Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Blues bounce back with 3-0 shutout over Senators

Team rebounds from poor loss Saturday, wins third in past four games; 
Hutton makes 25 saves for second shutout this season, 10th of his NHL career

ST. LOUIS -- A hard practice followed by a bag skate, and another hard practice got the Blues' attention after a lackluster effort against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

At least for one game, the Blues backed their words up with their play on the ice, and the Blues earned the 1,800th win in franchise history in style.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Goalie Carter Hutton (left) makes one of his 25 saves in front of Ottawa left
wing Ryan Dzingel in a 3-0 Blues victory Tuesday night. 

Carter Hutton responded after being pulled for the first time this season with a 25-save shutout, his second this season and 10th of his career, and the Blues got high marks from a number of players and got back to their identity with a 3-0 win over the struggling Ottawa Senators on Tuesday at Scottrade Center.

After being embarrassed 5-2 by the Coyotes on Saturday on the heels of two solid road efforts, the Blues (29-18-3) did some soul searching. They talked as a group, including coaches and management, and they were put through some tough training sessions on the ice.

Players said all the right things; they usually do. But it was all about putting words into action, and in all the right places.

And they got back to their identity.

"One hundred percent," said Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, who became the first defenseman in team history to record 20 or more assists his first three seasons. "I think there were two good practices, we had a good battle practice the first day, and then a good team system practice yesterday, we implemented both tonight. We had a high battle level and a very good system game. We were well structured and that was huge.

"... It's easy to say that we want to go out and win, we want to play hard, but at the end of the day, we're the ones that have to play and we're the ones that have to lay it out there, it's got to come from inside the locker room and within the team and I think we did a good job."

After playing so lethargic, particularly in the first period in falling behind 4-0 Saturday, the Blues all had to look themselves in the mirror. It was so bad, that even the reliable Hutton was taken out in a mercy pull by coach Mike Yeo after the goaltender allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Hutton was so disgusted upon being pulled that he slammed his stick going up the tunnel leading to the locker room for a bit of a cooling off period. He rebounded with a solid outing in beating the Senators (15-22-9) for the second time in six days.

"We had a locker room full of angry players, frustrated," Hutton said. "We talked about it. It's one thing to lose; it's hard to win in this league and you're going to lose games, but it's the way you lose sometimes. We weren't happy about that and I think the message is clear. We stepped up to the plate here tonight and played a great hockey game.

"... You've got to push each other in here too in a way, especially in the professional level. It's a little different. We're paid to perform. You have to show up every single night. It's a grind. You have to find nights where if one line isn't going someone else's got to pick it up. We can't have a game like that where our whole team wasn't going, especially against a team where you know you need to come out and try to get two points. It's obviously frustrating. We kind of had a closed-door meeting here and we said what we need to say. It was pretty clear. We moved on from it. You look at it and you build from it. And that's what good hockey teams do. And we came out tonight and we bounced back."

Brayden Schenn had a goal and an assist, and Vladimir Sobotka and Vladimir Tarasenko scored for the Blues, who won for the third time in the past four games.

The Blues were looking for a better response. Yeo was looking for a better response. He got one.

"If you play a bad game it doesn't mean that they don't care," Yeo said. "I know how much this group cares. Unfortunately, the previous game we fell into what you would call a trap game, but I think we got the response in the two days in between from the players, the work ethic that they showed in practice.

"I was confident we'd get a good response from them. There's a lot of character and a lot of leadership in that group, and they showed that tonight."

The Blues played poised, they played responsible in their own zone, they managed the pucks in a proper fashion and limited the Senators' chances. 

Yeo commented that it's a team that has to put in the work to have success. The Blues won't out-finess teams, but they can outwork you, and Tuesday was the blueprint of how it's done.

"It's our identity to work hard and win those battles," Sobotka said. "... I think we were a lot better tonight, I still think we can be better. We knew they played last night and we went out there and tried to battle and win every race for the puck and that's what we did. I think we can be better. ... We were disappointed with the loss against Phoenix, we were trying to get better."

Sobotka gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead with his first goal in eight games that tied his career-high with nine. He took a stretch pass from Schenn and then scored from the high slot at 16:21 of the first period.

The Senators had the chance to get back in the game early in the second period when Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was called for a four-minute high sticking penalty. But Ottawa only managed two shots and did not score; they were 0-for-4 on the power play.

"The PK was great tonight," Yeo said. "They did a great job. But that was obviously a huge moment in the game. There are a lot of different ways you can build momentum, that was one opportunity there."

The Blues, who played with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the second time this season (they're 2-0 in such games), kept the Senators within a shot from tying the game but TarasenkoTarasenko gave the Blues a 2-0 lead on a slap shot from the top of the left circle at 6:10 of the third period. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Left wing Vladimir Sobotka (71) shoots and scores past Senators d-man 
Cody Ceci to give the Blues a 1-0 lead en route to a 3-0 victory.  

He came off the bench and followed up Parayko's shot and ripped it short side by Anderson. Schenn's empty-net goal at 17:34 made it 3-0 and capped off a solid win.

"We had a little talk after practice [Sunday]," Hutton said. "That's all we needed. Sometimes it's stuff that you don't even need to say. Guys are smart enough. Guys have played long enough to recognized that that was a poor effort. We've moved on. The rest is history. We played a great game, and that's all that matters. Now we just move forward to the next one. We can't look back in the rearview here."

* NOTES -- The win gave the Blues a 7-1-4 record the past 12 games against the Senators. ... Hutton's start was the fourth in a row for him and eighth of the past 10 games. ... Tarasenko has a six-game point streak against Senators (four goals, two assists). ... The Blues are 16-0-1 when leading after the first period, 22-0-1 when leading after two periods. ... The Blues improved to 14-15-1 when a defenseman doesn't score a goal; they're 15-3-2 when they get a goal from a d-man. 

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