Blues 4, Devils 3 F/SO
NEWARK, N.J. -- Goalie Brian Elliott may have entered the game cold, but he remained red-hot between the pipes for the St. Louis Blues.
After being called upon in relief of Jaroslav Halak midway through the second period on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, Elliott was in total command of his crease the remainder of the contest. His perfect performance provided just the impetus St. Louis needed to mount a comeback on the way to its second straight victory.
T.J. Oshie scored the only goal in a shootout to back Elliott's effort as the surging Blues beat the Devils 4-3 at Prudential Center. The victory improved the NHL All-Star goalie to 17-5-2 on the season, with a League-low 1.62 goals-against average and League-best .940 save percentage.
In addition to entering the game cold, Elliott was also facing a club that owned a 9-2 record in shootouts. Elliott improved to 1-1 in the tiebreaker, stopping Ilya Kovalchuk
and Patrik Elias
before forcing Zach Parise
to lose the puck on his team's final attempt.
"Before the game, you usually look at the shot guys and what they do in shootouts," Elliott said. "But, again, I wasn't playing and didn't really know, but goalie coach [Corey Hirsch] did a good job relaying a couple messages and that really helped me.
"Guys like [Carlo] Colaiacovo gave me insight on what Parise might do, but they bobbled a couple of pucks, which made it a little easier."
Elliott stopped all 15 shots he faced after relieving Halak at 9:12 of the second. Halak surrendered three goals on 12 shots.
"I think we really got away from how we wanted to play in the first two periods," Oshie said. "We need better starts and needed more guys buying into the system, buying into the work ethic. When we have to tell our guys to start skating and work harder, that's a problem."
Elliott's best save might have come with 31.4 seconds left in overtime when he denied rookie Adam Henrique
on a semi-breakaway.
"The puck was kind of bobbling and he could go either way with it … backhand or forehand," Elliott told NHL.com. "I just tried to take away as much of the net as possible, and lucky enough, it hit me."
Oshie's goal in the shootout came off a wrist shot that squirted through the pads of Johan Hedberg
"I was going five-hole and I think I caught him by surprise a little bit," Oshie said. "I missed my mark by maybe a half-puck, and got fortunate that it trickled in. I'll take it."
Hedberg finished with 23 saves.
The Blues pulled even with 5:50 left in regulation on a deflection by Patrik Berglund that was called a goal on the ice and upheld after video review. Roman Polak teed up a shot from the right point that appeared to deflect off the stick of 6-foot-4 Berglund, who was battling in front with Devils defenseman Mark Fayne
. The ruling on the video review was that replays were inconclusive, so the goal call on the ice stood.
"My initial reaction was I thought it was a high stick but I guess it wasn't," Hedberg said. "I don't think I'm on the lucky side of a lot of reviews this year. Most of them have gone the wrong way."
The Devils lost defenseman Kurtis Foster
just 1:15 into the third when he was given a five-minute boarding major after hitting Chris Porter behind the Devils' net. The loss of Foster gave the Devils just five defensemen the remainder of the contest.
Despite that, New Jersey did a splendid job in killing off the disadvantage and, in fact, actually generated the better scoring opportunities. Henrique had a shorthanded breakaway that was denied by Elliott 2:30 into the period. The Devils killed the opening 3:54 of power-play time before David Backes was whistled for goalie interference to wipe out the remaining 1:06.
"That could have sapped the energy out of us but we had a good talk after the second [period] and picked each other up on the bench," Oshie said. "No one was negative and stayed positive. We took it shift by shift and, luckily, Berg got the good tip."
The Blues took their first lead of the game at 2-1 4:50 into the second during a delayed penalty call on Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov
. David Perron's shot from the right circle beat Hedberg between his right arm and body for his seventh of the season.
The Devils then connected for the next two goals to take a 3-2 lead. Just 45 seconds after Perron's goal, Henrique scored off a wrist shot from the left circle that beat Halak on the long side. The goal was the first for Henrique in seven games and enabled him to tie Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the rookie scoring lead with 35 points. Nugent-Hopkins will be sidelined at least another week with a shoulder injury.
A picturesque give-and-go between Kovalchuk and Elias on a 2-on-1 turned into the go-ahead goal at 9:12. Kovalchuk appeared as though he would take the shot, but kept his head up in the right circle before feeding Elias in the slot. After watching Halak yield his third goal, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock changed goaltenders.
"I was a little bit surprised when I got the call, but you can kind of get the feeling that the guys weren't responding the way they should and it's as much a pick me up as it is anything else," Elliott said. "There's no real pressure on you. You just go out there and play and the guys respond for you. We did that, and I was able to a couple. We scored a big one."
The victory gives the Blues an 11-0-2 mark against Eastern Conference foes this season. They remain the only team to get at least one point in every game against the opposite conference. The loss snapped the Devils five-game winning streak.
"If I knew the secret against the East, we would probably be that good against the Western Conference, so I don't know what it is," Elliott said. "We know they are big points no matter where you get them and you have to get those points no matter what."
The teams traded goals in the opening 20 minutes. Parise connected for his 21st of the season off a rip from the bottom of the right circle on the power-play at 16:46 -- extending his point-scoring streak to seven games (six goals, three assists). The Blues got even at 18:43 when Chris Stewart backhanded a shot past Hedberg for his first goal in 11 games.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
|Three star selections