Brian Elliott was excellent in goal for the St. Louis Blues Tuesday night at Scottrade Center, stopping 21 of 22 shots and stonewalling the Vancouver Canucks in extra time, earning the Blues a 2-1 victory and 2 very big points. Jay Bouwmeester notched his first goal with his new club, tying the game halfway through the 3rd period, leading St. Louis into the shoot-out where Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen scored to snatch the second point away from Vancouver.
The Blues began this game much like their Sunday tilt versus Chicago, with a bruising, tightly contested 1st period, displaying grit and determination but failing to convert on early power-plays and skating to a scoreless tie. They out-shot the Canucks 14-5 over the initial 20 minutes but had nothing to show for it. The Blues folded against the ‘Hawks, but Tuesday night St. Louis manged to maintain an elevated level of play for most of 60+ minutes. They didn’t give up after falling behind 1-0 on a Canucks power-play goal inside the last minute of the 2nd period.
It was the kind of back-breaking, morale busting goal the Blues have relinquished on multiple occasions this season, but this seemed to be a different team than the one who played in February and March. We can’t know what went on in the locker room between periods, but the evidence of spirited discussion was on the ice throughout the game.
The Captain, David Backes, poured every ounce of himself into smashing, bashing, and crushing every Vancouver player unlucky enough to be on the ice with him. David Perron, oft maligned, looked to have dug down into a reserve tank of Feisty and we saw him scrapping and poking and irritating the Canucks on almost every shift. He reminded me a little of Cliff Ronning and Geoff Courtnall out there Tuesday night, though minus the scoring.
St. Louis was trying to get into those “hard areas” Coach Hitchcock keeps mentioning, but as the time ticked away through the first 2 periods, I could only think they had to try harder. They were playing better defense than they did Sunday, but good teams will still find ways to beat you if you relent. Vancouver had plenty of sustained pressure in the offensive zone and the Blues were able to keep Elliott’s vision clear and clog up the passing lanes, but the other half of the equation is putting the puck in the net, something St. Louis hadn’t done in over 7 periods of hockey before tying it up in the 3rd.
Bouwmeester’s goal came on a nifty play by Perron who had flipped the puck out of his own zone, landing it right on the Vancouver blue line. The puck bounced through Cam Barker’s legs and Jay jumped on it, creating a 2-on-1 and fired a shot through Cory Schneider on the short side.
It was his first with the Bluenote, and it ended the St. Louis scoring drought at 169:24. Schneider was very good Tuesday night, making 35 saves, but the difference came in the shoot-out where he was unable to stop Mac and Steener. Steen rifled his shot top-shelf for the game winner. The victory happened to be Hitch’s 600th of his career, a feat he attributed to simply being “old.”
The win and accompanying 2 points also helped the Blues keep pace with the Minnesota Wild who also won Tuesday night. St. Louis sits in the 7th position with 50 points, 1 back of the Wild and 3 up on Detroit. The home-stand rolls on tomorrow night when the Phoenix Coyotes come to town and the Blues will need Ells to stand on his head again, especially if the offense doesn’t wake up. St. Louis forwards have still not scored in regulation since Mac’s goal on April 11. Their 1 goal-per-game average over the last 6 isn’t going to cut it.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!