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Blues pull from depth to top Predators in shootout

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Want to know how deep St. Louis is? Last season's National Hockey League leader in goals-against average and save percentage is its backup goalkeeper.

When the Blues needed Brian Elliott to rescue Jaroslav Halak from a shaky outing Monday night, Elliott was ready. He stopped 13 shots in the game's last 32:53, then stoned Nashville twice in the shootout to lead St. Louis to a 4-3 win in Bridgestone Arena.

T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen scored in the shootout for St. Louis, while Elliott stopped Craig Smith and Martin Erat as the Blues followed their season-opening 6-0 blanking Saturday night against Detroit with a gritty come-from-behind win.

"I've just been working hard in practice," Elliott said. "When you make saves there, you hope it translates over to the game. We don't have a lot of opportunities, but when you get them, you want to learn from everything."

Elliott tied for second in the NHL last year with nine shutouts and posted a 1.56 goals-against average as well as a .940 save percentage. But Halak, whose 1.97 GAA and .926 save percentage also ranked in the NHL's top 10, is considered the team's top goalie.

After making 14 saves against Detroit, Halak wasn't nearly as sharp in this one, allowing three goals on just 11 shots before coach Ken Hitchcock pulled the trigger.

"We got a real good effort from Elliott," Hitchcock said. "Then our guys stepped it up in the third period and I thought we did a good job locking it down."

While St. Louis got a good start on defending last year's Central Division title, this wasn't the way Nashville wanted to start the season. The Predators are headed for a seven-game, 15-day road trip with two straight home shootout losses.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz thought his team played better than it did in Saturday night's 3-2 loss to Columbus but acknowledges a little extra urgency for wins in the truncated 48-game regular season.

"We're going to be tested," he said of the trip, which starts Tuesday night in Minnesota. "We don't have an easy game at all. But this is a chance for the team to bond a little bit. I'd like to come back around .500 or a bit over.

"You know coming into this season everyone's going to go through the same thing. Hopefully, we get an advantage at some point. We do have a lot of home games (after the trip), so maybe we can take advantage of those."

The defensive-minded teams each scored twice in a wide-open first period, started by Colin Wilson's wrist shot over the stick side of Halak at 9:10.

The Blues needed just 78 seconds to respond as rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, who potted two goals Saturday night, snapped a slot shot off the pad of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne. Tarasenko then assisted on Andy McDonald's power play tally at 15:04.

Mike Fisher drew the Predators even at 2 when he turned Martin Erat's beautiful saucer pass into a power play goal at 17:13.

After appearing to be under siege at times during the first period, when it was outshot 14-6, Nashville kept St. Louis' scoring chances to a minimum in the second period and rewarded itself at the 12:53 mark with its second man-up goal.

With Kevin Shattenkirk in the box for interference, Erat fed Patric Hornqvist on the doorstep and he backhanded the puck past Halak.

St. Louis began putting more pressure on Nashville's defense about halfway through the third period and scored the tying goal at 12:10 when Alex Pietrangelo's wrister from a sharp angle on the right side dented the net's top.

From there, Elliott and his teammates took care of the rest.

"I'm telling you, these points mean everything," Hitchcock said.

NOTES: St. Louis' six goals against Detroit represented the most it had scored in a season opener since an 8-3 blowout over Chicago on Oct. 5, 1989. It was also the Blues' first shutout in a season opener. ... This was the first of three meetings in a 16-day span between Nashville and St. Louis. The teams play again Thursday night in St. Louis and on Feb. 5, also in St. Louis. ... The sellout crowd of 17,113 was the 15th straight for the Predators, dating to the final eight regular-season games of last year. ... Nashville C Paul Gaustad was scratched with what Trotz called an "upper-body injury." Gaustad is questionable for the Predators' game Tuesday night but could return Thursday.
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