ST. LOUIS -- Brian Elliott
is living well these days. The St. Louis Blues
goaltender can actually think of another time when he was in such a zone as the one he's in now.
"I think maybe in college, but not at this level," said Elliott, a University of Wisconsin product.
Elliott was signed last summer to be Jaroslav Halak
's backup, but the Blues have no problem having two starting-type goalies.
Elliott earned his third consecutive shutout, tying Greg Millen's franchise mark (from Dec. 1-6, 1988) and earned his NHL-leading ninth shutout of the season, stopping 24 pucks in the Blues' 3-0 win against the Nashville Predators
at the Scottrade Center on Tuesday night, keeping the Predators from clinching a playoff spot.
Elliott, who leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.43) and save percentage (.943), also set a personal-best shutout mark, breaking his old mark of 174:35 set March 20-26, 2010 with Ottawa. He's currently at 186:33 and set a Blues franchise record for consecutive shutout minutes, which was 186:15 held by Manny Legace (set from Dec. 28-Jan. 28, 2007-08).
Elliott's ninth shutout this season also broke Glenn Hall's franchise record of eight, set in 1968-69.
"It's obviously cool to have it, but you're not even thinking about that going into a game," said Elliott, who improved to 23-9-3 on the season. "You just try to get the two points for the guys no matter how you do it.
"Grant Fuhr said it doesn't matter if you let in seven or one, as long as your team scores eight. Obviously it's pretty cool to be a part of that record."
Elliott's teammates continue to answer questions regarding their goalies. They don't mind, but are running out of positive adjectives.
"We definitely don't expect them to be playing this good, but they are and it's great," said winger T.J. Oshie
, whose goal with four minutes left in the game sealed the victory. "It gives us a sense of confidence to go out and to make plays and to know they're going to be behind us. You look at their numbers this year, it's been unbelievable."
Added winger David Perron
, whose goal 4:47 into the third gave the Blues a 2-0 lead: "Three (shutouts) in a row is pretty unbelievable when you think about it. I think two in a row is pretty good. Three is just unbelievable."
Elliott even earned accolades from his counterpart tonight, Pekka Rinne
, who allowed three goals on 24 shots: "It's an amazing run. (Elliott's) had an unbelievable year. They keep playing great and 15 shutouts this year, that's unbelievable."
, playing in his 1,100th career game, became the 21st American-born player to reach that feat. His 58th career game-winner set the tone as the Blues (48-20-9) also got goals from Perron and Oshie. David Backes
picked up a couple helpers and Oshie had a goal and an assist for the Blues, who tied the Chicago Blackhawks' 1969-70 team for shutouts in a season (15) during the post-expansion era.
"For me, the game was well-played," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who's 42-13-9 since taking over the Blues on Nov. 6. "From a precision standpoint, an execution standpoint, we came out with a lot of focus and hats off to (Nashville), they grabbed a little bit in the second. And then we took it back in the third.
"We were forced to play a complete game today and we had to compete at a high level every shift to stay with it."
Langenbrunner scored when he and linemates Jason Arnott
and Alex Steen
worked some tic-tac-toe magic. Steen slid a backhand feed to Arnott in the slot, where his touch pass found Langenbrunner. Langenbrunner was able to wrist a shot into the top shelf past Rinne at 6:35 of the second for a 1-0 lead.
Perron's power move to the net in the third produced the all-important second goal 4:47 into the period. A give-and-go sequence between Perron and Backes saw Perron beat Preds defenseman Kevin Klein
around the right edge and Rinne in front. Perron slid a backhand in for a 2-0 lead.
Perron's bid for a second goal was waved off after review. He was able to poke a puck between the pads of Rinne after an Oshie shot with 7:08 remaining but the play was somehow ruled no goal.
Oshie made it a 3-0 Blues lead with a backhand wrap around the net with four minutes left.
The Blues improved to 30-4-4 at home, tying Detroit for most home wins in the NHL this season and setting a franchise record for most home wins in a season. The previous mark of 29 was set in 1980-81. They're 13-1-1 in their last 15 at home, outscoring the opponents 43-16. They've also kept their top overall billing in the League, improving to 105 points, two ahead of the New York Rangers.
Nashville, which stayed a point behind fourth-place Detroit in the Western Conference race, fell to 44-25-8, good for 96 points. The Preds are likely to clinch a playoff spot Thursday, but this was a night that they had very few scoring opportunities.
"You don't get many odd-man rushes," center Mike Fisher
said. "They're very smart defensively and patient and clog everything up."
The Blues are on the verge of breaking the modern NHL record for fewest goals allowed in a season, a record held by the 2003-04 New Jersey Devils at 164. The Blues have allowed 139 non-shootout goals and 147 altogether.
"We just want to keep playing good hockey and keep getting better," Langenbrunner said. "Hopefully we'll continue to get healthy and the lineup will get better and better and we'll keep moving forward."