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Blues top Sabres on Steen's shootout goal

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues' special teams did the job before Alexander Steen's shootout goal gave them a 3-2 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at Scottrade Center on Thursday.

The Blues were perfect on the penalty kill, including two 5-on-3 man advantages, and capitalized twice on the power play.

The score was tied 2-2 when the Blues (13-6-1) thwarted the Sabres during a 49-second two-man advantage that began late in the second period and carried into the third. Less than five minutes later, Buffalo had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:47.

Each time, the Blues and goalie Jake Allen slammed the door. Buffalo had six shots during the two-man advantage in the third period, but Allen stopped all six, including a sprawling glove save on Ryan O'Reilly.

"I don't see my specific stops. I see it as a whole unit killing the penalty," Allen said. "I'm just part of the group that kills the penalty. Our job's to weather that storm for as long as need be and get back to 5-on-5, and we did that.

"Just get over there [on O'Reilly], be as big as you can and got bat on it."

The Blues, who got power-play goals from Kevin Shattenkirk and Vladimir Tarasenko, were 2-for-3 with the extra man, completing a night of special teams' success.

"It was special teams and the goaltender that won the game for us," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Penalty-killing was outstanding. Power play, we scored early in the five-minute power play and then we kind of logged around the rest and then had a great power play goal in the second period. The guys that killed penalties, especially those guys that were out there on the 5-on-3, did an outstanding job."

But Steen, who beat Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark in the third round for the lone goal of the shootout, said the penalty-killing starts and stops with the goalie.

"You're best penalty-killer is your goalie and again he made some big saves," Steen said of Allen, who made 32 saves. "... We kind of structurally kept them to the outside. They got a couple of bounces through. O'Reilly gets a good look and [Allen] challenges him. He's just such a solid goalie, it's unbelievable."

Steen started the third round by sneaking a backhand shot inside the near post past Ullmark. The goal stood after a video review. Sabres forward Evander Kane then hit the post behind Allen, ending the game.

"It's kind of one motion," Steen said of his shootout goal. "It's even tough for me to say. I felt like [Ullmark] was coming so far out on [Shattenkirk] and [Tarasenko] that if I make a quick move and beat him to the post, without getting it up, I thought I'd beat him. He was quick. He got back in a hurry. I was fortunate, it just squeaked over the line."

Sam Reinhart and O'Reilly scored goals, and Ullmark made 27 saves for the Sabres (8-9-2). But Buffalo came away lamenting the missed opportunities, especially with the man advantage.

"We had a plus-2 on the 5-on-5 tonight," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "I thought the special teams pretty much dictated the whole game right from the beginning with the major penalty that we took. We obviously had the two 5-on-3 situations at the end of the second and the third period, but 5-on-5, we're playing a tough team, a hard place to play, a hard place to get points and I thought we battled them pretty good."

O'Reilly agreed that the Sabres' failures on special teams were costly.

"It's frustrating, you know," he said. "I thought we had a good jumping start. We have to be better in the PK. It's my responsibility as well. Power play again; two 5-on-3's, that's a must-convert. That's on me. I had multiple chances to bury them."

The Blues had five minutes of power-play time to work with after Buffalo's Tyler Ennis was given a major penalty for boarding when he shoved defenseman Alex Pietrangelo into the boards at 5:00. They capitalized quickly when Shattenkirk took a pass from Steen and fired a slap shot from the top of the right circle that beat Ullmark at 5:34. It was Shattenkirk's second goal of the season. But the Sabres regrouped and killed off the remaining 4:26 of the power play without allowing the Blues another shot on goal.

Buffalo tied the game 1:31 into the second period when Reinhart took a cross-ice feed from Jack Eichel and beat Allen for his fourth of the season.

The Blues converted on the power play again at 4:28. Tarasenko scored his team-leading 12th of the season on a wrist shot from the slot to Ullmark's stick side for a 2-1 lead.

The Sabres tied the game for the second time at 11:56 when Brian Gionta fed O'Reilly all alone in the slot, and O'Reilly scored his team-high seventh of the season with a wrist shot over Allen's glove.

Each team had scoring chances in the 3-on-3 overtime. Tarasenko hit the post with 1:32 remaining.

"It's just pond hockey, but it's fun pond hockey," Allen said of the overtime. "It's meaningful and two points on the line. We've been pretty good at it so far. I don't think we have structure, I don't think many people do. It's go. I think we did a great job tonight on changing on the O-zone, which gave us some extra time down there."

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