Brian Elliott was signed as a free agent this summer to be the backup goalie for the St. Louis Blues. He has turned out to be much more.
Elliot made 25 saves to lead the Blues to a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night. The win was Elliott’s ninth in his last 10 games and 13th in 15 tries overall. Along the way, he lowered his NHL-leading goals-against average to 1.43 and increased his league-best save percentage to .950.
After his team gave Elliott a quick two-goal lead, Elliott made it stand up.
”We’ve been playing well with leads,” Elliott said. ”We took the lead, put it in our back pocket and played the rest of the game. I don’t think we played their game. We kept taking it to them.”
Although he has played as well as any goalie in the league, Elliott has stayed fresh. Elliott splits time with the Blues’ big acquisition from the previous offseason, Jaroslav Halak. In 15 games, Halak is 5-7-3, but he has a 2.37 goals-against average.
It’s a testament to the team,” Elliott said. ”They’re blocking shots I can’t see and ones that I can, there’s no second opportunities and they’re clearing it out.
”That’s huge for a goalie. I think both Jaro and myself can say thanks to the guys in front of us because it makes it a lot easier on us.”
The Blues (7-0-1) have 15 of a possible 16 points against Eastern Conference foes this season. St. Louis also has beaten up the Rangers over the past 10 years, going 9-1-3 since 2000-01.
The loss was just the eighth for the Rangers in regulation.
”We weren’t good. They were,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. ”I can’t make it any (more) simplified. Tonight, they were the better team.”
Steen’s goal put him in double digits with 10. Patrik Berglund, David Perron and Jami Langenbrunner also scored for the Blues, who have points in 14 of their last 16 games.
”I thought we really did a lot of good things today,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. ”We moved the puck, our exits were as good as it’s been all year. We were able to get out of our zone and not get hemmed in. We were able to sustain a good quality game from start to finish.”
Michael Del Zotto scored for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves.
”It was tough,” Lundqvist said. ”I felt pretty sharp, but there were a couple of tough bounces. They’re a good team. They play very solid.”
Given Elliott’s stinginess, the Rangers put themselves in a big hole by allowing two goals in the first 11:03.
Berglund opened the scoring at 7:06 when he walked out from the corner and beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot from the right circle. Just 3:57 later, Perron tipped home Carlo Colaiacovo’s shot from the left point, marking the first time the Blues had scored two goals in the first period since Oct. 22, a span of 21 games.
”The way their goaltender’s playing, you obviously don’t want to go down 2-0,” New York’s Brad Richards said. ”It’s going to be a tough one to come back from.”
The Blues outshot the Rangers 13-5 in the second period, but New York got the only goal when Del Zotto beat Elliott with a backhander at 16:18 to make it 2-1.
Steen gave St. Louis its two-goal lead back when he scored 1:01 into the third period. Langenbrunner then scored into an empty net with 2:17 left to seal it.
Notes: Colaiacovo’s next assist will be his 100th. … The Blues and the Red Wings are the only teams that Lundqvist has failed to beat in his career. He’s 0-3-0 against St. Louis. … St. Louis is 13-0-0 when it scores three or more goals. … The game marked only the 11th time in 29 games an opponent has scored more than two goals against New York.