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Blues continue their shootout mastery

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- Having to win a game in a shootout is never the desired game plan, but it seems to be working out just fine for the St. Louis Blues.

Andy McDonald got the only goal in the shootout, and Brian Elliott didn't allow a goal on three Phoenix shots to give the Blues a 2-1 win over the Coyotes on Thursday night.

It was the second consecutive shootout victory for the Blues, who defeated the Vancouver Canucks by the same 2-1 score Tuesday night. The win improved the Blues' record in shootouts this season to 5-1.

"I'd rather we win it in regulation," Elliott said. "But as I said Tuesday, getting that first goal in the shootout is huge, and it turned out that was what we needed tonight. ... We'll take the W's any way we can get them."

The Blues and Elliott were within 67 seconds of winning 1-0 in regulation before the Coyotes tied the score on Radim Vrbata's power-play goal. David Backes was called for a boarding penalty with 2:16 left in the game, putting his team into a short-handed situation.

"You can't take that penalty at that time, and he knows that," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "But that's not the one that bothers me."

What made Hitchcock upset after the game was what happened while Phoenix was on the power play. Coyotes center Martin Hanzal checked Alex Pietrangelo hard into the boards by, and no penalty was called. Phoenix got the tying goal seconds later.

"It was a dangerous play," Hitchcock said. "Never mind that they scored a goal, we could have lost a player. That bothers me. When you're killing a penalty, you're trying to clear a puck. You are in a very vulnerable position.

"I saw a guy knocked almost to the fifth row, from behind. There's no ice in the fifth row the last time I checked."

Hitchcock received a 10-minute game misconduct penalty after the game was over.

Pietrangelo would not comment on the play or the fact that no penalty was called, preferring to be happy that the play did not cost the Blues a much-needed victory as they battle to earn a spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

"It wasn't our best game, but we found a way to win," he said. "You don't want to go into shootouts every night, but good teams find a way to win."

Elliott was one of the biggest reasons for the victory, making 33 saves through regulation and overtime. David Perron scored a first-period goal for St. Louis, and Elliott nearly made that stand up. The win improved Elliott's record to 7-1 in the month of April, and he just missed recording his fourth shutout of the month.

"He's been outstanding the last couple of weeks, and tonight was no different," Pietrangelo said. "He's been unbelievable for us. We've got to find ways to get more than one goal."

It was the Blues' overall game, not just the lack of scoring, that disappointed Hitchcock.

"I was not happy with the game in general," he said. "We did not play very well, but we got away with two points, so we will take the two points and move on. We didn't play the way we need to play. We can't play like that this time of year."

The loss dealt a crushing blow to the Coyotes and their playoff chances. They are five points out of a playoff spot with five games left in the regular season.

"Our guys know their backs are against the wall," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "I'm very pleased with how our team played. It was too bad we couldn't get the two points. We had some good opportunities, but that's the way it goes. We'll take the point and move on."

Vrbata was one of the three Phoenix shooters who failed to score in the shootout, and he was disappointed that the team could not have given more support to goalie Chad Johnson, who made 29 saves.

"It was too bad we couldn't help him out more in the shootout and get a win for him," Vrbata said about Johnson. "Still, we got a big point, and now we have to go to Chicago and try to get some points there."

NOTES: Johnson replaced regular Mike Smith in goal for Phoenix. Smith also missed Monday night's game against San Jose. His status was said to be day-to-day because of a lower-body injury. ... The Blues recalled forward Andrew Murray from their AHL affiliate in Peoria, but he was a pregame scratch. ... The Blues will wrap up a four-game homestand Friday night against the Dallas Stars before playing their final road game of the year on Sunday in Colorado. ... The game was the opener of a three-game road trip for the Coyotes, who play next Saturday in Chicago.
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