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Blues equal their best start with win against Penguins

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Kevin Shattenkirk said before the St. Louis Blues faced the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night he felt like his first goal of the season was coming.

His teammates were prodding him after the game, including partner Barret Jackman, who said Shattenkirk has been "saying that every day. Eventually, he was going to be right."

Shattenkirk's assist streak ended at seven games, but the Blues defenseman had no problem with that.

Extending his point streak to eight games mattered more.

Shattenkirk's wrist shot from the right point found its way into the back of the net with 9:08 remaining, and the Blues defeated the Penguins 2-1 at Scottrade Center.

Shattenkirk, who had eight assists in the past seven games, took a pass from Jackman and fired a shot past a screened Marc-Andre Fleury that the Penguins goalie got a piece of, but it squirted into the net.

"One out of 15 ... if you just keep saying you're going to score, it's going to go in," Shattenkirk joked. "If that's the case, it's game-winners and we'll take them."

Ryan Reaves scored for the Blues, and Jaroslav Halak stopped 19 shots to improve to 9-2-1; the Blues have won six of seven. Their 11 wins in 15 games (11-2-2) is the first time since the 2003-04 season they've accomplished that feat and ties the best start in franchise history.

The victory was the Blues' first in regulation against the Penguins since winning 4-1 on Dec. 19, 2006, in Pittsburgh.

"I think Pittsburgh's competitiveness made us play 60 minutes," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think across the board, we got a lot of good efforts from a lot of people. I thought we got stronger and stronger as the game went on. Our third period was our best. Our second was awfully good too.

"I thought we played a really smart, strong, hard hockey game. Both teams competed at a very high level. They were hard on our top players, they were all over [Alexander Steen]. We were hard on their top players, tried to make it as hard as we could. It was a playoff game and we scored the big goal in the third period, but we played a heck of a third period."

Shutting down Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who now has gone seven career games against the Blues without a goal -- one of four teams Crosby has failed to score on -- was a focal point. The Blues held Crosby, the League's leading scorer, without a point. Crosby has been held without a point four times this season and in two straight games. Crosby's also failed to score goals against the San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers.

"I think any time we can negate the other team's top line, we give ourselves a chance," Hitchcock said. "I think even in saying that, [David] Backes' line had some wonderful scoring chances, especially in the third period. They could have really extended the lead for us. I thought they played hard, I thought they played well and had a big job."

Jussi Jokinen scored for the Penguins and Fleury stopped 30 shots for the Penguins, who have dropped two straight after a four-game winning streak. The 20 shots were the fewest for Pittsburgh this season.

"This was a hard-fought game and a battle throughout," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It felt like a playoff type of game in terms of room on the ice and it was even refereed like a playoff game. It was tough going out there.

"I thought our team played hard, and I thought that was a good game."

Reaves gave the Blues a 1-0 lead when he was able to drive the net and redirect Maxim Lapierre's centering feed after a Penguins turnover 2:52 into the game. Reaves has 11 career goals. Steen had an assist on the goal, which extended his career-best scoring streak to 10 games. It was Steen's 21st point of the season, which ranks him among the League leaders.

"[Lapierre] kind of pulled up and saw me," Reaves said. "It was sauce backdoor. What can you say?"

The Penguins were able to tie the game 1-1 when Jokinen parked himself in the slot and redirected Evgeni Malkin's centering feed from the right circle past Halak on Pittsburgh's first power play 8:06 into the second period. It was Jokinen's third goal in five games. James Neal, who missed 15 games with an upper-body injury, had an assist on the goal for his first point of the season.

The Blues had killed off 16 straight power plays prior to Jokinen's goal.

"That was a big play for us, and we had some chances after that too," Jokinen said. "Maybe the third period, they were the better team.

"They are probably the best in the League playing this defensive-minded, checking game. We still generated enough chances to score three or four goals, but we didn't bury those chances."

Crosby had a chance with 25 seconds left in the second period, but missed on an open deflection on the Penguins' second power play of the game.

Fleury preserved a 1-1 tie when he was able to stop T.J. Oshie in tight after Steen found his linemate in the slot with 16:15 remaining. Fleury then robbed David Backes' one-timer with 10:45 to go after an Oshie feed from behind the net.

Fleury's glove save on Steen with 5:14 remaining on a 2-on-1 kept it 2-1.

There was some question whether Vladimir Tarasenko, camped in front of Fleury, actually tipped Shattenkirk's shot. Regardless, the Blues will take the two points.

"We'll see when we wake up tomorrow," Shattenkirk said. "Either way, it was a good effort there by everyone to open up that opportunity. I think the hard work that we had through the entire third period is what led to that goal.

"As you get that puck and you're fading away, you know you're not going to get much on the shot, and when you see bodies going to the net, it's almost just throw it at the net and see if you can create some sort of battle that hopefully that we can win. With the way our team's built, we like to shoot pucks and go to the net and most of the time, good things happen."

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