Sunday, March 19, 2017

Blues continue to roll, blank Coyotes 3-0

Shutout win is seventh in past 19 road games, Allen 
records 31 saves to move St. Louis into third in Central Division

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Six games in nine days. No problem for the Blues.

They continued this five-game, 10-day trip that moved to the desert and were able to move into third place in the Central Division with a 3-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday at Gila River Arena.

The Blues (38-28-5) more importantly moved six points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card in the Western Conference but pulled into a tie with the Nashville Predators for third in the division. The Blues hold the tie-breaker based on regulation or overtime wins (ROW's, 37-33). 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (middle) celebrates with teammates
Paul Stastny and Jay Bouwmeester (right) after scoring Saturday.

Nashville lost 4-2 at Carolina on Saturday and each team has 11 games remaining, including a head-to-head matchup on April 2 in St. Louis.

"This trip has been good; we've been getting our points," said left wing Scottie Upshall, who scored the Blues' second goal. "It's crucial this time of year. We've started to elevate our game and realize the opponent, realize what's at stake, continue to climb, climb in the standings. 

"Games are never easy this time of the year. We had everyone step up tonight, get the job done. We're just stepping up to the occasion. Everyone's pulling their weight."

Alex Pietrangelo, Upshall and David Perron scored for the Blues, who have won seven of eight, and Jake Allen made 31 saves for his career-best 27th win; he improved to 6-0-0 in his career against Arizona (26-36-9).

"I had no idea. Yeah, cool, I guess," Allen said with a grin, not knowing he had 26 last season. "I never even knew how many wins I had last year."

It was the Blues' seventh road shutouts the past 19 games away from Scottrade Center and they're less than three minutes from another one this past Monday in Los Angeles and a fluky goal in Minnesota in the game's final 11 seconds from having two more.

The Coyotes, who got 37 saves from Mike Smith, had a season-high five-game point streak (3-0-2) come to an end, lost to the Blues for the ninth straight time, and St. Louis improved to 12-0-1 in the past 13 matchups.

The Blues dominated the shot clock (16-3) in the first period, dominated chances by a mile (Berglund twice, Tarasenko twice, Stastny and Barbashev with Grade A scoring chances) but only led where it matters most on the scoreboard, 1-0.

And that goal came at the end of a five-minute major penalty when Pietrangelo's shot from the right point deflected off a stick in the high slot and over Smith's right shoulder at 6 minutes, 53 seconds of the period.

"It was a good way to start the game," Pietrangelo said. "We had a couple really good looks there before mine went in. 

"It's all about building momentum. Obviously you want to score, but you get opportunities like that early in the game to kind of change the pace early on, you've got to use it."

The Blues had five shots on the major, one given to Coyotes defenseman Anthony DeAngelo for boarding the Blues' Zach Sanford from behind in the Coyotes zone along the corner boards.

Sanford left the game and missed the remainder of the first period but returned for the second.

But the Blues' blitzkrieg of scoring opportunities were thwarted by Smith, who made quality saves on two Patrik Berglund chances early, Vladimir Tarasenko twice, Paul Stastny and Ivan Barbashev.

"Smitty played really well," Pietrangelo said of Smith. "He made a lot of big saves, but we all felt it was just a matter of time before another one went in. We were playing smart with the puck, we were managing the puck and we weren't giving anything up, which was the important part.

"It was 1-0, but we felt like we had control of the game."

The Coyotes brought more offense in the second with 16 shots, but Allen was up to the task, including a breakaway stop on Teemu Pulkkinen with 7:37 remaining.

"We sort of took our foot off the gas there in the second," Allen said. "But we got the job done. Guys are playing solid. We're not making errors with pucks, we're getting pucks out, even if it's just flipping it in the neutral zone. That's the big difference in the NHL nowadays. ... We're just playing it simple."

The save kept it a 2-0 lead after Upshall scored his second in as many games after another fourth-line forecheck that resulted in an Arizona turnover behind their goal from Ryan Reaves. Upshall couldn't quite corral the puck at first but was able to have enough time and space to beat Smith from the slot at 2:52 of the second.

The Blues managed the third period and limited the Coyotes' speed, and got a shorthanded, empty-net goal from Perron with 1:03 remaining to seal the win.

"I think we had a good start; I think our play dropped a little bit after we got the second goal," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "But I also think the cranked things up at the start of the second. From that point on, they were hand to handle.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen makes one of his 31 saves in a 3-0 win against
the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

"We got the shutout tonight, but Jake had to be outstanding to get it."

The trip concludes on Tuesday in Denver, and the Blues will certainly be more than happy with eight of 10 points heading down the stretch.

"We're all here with the same goal," Upshall said. "This has been a long year, but we're a good group, we know what we're capable of right now. We're getting leadership, everyone's pulling their weight. This time of year, it's huge."

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