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Halak moves past Hall as Blues top Panthers

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- Jaroslav Halak knows any time you pass a Hall of Famer in the record books, it has been a good day.

Halak stopped 19 Florida shots to post his 17th career shutout as the goalie for the St. Louis Blues, breaking a tie with Glenn Hall for the most shutouts in franchise history as the Blues routed the Florida Panthers 7-0 Saturday night.

"I know he was a great goaltender, and I'm really proud to be able to pass him in shutouts," Halak said. "I wouldn't be able to do it without my teammates. They were great again tonight, especially on the PK (penalty kills). It's a special feeling, but it's only the start of the season."

Halak, who had stopped 28 of 30 shots in a season-opening win against Nashville on Thursday, benefitted from a strong Blues defense, which helped kill off seven Florida power-play opportunities. The Blues have killed off all 11 shorthanded situations in their first two games.

It was Halak's 26th career shutout in the NHL, including nine during his time with Montreal before he was traded to the Blues before the 2010-11 season. It was his first shutout since March 23.

Hall had his 16 shutouts with the Blues from 1967-71, the final four years of his NHL career, where he recorded a total of 84 shutouts.

Halak had to stay focused after the Blues scored four times in the second period to open a 5-0 lead, chasing Tim Thomas from the Florida net. In both of the Blues' games they have seen the opponent pull the starting goalie during the game.

"When it started to go downhill, it snowballed quick," Thomas said. "That's a lesson. That can happen in this league. As a team you have to find a way to break that momentum and we didn't do it for quite a long time.

"They're a good team. They play hard. They finish their checks. They do a lot of good things. But it wasn't necessarily anything special they were doing. It was that we weren)t reacting in an appropriate manner. We didn't raise our game to match their level."

St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock was most impressed by how Halak started the game, as well as how he approached this season after a disappointing performance in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

"He made three good saves on the first shift," Hitchcock said. "They were hammering away there. He made five or six quality saves in the first period just to get us to the power-play to score. They were coming at us, and we were stuck in the wrong part of the game. It was prettu furious at the start of the game.

"It's conditioning and focus. I think he feels strong. I think it's a big difference. When you make the commitment that he's made and you're not tired in the third period of the game, he looks energized. I just think this is a really good lesson for making a commitment to fitness and conditioning at a very peak level. It shows you what you can accomplish. He's had a real good start."

Brenden Morrow scored the only goal the Blues would need at 14:58 of the first period, knocking a rebound of a shot by Derek Roy past Thomas. The power-play goal was Morrow's first as a member of the Blues and the 250th of his NHL career. It was the Blues' third power-play goal in six chances this season.

It was still a 1-0 game until the Blues blitzed Thomas, playing his second game after a 17-month absence in the league, for four goals in less than seven minutes in the second period. The final goal came on a penalty shot by Alexander Steen, awarded after he was dragged down while breaking toward the net by Erik Gudbranson.

Roy, like Morrow a free-agent addition to the Blues this season, also scored his first goal with his new team. The other goals in the period came from Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz.

Thomas was replaced by Jacob Markstrom at the start of the third period and he allowed the final goals, by Ryan Reaves and Patrik Berglund. Ten players have scored the 11 goals for the Blues, with Steen the only player who has scored twice.

"We got outplayed in every aspect of the game," said Florida coach Kevin Dineen. "There were no surprises. We knew how they play and how the game was going to play out. It was going to be a man's game out there and we didn't rise to the occasion tonight."

NOTES: F Alexander Steen was in the Blues lineup after spending Friday at the dentist's office. He lost two teeth when he was hit by a high stick in Thursday night's game. ... The Panthers are opening the season with a four-game road trip, and actually will be in St. Louis for four days between games. Some of the players attended the Cardinals playoff game Thursday and some will be at the Rams game Sunday. The Panthers next play in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. ... When Florida's Aleksander Barkov, the second overall pick in last June's draft, scored a goal in his NHL debut Thursday night in Dallas, the 18-year-old center became the eighth-youngest player to score a goal in NHL history and the youngest since Ted Kennedy scored for Toronto on Jan. 8, 1944. ... The Blues will continue a season-opening five game home stand hosting the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.
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