Thursday, April 14, 2016

Backes' OT goal gives Blues series lead on Blackhawks

Fluky play gives St. Louis 1-0 victory in Game 1; Elliott earns first career shutout

ST. LOUIS -- It wasn't the way David Backes drew it up, but the Blues captain doesn't mind his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

Backes scored 9:04 into overtime to give the Blues a 1-0 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series on Wednesday night at Scottrade Center. 

Backes' centering feed, after taking a pass from defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, from the lower left circle caromed off the skate of Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and through the legs of goalie Corey Crawford to give the Blues a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Backes (middle) celebrates his OT goal with teammates Alexander
Steen (second from left) and Patrik Berglund in a 1-0 win vs. Chicago

Backes tried slotting a cross-ice pass to Alexander Steen but the Blues, who have played four straight playoff overtime games at Scottrade Center against the Blackhawks (winning three), received some puck luck on the play.

"That's an ugly goal," said Backes, who missed the final three regular season games with a lower-body injury. "I specialize in those and rightfully so. The first shot of the game I think for me too. 

"It was a team victory. We knew it was going to take a team effort. ... We put this in perspective. It's one game, start 0-0 again on Friday and do it all over again."

Said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock: "No, I thought it would be a 2-on-1, top shelf. I wasn't thinking fluky goal. But look, we'll take it right now. If this is what all the games are going to be like, these are going to be hard-fought games, they're going to be very difficult, they're going to be challenging. We'll take every one we can right now."

Crawford finished with 17 saves.

"There's (nothing) you can do about it; that was tough," Crawford said. "I kind of felt it hit the inside of my pad and from there, I was just hoping that it died. It was a tough bounce, but we've got to feel good about how we played out there."

Game 2 is Friday at 7 p.m. 

Blues goalie Brian Elliott made 35 saves, including seven in overtime, in his first Stanley Cup Playoff shutout (he shared one with Jaroslav Halak in 2012) and first Stanley Cup Playoff game since 2013.

"It's a team win first of all, and any time you shut out a team, doesn't matter how you did it, you've got to be happy with that," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "'Ells' and Jake (Allen) have been the story of the season for us. 

"For a 1-0 hockey game, it could have been 6-5. We missed a number of opportunities, they missed a number of opportunities. We didn't hit the net on a number of our quality chances, and they missed the couple open nets, especially late in the game."

Backes got the No. 1 star but was more than willing to pass it on to a more deserving teammate.

"'Ells' was phenomenal," Backes said. "He has been all year whenever he's been called upon. Tonight was no different. Huge saves when we needed it, stoppages when we were under duress.

"... I got the No. 1 star somehow; I don’t know who was picking that. Maybe my mom. But Elliott kept us in there long enough for us to find a way to win."

To which Elliot said, "Whoever scores gets that star; I don't care about that. This team, everybody plays a role and guys played it to a tee tonight. Obviously you want to score a lot of goals and get up early in a game, but games are going to be close like this and to be able to battle it out and keep grinding, not get down on ourselves at certain times, that shows our character."

The Blackhawks outshot the Blues 35-18 for the game but couldn't solve Elliott.

"Well, sometimes it just comes down to a bounce," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We didn't get it tonight, but what you going to do? You can't dwell on that for too long. I think you take what you can from it and use it as a motivating factor in finding that emotion and playing better the next game. So, we'll do that and focus on the next one."

Chicago outshot St. Louis 11-4 in the first period but couldn't take advantage of three power-play opportunities, including a two-man advantage for 36 seconds. 

Elliott made the best saves of the second period when he was able to keep Toews from scoring twice. The first came on a 2-on-1 break with Patrick Kane 1:38 into the period; the second was on a breakaway about 5 ½ minutes later after Blues rookie Robby Fabbri fell down with the puck on his stick in the Chicago zone.

"(Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk) didn't want to take a penalty coming back on (Toews)," Elliott said. "He just pressured him to not really be able to make a move there. I just tried to stand my ground."

The Blackhawks limited the Blues to two shots in the third period. Elliott made the best of his eight saves when he got his blocker up to stop Artemi Panarin, who was streaking through the middle of the ice with 5:30 remaining.

"That was a good move," Elliott said. "He kind of cut across and went back cross body. I just tried to get whatever you can in front of it."

Blackhawks left wing Andrew Ladd arrived in time to play after returning to Chicago to be with his wife, who was expected to deliver the couple's third child. Chicago also played without defenseman Duncan Keith, who served the last of a six-game suspension and is eligible to return for Game 2 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brian Elliot made 35 saves for his first career postseason shutout in to 
help the Blues defeat the Blackhawks 1-0 Wednesday night.

"We're happy to have him back," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He plays a lot in all situations. he gives us some speed, he gives us a lot of different looks and a lot of other options and some different looks in the offensive zone."

The Blues can lament the opportunities on net. They did get a number of quality chances but missed the net 20 times and had another 22 blocked.

"Both teams would leave here extremely happy with the effort," Hitchcock said. "Both teams know there's another level of execution. That's what probably made the game so hard and intense. There was no room out there, but I think both teams feel like for this series to move forward for either team, we've both got to amp up their execution ... we do anyways."

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