Blues Win Big Central Division Match-Up

The Blues shut down those pesky Predators Sunday night for their third straight victory.

The story was the Blues’ goaltending.  Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves in the game, recording his fourth shutout of the season, placing him in a tie for second in the NHL.  One of these saves was a gem that took place at about the 8:29 mark of the second period.  On a three-on-two, Ryan Suter slid the puck to Cal O’Reilly, who wristed a shot to Halak’s glove side.  The fast-reacting Halak slid over and snagged the puck Grant Fuhr-style for a great save.

Just like how the Blues fans have come to expect, the goaltender gave credit to his teammates.

“The guys did a hell of a job,” Halak said, “I think they only had seven shots in the third period and we kept their scoring chances down.”

Pekka Rinne made 25 saves in the loss, despite having a strong performance for Nashville.  He only suffered one goal against, but its hard to blame the goaltender for the shot he let get past him.

After intercepting Nashville defenseman Cody Franson’s pass, Blues forward David Backes skated through the neutral zone and moved to his right.  He snapped a shot that went over Rinne’s left shoulder for a 1-0 lead at 1:45 of the second period.  Rinne had to make sure there wasn’t a hole in his water bottle after the puck rocketed off Backes’ stick and knocked it off the net for the Blues forward’s eighth goal of the season.

Backes also added the only other goal of the game, coming with an empty Nashville net.  The Blues had trouble clearing the puck, but Alex Steen chipped it down the rink, and Backes took off in a foot-race with Cal O’Reilly.  He beat him to the puck just in front of the crease in sliding fashion, tapping the puck into the net for his ninth goal of the season with just .17 ticks left in the third period.

“It’s what I wished for.  Sometimes Santa Claus delivers,” Backes jokingly said of his two goals.

This was also a very different game for the Blues.  As the most penalized team in the league, the Blues did not have a penalty throughout the entire game.  This has not happened to the Blues since April 1, 2004 against the Detroit Red Wings.

In fact, the only penalty came at the 15:13 mark of the third period, when Predators forward Joel Ward took a seat in the box for tripping.  The power-play helped the Blues contain the 1-0 lead late in the game, en route to a big victory over the Central Division foes.

The win leap-frogged the Blues over Nashville in the Central Division standings, giving them 41 points compared to the Predators’ 40 points.  That places them third in the division and eighth in the Western Conference.

Despite scoring two goals and helping his team earn another shutout, David Backes knew that it was not the best game that his team has played this season.

“It wasn’t always pretty what we were doing out there but the job got done.  Jaro [Halak] bailed us out a lot of times.  We need to clean it up for a good Chicago team coming in here in two nights.”

The Blackhawks come in to Scottrade Center Tuesday night with the second-best record in the Central Division.  They are currently ranked fifth in the Western Conference with 43 points.  A Blues win would tie the Blackhawks, despite the Blues having played two less games than the Chicago team.

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