ST. LOUIS -- When the St. Louis Blues can get offensive contributions from guys they rely on to be heavy checkers and provide the grit and energy on a nightly basis, good things typically happen.
Ryan Reaves doesn't score often, but when he does, he makes them count. The Blues' fourth-line enforcer scored his seventh career goal and third game-winner as the Blues made it nine wins in 11 games with a 2-1 victory against the Dallas Stars at Scottrade Center on Friday night.
Reaves' goal 7:52 into the second period provided the winning margin for a Blues team that has no intention of merely settling for a playoff berth. They still have their sights set on home-ice advantage.
Reaves actually had a golden chance in the first period to score from the slot but fired a shot high over the net. His teammates were giving it to him on the bench with some playful humor, but Reaves atoned for it by capitalizing on another chance.
"I don't put too many in the net," Reaves said. "When I get the opportunity like that first one, it's tough to put it wide like that. I took the second opportunity and put it in.
"It's not that often you're talking to me about [scoring]. Usually I'm the physical aspect, kind of getting the crowd into it, getting the boys into it. When I can do something like that, it's a good feeling."
The Blues knew catching the Chicago Blackhawks was over long ago, but reaching the fourth seed is still very attainable.
Chris Stewart also scored for St. Louis, which got 21 saves from Brian Elliott. The Blues, sixth in the Western Conference, improved to 26-16-2, good for 54 points -- one behind both the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks with four games remaining for all three teams. The fourth-place finisher will have home ice in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blues are 9-2-0 in April, allowing only 14 goals in their 11 games.
"The whole story for me here for the month of April has been defense and goaltending," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They've done an outstanding job. ... To me, defense and goaltending ... I was just thinking watching us play, we're not easy to play against in our own end. You're not going to get any free looks."
Both teams came into the game hot, but the Stars' ability to score [27 goals in seven games compared to the Blues' seven goals in seven games] made it an impressive victory for the Blues.
"We're doing well with our matchups," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I think we're doing a great job with their top lines and not really allowing them to generate a lot of sustained pressure and scoring chances. We're doing a great job defensively as a team. We're limiting as many shots as we can, Ells is playing phenomenally and we're doing a great job taking away second chances."
The Stars (22-19-3), who had won six of seven coming in, hit a pothole in their bid to grab the eighth and final playoff berth in the West. The loss left their two points behind the eighth-place Columbus Blue Jackets (49 points) and even with the ninth-place Detroit Red Wings (47). The Stars have four games remaining, the Blue Jackets have three and the Red Wings have five.
"I just know we have to go into [Los Angeles] and San Jose and get some points," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said of his team's upcoming two-game trip to California. "I know two teams we are battling with, Columbus and Detroit, are all at the end [at home]. Anything can happen and we are just focusing on things we can take from this game that help us in the next game."
"It was a game of two tired teams," Lehtonen said. "We played a tough game [Thursday] night [a 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks], there were not too many mistakes today. They were playing great defense and so were we. They just got one more goal than we did."
Stewart's 17th of the season broke the Blues' 0-for-18 power play slump. He cleaned up Alex Pietrangelo's slap shot from the left circle that Lehtonen stopped but left a big rebound on the opposite side of the post. Stewart fired it home at 10:10 of the first period.
"We're kind of waiting to get rewarded," Stewart said of the power play. "I think we've been doing some things with it well as of late. Petro teed one up there, a heavy clapper and I jumped on the rebound."
Elliott preserved the lead when he made a right skate save on Loui Eriksson from the top of the crease with 1:09 left in the period after a Blues turnover deep in their own zone. Elliott is 8-1-0 in April with a 1.01 goals-against average and .960 save percentage.
"It's game by game, trying to keep going, stay level-headed," Elliott said. "Don't change anything and just try to play your role. I think that's what everybody needs to do right now."
Reaves' second goal of the season and first in 16 games came after he intercepted a failed clearing pass near the blue line and got the puck to Chris Porter, who threw it off the side of the net. Reaves crashed the net and popped a backhand over Lehtonen 7:52 into the second period for a 2-0 lead. The Blues improved to 6-1-0 this season when getting a goal from a fourth-line forward.
"Ports made a great play," Reaves said. "I put it in his feet and he handled it real well, put it off the net ... real Gretzky-esque."
Roussel cut the Blues' lead in half when he was able to get a tip on Stephane Robidas' shot from the right point 4:37 into the third period.
"I thought we played real hard and made a big push in the third to get some offense on a real stingy team," Gulutzan said. "Against this type of team, you have to play a certain way to stay in there and be able to make a push. We did but fell just a little short."
|Eric Nystrom Boarding against Vladimir Sobotka|
|Adam Cracknell Interference against Stephane Robidas|
|Cody Eakin Holding against Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Ryan Reaves Holding the stick against Erik Cole|
|Jamie Benn Interference on goalkeeper against Brian Elliott|