Pens edge Blues in shootout for seventh straight win
Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 10:59 PM
Louie Korac - NHL.com CorrespondentST. LOUIS -- Chris Kunitz
will one day look back and tell his grandkids he at least played 500 games in the NHL. At 32, he hopes there's plenty more to come, but to be able to describe the shootout goal that gave the Pittsburgh Penguins
a victory to go into the All-Star break with a seventh straight win is what will make No. 500 memorable.
Kunitz scored in the fourth round after the Blues' Alex Pietrangelo
did not convert for the St. Louis Blues
as the Penguins took a 3-2 victory against one of the NHL's hottest teams on its home ice at the Scottrade Center on Tuesday night.
Kunitz lifted a backhand shot high over the glove of Brian Elliott
as the Penguins won the shootout by a 2-1 margin.
"Its something I used to do a little bit and I kind of got away from it," Kunitz said of the shootout. "(Elliott) is a goalie who is trying to challenge quite a bit and I tried to make a move."
The Penguins (28-17-4) coughed up a 2-0 lead on two goals by Patrik Berglund
, including a shorthanded penalty shot goal in the third period to tie the score, but then rode the hot hand of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
, who Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said in his postgame interview that Fleury "made five 10-Bell saves to keep the game (tied). Otherwise, we've got it salted away."
Fleury robbed David Backes
, Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka
in close proximity as the Blues (29-13-7) were coming in waves and were relentless after allowing the Penguins to take a 2-0 lead on goals by James Neal
and Steve Sullivan
"We had a little bit of a soft spot there when they went up 2-0," Hitchcock said. "We weren't very good, but then we started to really ramp it up."
scored for the Penguins in the shootout, but T.J. Oshie
evened things up for the Blues in Round 3 before Kunitz -- who is now 11-for-29 lifetime in the shootout -- won it for Pittsburgh.
"It's something I thought about and it worked out," Kunitz said. "It feels nice and hopefully there's more of them to come."
The Blues were coming off a 3-1 loss Monday to the Detroit Red Wings, a game that saw the Western Conference's top spot up for grabs. The Wings took it, and the Blues had to turn it around and play their fourth game in six nights. But even after falling behind, the Blues were able to take the game over and evening it out before nearly pulling it off if not for the theatrics of Fleury.
"What we can take away from this is the way that we raised our level as the game went on," Oshie said. "Last night against Detroit, that's where we fell down. That's where we struggled. They kicked it up in the second period and third period and we didn't respond. I think tonight, we were that team. We were the team that was kicking it in."
Fleury stopped 32 shots in his 22nd straight game. Two of those, he came on in relief of backup Brent Johnson
. But the saves he made in overtime, then thwarting the Blues on three of four shootout attempts were what really earned the Penguins a second point.
"It wasn't too technical but they didn't go in and I'm happy with it," Fleury said. "It feels good definitely because just before that, we had a tough stretch with six losses in a row. To be able to battle through that and come back and with these seven wins, they're huge. It gives us a better position in the standings also and we can relax a little more, a little better."
Berglund scored twice for the Blues, the fourth two-goal game of his career. Elliott stopped 37 shots in his first game since Jan. 12 as the Blues earned a point in 16 straight home games, going 13-0-3. They're not 21-3-4 on home ice.
"We had to work for it," Backes said. "... Fleury's a pretty good goalie. They're a team that's got some resiliency as well and that's why they're in the playoffs every year."
Down 2-1, Berglund was hooked at on a break-in by Kris Letang
and awarded a shorthanded penalty shot 5:04 into the third. Berglund curled to the right, froze Fleury and snapped a shot to the stick side for a 2-2 game. The last Blues' successful penalty shot came on Dec. 18, 2010 by Backes against San Jose's Antero Niittymaki.
"It gave us a lot of energy," Berglund said. "We had a lot of good scoring chances, but I still think we're struggling a little bit with burying our chances because I think we got plenty of them. That's an element that we've got to work on."
The Penguins broke through when Neal snapped a shot from the left circle through Elliott's left side after a backhand feed from Paul Martin
3:26 into the second period. It was a power-play goal that was Neal's 100th goal of his career after Backes was called for pulling down Malkin. It was also Neal's 11th point in the last seven games (6 goals, 5 assists).
Sullivan, who scored his 23rd career goal against the Blues and 51st point of his career against St. Louis, was able to somehow bat in a puck past Elliott after Deryk Engelland
's shot deflected off the skate of Carlo Colaiacovo
, Colaiacovo then batted the puck away from his net but Sullivan caught it in the right spot and got enough to put it back on goal and in12:16 into the second.
The Blues got back to within 2-1 on Berglund's 11th of the season and first in eight games. The Penguins turned the puck over at center ice, and Stewart was able to saucer a tight feed to Berglund, who deked Fleury and slammed home a forehand with 4:44 left in the second. It broke a streak of 86:04 minutes without a goal.
Both teams go into the break now before reconvening next week. Both teams look like solid choices to be primed for playoff berths.
"Just to be able to relax a little bit and be re-energized and come back after (the break) will be good," Fleury said.
"This one's good (to go into the break on)," Hitchcock said. "... When we scored our (first) goal there, we really started to ramp it up. It was a hard game. They're sitting here rested, great hockey team and to play like we did ... pretty impressive."