Elliott helps Blues earn franchise-record 52nd victory
ST. LOUIS — Brian Elliott was oh so close to another shutout. He settled for another win.
Elliott stopped 24 shots, and the St. Louis Blues beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 for their franchise-record 52nd victory.
"Two points is a lot more valuable than the ‘SO’ on the scoresheet," Elliott said.
Maxim Lapierre and Brenden Morrow scored as St. Louis improved to 14-2-0 in their last 16 games against Buffalo. The franchise’s previous record for wins in a season belonged to the 1999-2000 Blues, who won 51 games on their way to their last Presidents’ Trophy.
Elliott improved to 18-5-2 overall and 10-1 at home this season. He was coming off a 1-0 win at Pittsburgh when he had 33 stops.
St. Louis (52-17-7) also moved into a tie with Boston for the most points in the league with 111. The Bruins lost 4-3 to Toronto in overtime.
"It’s in back of our minds a little bit," Elliott said about the Presidents’ Trophy. "We definitely want to be the best. It’s all about keeping your head down and working and carrying that momentum into the playoffs."
Buffalo has the worst record in hockey at 21-46-9.
"It was a trap game for us," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "You want the game to be easier. We’re trying to get through the game without putting much investment into it and you end up with games like this.
"This is when you need your goalie. I’ve been around Brian for three years. This is the best I’ve ever seen him play. He’s playing terrific."
Lapierre scored his eighth goal of the season at 1:59 of the second period, giving St. Louis a 1-0 lead. Parked in the slot, Lapierre took a pass from Ryan Reaves and sent a wrist shot past Buffalo goalie Nathan Lieuwen, who was making his sixth career start.
It was Lapierre’s first goal in 23 games. It was the first point by Reaves in 26 games.
"If we’re honest with ourselves, we can play way better," Lapierre said. "There’s no way we’re happy with our effort tonight. We’re going to have to fix it."
St. Louis added its second goal at 18:08 of the third period. Morrow stuffed in a loose rebound for his 13th of the season.
"We can definitely look at our mistakes and see where we can get better," Lieuwen said. "We could have definitely taken this game to overtime and given them a run for their money. They’re really good, especially in front of the net. They’re a very good team."
Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson cut the Blues’ lead to 2-1 with his 18th goal at 19:04. He took a pass from Tyler Ennis and one-timed it past Elliott.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan was impressed with Elliott’s play.
"We had a number of chances and good teams don’t rely on just one goaltender," Nolan said. "They have a couple and Elliot stood tall when he needed to be there and he made some key saves when he needed to. He was very good."
Ryan Miller, St. Louis’ No. 1 goalie, got the night off after shutting out Philadelphia on Tuesday. Miller and Steve Ott, who was Buffalo’s captain, came to St. Louis on March 1 in a trade that sent goaltender Jaroslav Halak and forward Chris Stewart to the Sabres.
Buffalo then dealt Halak to Washington. Stewart played two games with the Sabres before sustaining a lower-body injury that likely will keep him out for the remainder of the season.
This was Buffalo’s only trip to St. Louis this season. The Blues beat the Sabres 4-1 in Buffalo on Nov. 19.
Buffalo fell to 1-13-0 against the Central Division this season.
NOTES: Buffalo LW Marcus Foligno got hurt less than two minutes into the first period and did not return. Nolan said after the game that Foligno is "going to be out for probably the rest of the year." … Blues LW Alexander Steen and D Barret Jackman sat out. Steen has an upper-body injury while Jackman has a lower-body injury. They are day to day. … Sitting out for Buffalo was D Tyler Myers, and G Michal Neuvirth, both with lower-body injuries. … Actor Lou Ferrigno watched the game and when the scoreboard showed a picture of the Incredible Hulk, it split the screen and Ferrigno appeared. He flexed his muscles to draw cheers from the fans.