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Blues make it four in a row with win vs. Avalanche

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- With T.J. Oshie out of the lineup for the St. Louis Blues, their ace in the hole in the shootout created a void.

Enter Joakim Lindstrom, who didn't play for the Colorado Avalanche long (16 games) in the 2011-12 season. Lindstrom, who missed the Blues' game Thursday because of a bacterial infection, got the call in Oshie's place on assistant coach Kirk Muller's recommendation.

Lindstrom scored the lone goal in the shootout and Brian Elliott stopped all three attempts Saturday in the Blues' 3-2 win at Scottrade Center.

Lindstrom scored against Semyon Varlamov on the second Blues' attempt, beating the Avalanche goalie from the slot through the five-hole.

"[Muller] is working with these guys after every practice," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "After every practice when we work on it, we have a little bit of a conversation and he kept bringing [Lindstrom's] name up. He had the best numbers on the competition and that's why we put him in right away."

Lindstrom is now 2-for-6 for his career in shootout attempts, but both goals have been game-winners.

"He told me right before it started that I was the second man up," Lindstrom said of Hitchcock. "I was ready to go when he told me.

"I've been practicing quite a bit. ... I wasn't way too nervous. I was kind of comfortable being in that position. [Varlamov's] such a good goalie, quick laterally, so I figured I wanted to have a quick shot instead of trying to deke him. I was lucky enough I was successful today."

Elliott stopped Ryan O'Reilly on Colorado's final chance after making saves on Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene initially to preserve the win for the Blues.

"It's just read and react and try to be as prepared as possible," said Elliott, who also is a former member of the Avalanche. "They're good. I played with them [Duchene and O'Reilly] a couple months before. It feels good to get a win like that."

Vladimir Tarasenko continued his hot scoring run with two goals and Elliott stopped 27 shots to lead the Blues (6-3-1) to their fourth straight win despite playing without Oshie (concussion) and former Avalanche center Paul Stastny (shoulder). Blues captain David Backes returned after missing Thursday with a concussion.

"It's not exactly pretty," Backes said. "We're having a lot of guys gut it out and make great plays. ... I think we had a pretty good effort tonight."

Nathan MacKinnon and O'Reilly each had a goal and an assist, former Blues defenseman Erik Johnson had two assists and Varlamov stopped 27 shots for the Avalanche (3-4-5), who extended their point streak to six (2-0-4).

The Avalanche rallied from a two-goal deficit to at least earn a point.

"We deserve better than that tonight," Duchene said. "I think we played a helluva hockey game. [Varlamov] played well, our D did well, our fourth line played well and created a lot of chances. Our power play was clicking and it [stinks] to just to be coming out with one point."

The Blues dominated first-period play; they outshot the Avalanche 11-2 and scored the only goal.

Tarasenko's fifth of the season came off a bit of a fortuitous bounce. Alexander Steen's feed caromed off O'Reilly right in Tarasenko's wheelhouse. Tarasenko stepped into a slap shot and beat Varlamov glove side with 3:31 remaining in the period for a 1-0 lead.

"We played a great first period, we managed the puck well, created a lot of scoring opportunities," Hitchcock said. "We played exactly like we wanted and then we got a push from them in the second."

A scoreless second period saw more open skating. The best chance came from Colorado's Alex Tanguay, who was robbed by Elliott with 4:13 remaining after a rebound came to the right of the Blues goalie. He sprawled and gloved Tanguay's effort from a sharp angle along the red line.

"A shot from the outside hit off a couple bodies right to the side net," Elliott said. "I just tried to get anything in front of it. It would up right in my pocket. That was good one."

Tarasenko scored his sixth of the season and fifth in three games when Alex Pietrangelo threw a puck towards the net and Tarasenko tipped it inside the near post 46 seconds into the third for a 2-0 lead.

Tarasenko and Varlamov had dinner Friday night and have known each other for roughly three years and were teammates on Russia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Tarasenko was asked if he told Varlamov if he'd score on him.

"I was joking around," Tarasenko said. "I'm happy to score on him, but he made a good save in the shootout. ... We know each other for three years right now."

The Avalanche didn't go away, scoring two power play goals in a 2:56 span.

O'Reilly beat Elliott in the slot on the power play off a MacKinnon shot 2:19 into the third to make it 2-1. It was the first goal allowed by a Blues goalie in 118:52 and 119:42 on home ice.

MacKinnon skated into the slot uncontested and snapped a shot high over Elliott's glove that deflected off Jay Bouwmeester's stick at 5:13 to tie the game 2-2.

"I liked the urgency we showed in the third period," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "We didn’t give up and kept going and scored two power play goals, back to 2-2, I thought we had a few other chances. This is a team that plays well defensively and it's hard to get our scoring chances."

St. Louis went 0-for-3 on the power play but came out of a 10-game stretch in pretty good shape with 13 of a possible 20 points.

"These have been tough competitions for us," Hitchcock said. "This segment's over. We've got a decent record; now we've got to move forward on the second segment.

"We've got to really fix our special teams."

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