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Allen, Blues shut out Sabres for 12th win in 13 games

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- The St. Louis Blues are on a roll, but it's goaltending, not scoring, that's helped them win lately.

Jake Allen made 23 saves, and Dmitrij Jaskin and Vladimir Tarasenko scored to help the St. Louis Blues defeat the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 at First Niagara Center on Thursday.

Allen's third shutout of the season, fourth of his NHL career, helped the Blues (34-13-4) win their seventh straight game; they are 12-0-1 in the past 13 games.

"I think the last two games our goalies have been the best players," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "[Allen] was sound again. This is now three games in a row where he's been sound. Brian [Elliott's] been good. There [are] stages in the season where you really need it and this is one of the stages where we need our goaltending. We're playing OK, but we're not playing at the level we want to see our game at. There [are] some games you need your goalie, and we've had two games in a row where we needed our goaltending."

Elliott made 30 saves in a 2-1 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Allen is 4-0-0 in 2015.

"I'm trying to practice as hard as I can, especially when my starts are somewhat limited and just being ready when I get my chance," Allen said. "I want to make the most of every opportunity I can, and I felt since the New Year on, it's been a real fresh, good start for me."

The 13 straight games with a point set a Blues record.

"It's two points in the bank on the road in the dog days of the season," Blues captain David Backes said. "We'll take it and again, we're in the midst of a pretty good run, and I think coaching staffs in general tend to push harder when you're in the midst of good runs and don't want you getting complacent. ... That's understandable and we need to push through and get our game back to where it's dominant hockey from start to finish, the way it was at the beginning of this run. When we have that, it doesn’t matter who we're playing or where we're playing, it's a tough team to play against."

Allen made two saves against Sabres forward Chris Stewart, including one on a breakaway with 7:35 left in the second period, and a pad-stack save on Zemgus Girgensons after a turnover by Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester with 1:15 remaining in the second period that preserved a 1-0 lead.

"Yeah, it was good to sort of get [Stewart] there," Allen said. "But he had a lot of speed, so usually when guys are coming in that fast, he's going to deke, so I just got a pad on it there."

Allen stopped Sabres forward Brian Flynn twice on a shorthanded breakaway with 7:20 left in the third period.

"I didn't really know what he was going to do first, but then he tried to settle the puck down, and I could sort of tell he was going to shoot at that point," Allen said. "On a breakaway, you just try to wait him out as long as you can and [I] got a stick on it."

Allen assisted on Jaden Schwartz's 19th goal, an empty-netter with 1:17 left.

Jaskin gave the Blues a 1-0 lead with 1:56 left in the second period when he picked up a loose puck after a shot from the blue line by Blues defenseman Chris Butler, and scored on a wraparound to beat Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth.

"You're seeing the emergence of a real young power forward right now," Hitchcock said of Jaskin. "He's scoring a lot, he's getting a lot of scoring chances, and he’s really firm around the net right now. Good sign."

The play started after a faceoff win by Blues center Patrik Berglund, who returned after missing three games with an upper-body injury. Ty Rattie, who got the pass off the faceoff, passed to Butler for the setup shot. It was Rattie's first NHL point.

"The line was good, Jaskin was great," Hitchcock said. "Jaskin has really played well right now. We got a good burst from Berglund. [Berglund] was a really a good player today. I think we got a great burst from [Berglund] and energy."

Tarasenko made it 2-0 with 5:38 left in the third period with his 27th goal. After a turnover by Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges, Alexander Steen picked up the loose puck and passed out front to Backes, who passed to Tarasenko for the goal.

"His sense of timing is impeccable," Hitchcock said of Tarasenko. "He's a guy that needs one chance to score. He knows the score of the game. The closer the game, he seems more interested in being a difference-maker and he’s made a big difference this year."

Enroth made 25 saves. The Sabres (15-34-3) have lost 19 of the past 21 games.

"They have 10 Olympians and world-class Olympians on their team," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "For the first 5-7 minutes of the game we were kind of just watching them. They're so powerful and so quick. I mean, this is a team that's designed to win the Stanley Cup. Once we got used to the pace, I felt we played as well as we could. … We had our chances, but we played well."

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