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Defense provides offense to lead St. Louis to victory

by Louie Korac
ST. LOUIS -- ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues may have come away with a split in their first two games, but they have to feel impressed with the shot totals allowed in each contest.

After only giving up 16 shots in a 4-2 loss to Nashville Saturday, the Blues clamped down once again Monday against the Calgary Flames, holding the visitors to 17 shots in a 5-2 win at Scottrade Center.

"It really starts with our return," said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, whose goal early in the second period broke a 1-1 tie and put the Blues ahead for good. "Our backcheck's been great. That really doesn't even allow teams to set up in our zone. ... We've just been doing a good job of blocking shots and getting pucks out as quickly as possible."

Added fellow defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who scored a goal and assisted on another: "We've got our forwards working their tails off coming back into their own end. We're trying to block as many shots as possible from the (defensemen) and the forwards. We've got a lot of guys bearing down here and sacrificing. Top to bottom, that's what we need here."

After the first period in which the Blues did come out of a tie, the game changed for the better. The ice seemed like it shifted in a downward hill.

"Maybe the first 10, we really didn't have our game," said forward Andy McDonald, who picked up two assists. "We got it turned around and there were a lot of good things tonight. We had four lines rolling and we seemed to get some momentum in the offensive zone and keep up with the changes."

Getting big contributions from their blue line, the Blues were able to pick up their first win of the season with the help of Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo, both touted to put up big offensive numbers.

Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo scored second-period goals that snapped a tie game and Pietrangelo added an assist on Chris Stewart's goal that gave the Blues a two-goal lead.

Alex Steen and Jason Arnott also scored goals. Jaroslav Halak didn't see much rubber in this game either but got the win for the Blues, stopping 15 shots after only seeing 15 shots in a season-opening loss Saturday against Nashville.

"I liked where our game got about three or four minutes into the second period," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "It was a lot of support issues early on. I thought Calgary had good jump, good intent and they were coming at us pretty good.

"We really had to make some adjustments as far as the type of spots we were in on the ice. Otherwise, it would have been a long night facing the kind of pressure they were giving."

Curtis Glencross and Jarome Iginla scored for the Flames. Henrik Karlsson made the surprise start for Calgary in favor of Miikka Kiprusoff, who was ineffective in a season-opening 5-3 loss Saturday against Pittsburgh.

"We new they would be desperate tonight and they beat us," said Iginla, who scored his 27th career goal and 68th point in 57 games against the Blues. "I think just because they worked harder. It wasn't any one system or whatever. It was they worked harder tonight then we did and we need to find that we need to get it going now."

With a 3-2 game and still in the balance, the goal of the game came from Stewart, who took Pietrangelo's poke-checked puck and raced in on a 4-on-4 situation, beating Karlsson with a soft backhand shot 3:44 into the third period to give St. Louis a 4-2 lead.

"Originally I was thinking make that power cut, but kudos to that defenseman," Stewart said. "He was there the whole way. It's just a lucky shot on the backend there."

Considering Kiprusoff's career numbers against St. Louis (19-5-2, 1.94 goals-against average and .926 save percentage), it was expected he would get the start. Kiprusoff was 4-0-0 with a 0.75 GAA and .975 save percentage against the Blues last season.

But Flames coach Brent Sutter, who held a closed-door meeting with the players afterwards, said Kiprusoff's workload would be reduced from what it's been in previous seasons.

"He's not going to play 75 games this year because that's what you guy's expect from him," Sutter said of his starting netminder. "He's not going to play that much this year and we want to get Karl going right off the bat here.

"Our goal going into this was Kipper was going to play the first game and Karl was going to play the second game and that's what we did."

The Blues will now embark on a set of games that sees them playing eight of their next nine on the road. They will like the results if they get the contributions they got from all four lines.

"We had scoring from all the lines," Stewart said. "We kind of used the last game getting to know each other. We really didn't play that much together in preseason. You can see as the game went on, we started to take the play."
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