on the power play, is not give them any time.

"We were on top of them, we were pressuring them like crazy, that's what I like," Hitchcock said. "Both teams today took wind out of each other's sails of their skilled players because of the PK. We took the wind out of their sails early and they took it out of us in the second period. Both teams are pressure PK groups that really hound the puck and when you bobble it just a little bit, you're not going to get a second chance to control it and both teams are really good at that. Their team is as good as ours at it right now."

The Blues weren't much better until scoring in overtime; they missed out on a two-man advantage for 1:09.

"It wasn't the best on the stat sheet from our power play," Shattenkirk said. "We had a couple good chances though, and we were just trying to focus on that. It seemed like it was one of those games where both power plays, they were stymied early, then everyone was starting to play outside the playbook."

Schwartz, playing his second home game of the season and first since opening night, put the Blues up 1-0 when he was on the receiving end of a fortuitous bounce 12 seconds into the second period.

Colton Parayko dumped a puck into the right corner that caromed off the leg of referee Kelly Sutherland and into the crease, where Schwartz skated into the path of an empty net after Lehtonen left the crease to go play the puck.

"No, I didn't even see it," Schwartz said. "I don't know what happened. I was skating and it landed on my stick, so a really fortunate bounce and a pretty easy goal. I didn't see exactly what it hit."

It was another 1-0 game in the third period, the second straight game for the Blues, but Dallas, which had a season-low 18 shots, would equalize on Mattias Janmark's 13th of the season. It came off a shot from the blue line from Alex Goligoski, Valeri Nichushkin's fanned rebound attempt to the side of the net, where Janmark was there for the quick snap shot with 6:34 remaining.

But it was another game in which the Blues limited their opponents. It's the fourth time in five games they've allowed one goal in a game, and fifth time in seven games they've scored two goals or fewer but are 5-1-1 in those games.

"I think we're trusting our work and it shows up on PK, it shows up in 5-on-5," Hitchcock said. "When you trust your work whether it's 1-0 or 3-0, you feel comfortable. I think that's what's happened right now. We have people demanding a lot of themselves. We still have more to give, especially up front; we have some people who have to get up to speed up front, but what we're doing as a group is trusting our work and it's allowed us to stay really competitive in the games right now."

The Blues are playing structured defense from the goalie on out, and it's showing.

"We're skating to check," Hitchcock said. "We're not checking with our eyes, we're checking with our legs, closing fast on people, not making it easy. And when we skate to check we don't spend any time in our zone and we're back on offense again. And when we don't skate, that goal against is a perfect example. We didn't skate and we got hemmed in and the goal was there. When we skate to check, we're tough to play against because we don't spend any time in our own zone."

Elliott's best save of the game came on a Radek Faksa backhand opportunity from in tight, but the Blues' netminder flashed the glove to preserve at the time a 1-0 lead.

"Yeah, they kind of just threw it to the net and I gave up probably a bad rebound," Elliott said. "I just wanted to get over. He didn't have much net other than top shelf. So I threw my glove up in there and it went in the pocket.

"... Yeah, it was kind of a weird night with so many power plays in the first period and only three shots. They were kind of occupying the zone but they weren't really getting much. It's a testament to our guys positioning and sticks and just kind of smarts out there. It was kind of like that all game. In the second period there was a little lull in shots as well. They played back-to-backs so they were struggling a little bit to get energy. You know getting the first goal was big. You know when you're moving around and when you create chances, you create power plays for yourself and that's what happened at the end of the game and 'Shatty' put it away for us."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brian Elliott (1) makes a save in front of the Stars' Patrick Eaves. Elliott is
10-3-3 since Jake Allen went down with an injury on Jan. 8.

Next up is the Los Angeles Kings, and it will be another tough test for the Blues, who trail second-place Chicago by four points.

"More than anything, I think we're building something really well here," Shattenkirk said. "We had two good games on the road. Obviously tonight was a great game. I think that's what we're focused on. We're building a lot of momentum here. The points are going to come if we keep playing like this and we might be able to go on a little bit of a stretch here, but we have a lot of hard opponents coming up. ... We're answering these big tests right now, which is nice to see."

Said Elliott: "Yeah, I think we're taking the momentum and the good feeling and that swagger we've had in the past that when we play our game that nobody can beat us. I think having that attitude is huge for us. We have to keep that going."

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