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Miller gets first win with Blues

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Even down 2-0 after two periods and with his new team in the midst of their worst scoring drought of the season, new St. Louis Blues goaltender Ryan Miller knew he was in a very confident dressing room. The chance to win his debut was still there.

Twenty minutes later, the Blues had overcome their post-Olympic blahs and won going away.

Patrik Berglund scored twice and Magnus Paajarvi and Kevin Shattenkirk added goals in the third period to give Miller (23 saves) and the Blues a 4-2 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on Sunday.

"They are a confident group, you can see it in the way they interact and talk," said Miller, acquired Friday along with Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres. "The locker room is a lot of fun and the guys have a lot of faith in each other. Not a lot of shots came my way after they got a little more puck control. They made the adjustments we needed and went from there."

Miller improved to 7-0-0 against the Coyotes. He has beaten Phoenix three times this season, twice with Buffalo.

Shattenkirk set up Paajarvi's game-tying goal at 7:39 of the third period and added the eventual game-winner 5:07 later on the power play.

"The last few games, we've had a ton of great chances and haven't been able to capitalize," Shattenkirk said. "Tonight, we get down 2-0, but we did a great job of trusting our game plan and once the first one got in it was a huge sigh of relief on the bench. We have a day off and we all said, 'Let's put it all in here in the last 20 minutes and see what happens.'"

The Blues were in danger of being shut out in three straight games for the first time in the 46-year history of the franchise, trailing 2-0 after two periods and being outplayed by the more-engaged Coyotes.

Grinders Paul Bissonnette and Jeff Halpern, who had combined for three goals in 80 combined games this season, each scored a goal and Phoenix goalie Mike Smith stopped all 18 shots he faced in the first two periods.

The Coyotes could have jumped into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a win, but instead lost their third straight game coming out of the Olympic break (0-2-1) and remained in 11th place. But in a familiar theme, another third-period lead and opportunity to collect points evaporated in a hurry.

"We played so well for 40 [minutes]. We were dominant, doing all the right things," Bissonnette said. "We just got away from it and it's kind of been the story for the last few months here. We just had to keep making predictable plays and stay on the right side of the puck. As boring as the game is when you play like that, it's just the way it works for us."

The Blues came out roaring in the third period and took control. Forward Alexander Steen rang a shot off the post in the first minute and it wasn't long after before St. Louis finally broke the spell.

Forward Vladimir Tarasenko foiled a Phoenix clearing attempt and got the puck to Jaden Schwartz in the right circle. Smith saved Schwartz's shot, but he corralled the rebound and fed Berglund, who was wide open at the left post to break the spell at 3:18.

The goal was the first for St. Louis in 187 minutes and 44 games, dating back to a Feb. 8 shootout win against the Winnipeg Jets. The Blues were shut out Wednesday by the Vancouver Canucks and Friday by the Anaheim Ducks after going the first 57 games of the season without being blanked.

"Everyone on the bench could see Bergie's goal coming, that we had a 2-on-1 at the net," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "When it went in, everyone took right off from there. The first two games on this trip, playing really well and not scoring was stressful, and then the first goal just opened everything."

Then 4:21 later, Shattenkirk kept a clearing attempt in along the boards at the blue line and flipped a pass to Paajarvi, who curled and put a wrist shot by Smith to tie the game with his seventh goal.

It stayed that way until Halpern was called for tripping – a few minutes before he complained that he was interfered with, but no penalty was called – and the Blues capitalized on the power play. Shattenkirk put a wrist shot through traffic and past Smith at 12:46 and St. Louis had its first lead.

Berglund added insurance with 1:39 left, going in alone to beat Smith and nail down the win. The Coyotes felt Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle was tripped up in the St. Louis zone, giving Berglund a free path to the net.

"It [stinks] when there are there factors involved besides the two teams competing," Bissonnette said. "I won't go much more into that, but it's upsetting and frustrating."

Phoenix's fourth line shined in the first two periods. Bissonnette took a Michael Stone feed and unleashed a shot that hit the stick of Shattenkirk, the upturned skate blade of a prone Barrett Jackman and the shoulder of Miller before settling in the back of the net at 2:56.

Bissonnette's second goal of the season was his seventh in 197 NHL games. It wasn't the start to his St. Louis career Miller was hoping for.

"Things like that happen and it slipped through," Miller said. "You just have to go from there and keep working."

Phoenix doubled its lead at 7:09 of the second period with another hard-working goal. Yandle ran down a loose puck at the side boards and whirled a sweeping pass to the crease, where Halpern was all alone for the tip-in. Halpern's third goal of the season was his 150th in his NHL career.

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