ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock and his San Jose counterpart Todd McLellan were both in agreement: Saturday night's game between the Blues and Sharks had a playoff feel to it.
The Blues took the 1-0 victory at Scottrade Center in a game that featured plenty of solid defense, specialty teams, and stellar goaltending. The Blues (17-9-3) got the better of it in all three departments -- but not by much.
"It was a man's game. A playoff game. Hard, no room, both teams came to play," said Hitchcock, whose team is 11-2-3 since he arrived on the scene on Nov. 6. "We knew that San Jose was going to play like this. I was really proud of the way we stood up to the challenge."
Kevin Shattenkirk returned from a bout of sickness and provided the offensive punch the Blues needed, while Brian Elliott continues to be a wall in goal. Shattenkirk's goal late in the first period was the only one of the game, and Elliott stopped 24 shots to tie Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick for the NHL lead with his fourth shutout of the season.
"It was an April-May score," McLellan said. "A lot of tight checking, a lot of playoff-style grinding along the boards. Not many chances for either team.
"They got the one (goal) and we didn't."
Added Sharks winger Ryane Clowe: "It was a tight game. A lot of clutch and grabbing."
The Blues were able to just get enough offense against the Sharks, which came into the game with the NHL's 30th-ranked penalty-killing unit. The Blues were 1-for-5 with the extra man while holding the Sharks scoreless on six advantages.
"We've had to earn everything we've gotten against them," Blues captain David Backes said of the Sharks. "They've got plenty of power up front, Ells was great tonight, the penalty kill got plenty of tests tonight. We stood up to the challenge. We got whatever you want to call it, a 5-on-3 or 5-on-4 goal. [It was a] special-teams battle and we come out on the plus side there and we got two points out of the night. Another good feeling in this locker room. It's good to have."
The game marked the first time that the Blues' David Perron faced the Sharks' Joe Thornton in a game since Thornton's hit on Perron last Nov. 4 forced the Blues' forward to miss 97 games.
Shattenkirk played in his 100th NHL game two nights after sitting out with a stomach virus -- and wound up with the game's only goal. His wrister from the right circle snuck inside the near post past Antti Niemi, who was screened by Backes, with 25.4 seconds left in the first period.
"As their forward came out or a defenseman came out to take the shot away from me, I knew Backs had (Niemi's) eyes taken away," Shattenkirk said. "I just saw that lane and decided to let it do."
Little did Shattenkirk know his fourth goal of the season would stand up.
"Absolutely not, especially in the first period against a team like that," Shattenkirk said. "We both played some great team defense out there today, but luckily one goal was the difference."
Elliott, who leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.45) and save percentage (.947), made his biggest save of the third period by going from his left to right and thwarting Joe Pavelski's one-timer with 10:31 remaining. Elliott also held his ground on the near post with 1:31 remaining to stop Logan Couture's chance, then denied Couture's one-timer from the slot with 1:02 remaining.
"Those bang-bang plays, you just have to be in the right position and they'll hit you," said Elliott, who improved to 12-2 on the season. "(Pavelski's) one of my good friends. I'll probably give him some razzing, but I'll probably get some back, too."
Elliott's teammates continue to be amazed at the play of a guy who was supposed to get a spot start here and there just to give Jaroslav Halak a breather.
"He made some great side-to-side saves," defenseman Barret Jackman said of Elliott. "He played the puck very well, too. There were some opportunities for them to get the forecheck and he made some nifty plays through them. All-around, he had a great game."
This one had more of a team-game win. Elliott appreciates the accolades given but agrees this one belongs to the team.
"It makes you smile," he said. "That's definitely a team shutout there.
"You have to just take it, put it in your back pocket and move on to the next game. I can definitely be satisfied with it but not get too high on yourself."