Saturday, February 6, 2016

Special teams, goaltending shine in Blues' 4-1 win over Wild

Power play breaks through with three goals, Elliott strong with 38 saves

ST. LOUIS -- Greasy goals ... check. Power play efficiency ... check. Brian Elliott making saves ... double and triple check.

The Blues' offense had been anemic in recent games, their power play had been stagnant for nearly a month but Elliott has been good and that trend continued. 

The Blues threw power play efficiency and goal-scoring abilities into the fire with Elliott, and they all resulted in a 4-1 victory against the struggling Minnesota Wild on Saturday before 19,318 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brian Elliott (left) maneuvers to make a save in front of teammate Carl
Gunnarsson (4) and Minnesota's Zach Parise Saturday in a 4-1 victory.

Paul Stastny, Jori Lehtera and Troy Brouwer each had a goal and an assist for the Blues, who scored three power-play goals for the first time in more than a year. 

Vladimir Tarasenko scored, Robby Fabbri had two assists for the Blues (30-17-8), and Elliott made 38 saves, including 23 in the second period. 

The Blues had not scored three power-play goals in a game since Jan. 6, 2015, at the Arizona Coyotes. 

"Patience. I think we were a little hungrier," Stastny said when describing the power play. "We got a lot of possession off draws and then, more poise, I don't want to say patience, had more poise. We weren't forcing things that we were in the past.

"... Our power play was good and we simplified. We started getting more shots and from the shots we created more open spots. All three power-play goals were created from having shots on net and getting rebounds and getting them out of position and then we made plays from there." 

Matt Dumba scored for the Wild (23-20-9), who have lost five games in a row (0-4-1) and 10 of 11 (1-9-1). Goalie Devan Dubnyk made 20 saves; he is 0-7-1 his past eight starts.

The Blues got greasy goals, they got well-executed goals, and their penalty kill was extremely efficient in thwarting the Wild on 6 of 7 attempts.

All in all, it was a well-needed outbreak.

"The execution was a lot sharper," said associate coach Brad Shaw, who spoke to the media in place of coach Ken Hitchcock. "I thought we were very direct in our game. I thought our ability to cross the (blue) line with possession (on the power play) or get that initial possession really allowed us to use more of the zone time through the two minutes in what we've seen recently. I thought both units were sharp obviously. Both units scoring and just way more decisive, way more in sync and at the net and sort of play a smarter, more offensive game."

Despite allowing a season-high 24 shots in the second period, the Blues outscored the Wild 3-1. 

Tarasenko scored his second goal in 12 games to give the Blues a 1-0 lead when he beat Dubnyk with a wrist shot high on the short side after a saucer feed from Stastny at 2:47 on the power play. It was the Blues' first power-play goal since scoring two against the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 12.

"You can almost hear the collective sigh on the bench," Shaw said. 

Lehtera's first goal in seven games, another power-play goal, put the Blues ahead 2-0 at 9:19. Robby Fabbri's shot from the slot caromed off Dubnyk, hit Lehtera's leg and trickled back in.

It was the kind of goal the Blues, who scored five goals in their five previous games, felt would help them break out of their scoring drought.

"I think right now, we'll take everything we (can) get," Lehtera said. "You have to do the ugly ones before you can get the nice ones. ... Our team got way better after that goal. It was an important goal for us."

Scottie Upshall was the recipient of two penalties (Mikko Koivu for elbowing and Nate Prosser roughing) that resulted in the Tarasenko and Lehtera goals. 

"That's one of the things he does best, he gets under guys' skin," Shaw said of Upshall. "He's quick to get there, he's feisty, he's got enough nasty in his game that he aggravates that guy. 

"It was sort of that type of game. They're a team that with their recent lack of success, that sort of ramps up the anxiety sometimes and you get a little bit hair-trigger on your temper. He's just the type of guy that can sort of set guys like that off."

Elliott prevented the Wild from making it 2-1 when he robbed Nino Niederreiter on a chance in the slot, and Stastny came back and scored at the other end at 16:51 to make it 3-0.

"That's the one that kind of makes you happy," Elliott said. "Guys take that kind of momentum and go down there and put it in the back of the net. It was good. We've been struggling scoring and tonight, we kind of clicked on the power play a little bit and really made some nice plays."

From potentially being a 2-1 game to going to 3-0 was uplifting for the Blues and deflating for the Wild.

"Everyone noticed it too," Stastny said. "They're a team that's struggling right now, we're a team struggling to score, that makes it a three-goal game instead of a one-goal game, it completely changes the way both teams look at the way the game was going. We take that save and get momentum whether we score on that play or just keep going. That's a play that uplifts the whole team and the whole energy of the building."

The Wild got one back on the power play at 18:14 when Dumba collected a rebound after a wild scramble in front of Elliott and scored into an open net after the Blues goalie thought he had the puck covered. 

The 24 shots for the Wild set their road record for a period and tied their all-time record. It was also the most shots the Blues allowed in a period since Chris Osgood faced 25 in the third period Oct. 29, 2003 against the Detroit Red Wings.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Patrik Berglund (21) splits betweem Minnesota's Charlie Coyle
(left) and Mikko Koivu with the puck Saturday.

"He was great again; he was fantastic," Shaw said of Elliott. "He gets a little spun around on the goal they ended up scoring, but we have to do a better job on shot lanes on our penalty kill and you have to stay out of the box. You can't take that volume of penalty kills against anybody. I thought the game was the type of game that had a chance to get out of hand; it almost got there, but we have to keep our heads above us a little bit better than that."

Brouwer scored his 11th of the season at 2:38 of the third period. From the slot, he one-timed Fabbri’s pass from below the goal line for the Blues' third power-play goal. 

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo appeared to take a check on the right knee from the Wild's Charlie Coyle with 7:20 remaining in the game and did not return.

Shaw said Pietrangelo was "a little sore," and he would be evaluated on Sunday. 

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