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Ducks resume play by blanking Blues

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks were the last team to resume play following the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and the 20-day break between games showed for much of Friday night.

But the Ducks overcame the rust and shut down the St. Louis Blues 1-0 to snap a four-game losing streak at Honda Center and sweep the three-game series between the top two teams in the Western Conference.

Andrew Cogliano matched his career-high with his 18th goal at 3:39 of the first period. He lifted a backhander past goalie Brian Elliott after Saku Koivu sent him in on a breakaway. Cam Fowler started the play when he got the puck away from Alexander Steen near Anaheim's bench.

Jonas Hiller made the lead stand up with 18 saves for his 21st career shutout. But Hiller had plenty of help; the Ducks blocked 27 shots and St. Louis missed the target on 30 others. Anaheim is known for offense but it also takes pride in grinding out games, and this win included 35 hits.

"Both teams played really physical tonight, and I think we've proven that we can keep up with probably one of the most physical teams in the League," said Hiller, who tied a single-season high with his fifth shutout. "It's definitely a good thing to know for the future and the playoffs."

St. Louis made a bold move to solidify its goaltending for the stretch run when it acquired Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres a few hours before puck drop. But the Blues' immediate problem is an offense that has gone cold; they've dropped back-to-back 1-0 decisions in their first two games following the Olympic break after not being shut out in 57 games.

The Blues got Miller and forward Steve Ott from the Sabres for goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a conditional pick. Halak had been scheduled to start; instead, Elliott got the late nod and kept the Blues in the game with 18 saves.

"Nothing came easy for either team," St. Louis captain David Backes said. "You had to earn everything. Two in a row, 1-0, on the wrong side of it [is] a tough pill to swallow. But [if] you're going to play one-goal games, you need to find a way to get on the other side of them and have a lot more smiles in the room afterwards."

After Cogliano's goal, the Blues controlled most of the rest of the first period and Jaden Schwartz hit the crossbar just before the intermission.

Ryan Reaves came agonizingly close to pulling St. Louis even when he nudged a loose puck at the net and had it hit the right post, slide along the goal line and hit the left post with 59 seconds remaining in the second period. It was that kind of game for the Blues, who outplayed the Ducks for stretches but couldn't score.

"I haven't even seen the replay," Hiller said of Reaves' miss. "Sometimes if you work hard enough, those things go your way."

St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said prior to the game that the neutral zone was critical but he analyzed this one differently.

"We've had two games now where we have a ton of zone time," Hitchcock said. "We're not finding the net. We're not hitting the net and when we do have the chances, we're missing the net. I think that's probably the biggest case right now: we're not shooting for second shots. I think we're trying to score from too far out, and I think we're not as accurate as we were before."

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said he expected rust coming out of the break, and the Ducks looked out of sync at times, although they did get a couple of great scoring chances. Mathieu Perreault couldn't finish a 2-on-1 with Teemu Selanne, and Nick Bonino shot into Elliott's pads in the second period.

Perreault left the game with what the Ducks said was an upper-body injury when he went into the boards awkwardly in the third period.

Boudreau also likes the details of the game, and he was most pleased with the three blocked shots and six hits by Ben Lovejoy. Mark Fistric came off injured reserve and had five hits, two penalties and two blocks.

"That's how you win," said Boudreau, who became the fastest coach to 300 wins in modern-day NHL history. "You pay the price. If you don't block shots in today's game, you're not going to be successful. We had guys doing a great job of blocking shots. The [Daniel] Winniks and [Matt] Beleskeys were out there getting right in the shooting lanes. That's part and parcel on why you win.

"Lovejoy, I thought was especially active tonight in getting under their skin today and doing a really good job."

Olympic silver medalist Jakob Silfverberg was a scratch for Anaheim.

Jeff Tyni, a Ducks' locker room attendant, served as Elliott's backup.

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