Blues blank Maple Leafs

ST. LOUIS — The visiting Maple Leafs tested Brian Elliott early and often on Saturday night, but they couldn’t slip the puck past the Blues goaltender.

Elliott stopped all 27 shots he faced for his third shutout of the season and 28th of his career as the Blues defeated the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 at Scottrade Center.

“This is, for me, the best he’s played,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Not just because he got a shutout, but this is the best he’s played since coming back from the injury, for sure. He had work today because we gave up odd-man rushes. We don't normally do that, but we gave up some.”

Elliott had to make 15 saves in the first period, then four in the second and eight in the third to preserve the shutout, which carried some extra meaning for the St. Louis goalie.

“I grew up bleeding blue for the Maple Leafs and it’s fun to go out there and get a shutout against them,” he said.

Elliott improved to 12-5-2 on the season and lowered his NHL-leading goals-against average to 1.90. He is 4-1-1 with two shutouts in seven starts since returning from his lower-body injury late last month.

“We know what he can do,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “Tonight’s a prime example. That’s an outstanding performance by him. I thought we did a great job too as a group eliminating second opportunities. He’s pushing pucks where they can’t get them and we’re clearing in front of the net, so it’s a good overall effort defensively.”

The Blues improved to 28-13-4 with 60 points, jumping ahead of the idle Chicago Blackhawks for second place in the Central Division. St. Louis is 6-0-1 over its last seven games and has earned 13 out of 14 possible points over that span.

Hitchcock’s club, which will host the Colorado Avalanche on Monday in the final game before the All-Star break, is now 17-4-2 at Scottrade Center.

The Maple Leafs (22-21-3, 47 points) have lost four straight games, seven of their last eight and nine of their previous 11. They fell to 7-12-3 on the road this season.

Kevin Shattenkirk opened the scoring with his eighth goal of the season, assisted by Maxim Lapierre, on a nifty backhand move with 3:2o remaining in the first period.

The Blues made it 2-0 early in the third period on Alexander Steen’s 15th of the season.

Steen, assisted by David Backes and Alex Pietrangelo, skated through the Maple Leafs defense, waited and went top shelf with a backhander to beat goalie Jonathan Bernier.

“Steener obviously getting that second goal, pretty goal, top shelf, it does a lot for our momentum the rest of the period and the rest of the game,” Elliott said.

T.J. Oshie made it 3-0 with a goal with 5:00 left, assisted by Steen and Backes, after a nice two-on-one breakaway and a perfect feed from Steen. The goal was Oshie’s 12th.

NOTES: Hitchcock moved into sole possession of fifth place on the NHL career wins list with his 685th victory. … Saturday’s game marked the first matchup against the Maple Leafs since the offseason trade that sent Roman Polak to Toronto for defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. … The attendance of 19,626 was the Blues’ eighth sellout of the season. … St. Louis improved to 24-4 when scoring three or more goals.

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com


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