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Blues douse Flames 2-0

by Louie Korac
ST. LOUIS -- It's becoming a common theme when Brian Elliott is in goal at home: chants of "E-L-L-I-O-T-T!"

The ET character pops up on the Jumbotron at Scottrade Center, and the chants echo throughout the building.

"I think it's the ET on the screen that's the fan favorite," Elliott joked.

What Elliott may not realize is that he's the fan favorite, and if he continues to play at the current pace, he's easily the comeback story in the NHL this season. The 26-year-old goaltender pitched his third shutout of the season, stopping all 24 shots he faced as the St. Louis blanked the Calgary Flames 2-0 Friday night at Scottrade Center.

Elliott, 9-1-0 on the season, is making his time in Ottawa and Colorado last season a thing of the past. He leads the NHL with a 1.34 goals-against average, a .951 save percentage and is tied with four others for the League lead in shutouts with three.

Elliott is taking all the accolades in stride.

"I just try to stay even-keeled, not really get up on yourself," Elliott said. "Those things can sneak through just the same.

"I try not to really think about it. You can be playing the same way and not getting the wins or results. You just try to keep it rolling when you can."

Elliott's teammates have no problem raving about his play.

"Lights out ... both goalies (including Jaroslav Halak) have been," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who scored the Blues' second goal.

"He's making saves he has no business making," captain David Backes said of Elliott. "When you've got that behind you, it gives you confidence to make a few more plays in front of him. ... Kudos to him."

Backes scored shorthanded and Pietrangelo added a third-period goal for the Blues (12-8-2).

"We got two major goals from our top players, we got a great goaltending display and our fourth line was terrific," said Ken Hitchcock, whose team is 6-1-2 since he took over as coach. "That was the difference. It wasn't clean, it wasn't pretty. It was a really physical, hard game again. We seem to be in a lot of these games right now where they feel like playoff games."

The Flames (8-12-1) have been blanked three times in 21 games. They got 22 stops from Miikka Kiprusoff, who came into the game with a 19-4-2 career record, a 1.90 GAA and .927 save percentage in 25 career games against the Blues.

"It was a hard-fought game by both sides," Flames center Alex Tanguay said. "It's just a matter of scoring goals when you have to and one of those games and tonight that their goalie played solid.

"Our goalie played solid. They just got their breaks. They got a breakaway goal and as opposed to us missing ours, they buried it so that's the difference in the game."

Flames coach Brent Sutter wasn't disappointed in his team's effort as he was in the outcome.

"The positives are we played a hard game here tonight," Sutter said. "We played hard, we had opportunities to capitalize. You've got to build off those things. You can't sit around and dwell on them."

The Blues put themselves on the penalty kill with a call that irks coaches more than anything: too many men on the ice. But instead of falling behind, they went ahead when Backes made a terrific play, using his sheer strength to get position on Flames defenseman TJ Brodie, then powered past him before lifting a forehand over Kiprusoff's glove 10:39 into the game for a 1-0 lead. It was the Blues' third shorthanded goal of the season.

"Just keep your legs going," Backes said. "Hopefully, if worse comes to worse, you get a stride on a guy and he hauls you down and you play four-on-four.

"All of the sudden, there was a little open ice in front of me and I just tried to get a shot to the top half of the net and found a little twine there."

The Blues outshot the Flames 13-4 in the middle 20 minutes but produced no goals. Their fourth line of Scott Nichol and wingers Brett Sterling and Ryan Reaves produced the best scoring chances. The Blues did get a shot off the post from Matt D'Agostini during a lengthy shift that had the Flames scrambling.

"They gave us the shifts that mattered," Hitchcock said of his fourth line. "They gave us shifts early in the game and we weren't able to build on it. Then they gave us the shift that started the momentum in the second period. It really led to a lot of energy ... energized the bench.

"You get those type of shifts from your fourth line, it gives you a really good feeling. ... That's a very effective line for us right now."

Elliott preserved the one-goal lead in the third period, stopping Brendan Morrison in tight, then thwarting breakaway attempts by Jarome Iginla and Tanguay.

Pietrangelo gave the Blues a two-goal cushion when he roofed Alex Steen's feed from the slot past Kiprusoff with 6:43 to play. Backes won the puck in the corner on a big check of Flames defenseman Chris Butler, then got it to Steen, who found Pietrangelo.

Hitchcock raved about Backes' play.

"He's a machine right now," Hitchcock said. "He's given us everything he's got. He's playing in every situation. ... That line (with Steen and T.J. Oshie) is good right now. We need that line because they're carrying an awesome responsibility. They're scoring and checking and that's hard to do.

"It's easy to check, as long as you can focus, but when you've got to finish the plays off like they're doing, that's a hard thing to do. And they're doing it for us right now."

Calgary's lineup included forward Blake Comeau, who was claimed on waivers from the New York Islanders this week. Comeau, who had no points in 16 games with the Isles, had three shots and three hits in his debut with the Flames.
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