The Blues are quickly climbing out of a large hole they created against the Pacific Division, and on Tuesday the credit belonged to their goaltending. In the first season of the NHL’s new realignment, the Blues celebrated victory after just one of their first eight games against the Pacific. But with Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Phoenix, the club improved to 6-6-3 versus the division. Goalie Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves — some spectacular — as the Blues opened a three-game homestand with their fifth consecutive win at Scottrade Center in front of a crowd of 16,571. Apparently, the team expected to handle Phoenix with relative ease. The Coyotes came to town losers of five of their last six games, including a 5-1 defeat at Winnipeg on Monday. But after arriving in St. Louis after 2 a.m., they played the Blues to a one-goal finish and had the upper hand in the third period. “This is a game where our goalie saved us,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We wanted to play a different game than was out there and our goalie saved us. (Halak) was terrific from the start to the finish. “This was a game probably, if you look at it, we didn’t deserve to win. Probably deserved a better fate in Vancouver (a 2-1 loss Friday), and we probably deserved a worst fate today, so hopefully it equals out.” In the midst of six consecutive games against Pacific clubs, the Blues will end the stretch by hosting Los Angeles on Thursday and Anaheim on Saturday. The club will need to show better than Tuesday’s performance to continue a trend of 5-1-1 in its last seven games against the division. On a night when the Blues had to rely heavily on their top players, T.J. Oshie netted both goals, David Backes had two assists and the defensive duo of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester logged 24-plus minutes of ice time to assure the win. “We had some people that really came through for us, people that had to absorb a lot of ice time really came through for us, both offensively and defensively,” Hitchcock said. “We didn’t get the quality of play from our group that we’re normally used to.” The Blues opened the scoring midway through the first period on Oshie’s ninth goal of the season on a whirling feed from Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo looked like he might take aim himself, but then circled around and dished to Oshie, who released a wrist shot that beat Phoenix goalie Mike Smith for a 1-0 advantage. “I was yelling from about the red line,” Oshie said. “I saw (Pietrangelo) look back once and couldn’t find me and then he turned around and laid it there for me, kind of put it on a tee.” The assist for Pietrangelo extended his point-streak to six games (two goals, seven assists). There were no penalties called before the first intermission, but that changed with five minor penalties in the second period. The Blues capitalized on their second power play of the game, after Phoenix’s Michael Stone was whistled for cross-checking Vladimir Tarasenko.
Blues grind out win over Phoenix
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Jan 15