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Blues blank Oilers 1-0

by Louie Korac
ST. LOUIS – Even when they’re not at their best, the St. Louis Blues keep finding ways to win.

On Thursday night, the Blues thought they let the Edmonton Oilers hang around just long enough to steal a rare two points at Scottrade Center.

But the Blues – a team that just doesn't allow much defensively – allowed almost nothing, and the Blues prevailed 1-0 thanks to a decisive third-period goal from Alex Pietrangelo.

The Blues (28-12-6) momentarily jumped into first overall in the Western Conference with 62 points but were quickly bumped back to fourth place after the Detroit Red Wings' shootout win in Phoenix, which gives the Wings 63 points.

Pietrangelo, who now has a team-best four game-winning goals and extended his career-best points streak to eight, won it when he curled around the Oilers goal and slid a shot past netminder Nikolai Khabibulin with 5:14 to play.

"I had a couple chances that shift," Pietrangelo said. "(David Backes) made an unbelievable pass. I can't believe he found me. Lucky enough, the puck ended up being behind the net. I was just kind of able to give it the old-fashioned wrap-around."

Jaroslav Halak earned his second straight shutout and third in four games, extending his shutout streak to 148:25. Halak stopped 15 shots and is 10-0-3 in his last 13 starts after earning his fourth shutout of the season and 20th of his career. He was also in goal for the Blues' last game, a 1-0 home win against Dallas on Monday.

"I feel good, but when you look at the shots, I didn't have to stop many shots, many scoring chances tonight," said Halak, who is 13-7-5 on the season with a 2.00 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. "Every game is a different game. The guys are playing really good hockey right now and hopefully we can at least keep doing it until the All-Star break."

The surging Blues improved to 7-0-1 in their last eight games. They've earned at least a point in a franchise-best 14 straight home games (12-0-2). St. Louis became the first team to win 20 home games (20-3-3).

And the Blues kept winning, despite an underwhelming performance.

"That's what signifies a good team growing," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "When you're still finding ways to win when you're not at your best, it's a sign of a good thing and a sign of a team coming together wanting to win and learning to win.

"I think that's what we've found within ourselves in this room. If it takes a third period to win a game like we have in the last couple games and we end up gutting it out and finding ways to win ... hey, two points is two points. You're not going to ask how."

St. Louis spent the night pelting the Edmonton net but just couldn’t solve Khabibulin.

"They played an unbelievable game," Oilers defenseman Andy Sutton said of the Blues. "They came with amazing pressure and intensity. That's the way hockey is meant to be played."

Khabibulin was often spectacular while stopping the other 37 shots he faced as the Oilers fell to 17-25-4. Edmonton has lost five in a row on the road and 12 of its last 13 away from home and fell to 0-9-2 when tied after two periods.

The first period was one-sided -- the Blues had the first 17 shots before the Oilers' Ryan Smyth got one on Halak with 12:07 remaining in the period. St. Louis wound up outshooting the Oilers 19-4 in the opening period, including 14-0 in the first four minutes, but went into the first intermission with nothing to show.

"I think it's fair to say we were outplayed in that first period," said Khabibulin. "We just seemed like we were a step behind. I thought we were better in the second."

The second period brought more of the same. No goals and, from the Blues' standpoint, not enough shots on Khabibulin. They had 24 seconds of a two-man advantage but did little with it. Later, when Khabibulin lost his stick in the ensuing moments, the Blues couldn't get a single shot on net. They also had another 28 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage in the third, but still the game remained scoreless.

"We kind of saw this coming in the last game ... our offensive intensity isn't what it should be, so we let teams hang around," Hitchcock said. "We leave the game out there. We're just going to have to figure out a way to bear down a lot more, we're going to have to show a lot more of intensity in the offensive zone.

"Once Edmonton figured out that they were still in the game after the first period, it was game on for both teams. ... This is now four of the last five games if we had the necessary intensity around the net offensively, it could have been a much easier night for all of us."

Fortunately, Pietrangelo made it a good night for the home side as the Blues now boast an NHL-best nine shutouts.

"If you can win games 1-0, it's a good thing," he said. "That's a sign that you're doing something right."
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