There’s good reason Ken Hitchcock remembers his first career coaching victory. After his Dallas Stars beat the Vancouver Canucks in 1996, Hitchcock said he lost the game puck in a wrestling match with goalie Allan Bester.
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The St. Louis Blues coach joked that becoming the 11th coach in NHL history to earn his 600th win, also over Vancouver, was a simple matter of longevity.
”It’s basically because I’m old,” the 61-year-old Hitchcock said after the offense-challenged Blues got just enough scoring for a 2-1 shootout victory on Tuesday night. ”If you last long and you’re old, you get this.”
Jay Bouwmeester tied the score midway through the third period, and Andy McDonald and Alex Steen scored in the shootout. The Blues are 4-1 in shootouts, with Steen perfect on four chances and McDonald going 3 for 3.
Brian Elliott made 21 saves in regulation and stopped Derek Roy and Alexandre Burrows in the shootout, solidifying the Blues’ chances in a tight Western Conference race. Bouwmeester’s goal was his first since joining the Blues in a trade-deadline deal.
”We’ve got to concentrate on every game as it comes and forget about the last one,” said captain David Backes, whose physical play led the Blues in the third. ”Even this one. We’ve got a tough two opponents coming back to back Thursday and Friday and I think we’ll like where we are if we put in efforts like we did tonight.”
Alexander Edler scored on a power play late in the second period for Vancouver. Cory Schneider made 35 saves in regulation but surrendered two goals on three shootout chances.
The Canucks played for the third time in four nights, all on the road, and had trouble generating much offense coming off a 5-2 victory at Nashville the previous night.
”It was exactly what I think everybody expected, a tough game, a hard-fought game,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. ”St. Louis came real hard at us and I thought for the most part we responded the way we were supposed to.”
Security was increased a day after the bombings at the Boston Marathon with all fans getting screened with a wand on their way into the Scottrade Center and bomb-sniffing dogs observed. A moment of silence was observed before the anthems.
Schneider, who is from Boston, said learning the news was ”almost surreal.”
”You don’t’ really realize the magnitude of it, you kind of see a headline and kind of think `Oh, what was that?’ and then you realize how it was an act of terror targeting civilians.
”It’s something that shouldn’t happen anywhere in the world but especially when it hits close to home it just scares the heck out of you.”
The Blues entered the game in seventh place in the Western Conference, one point ahead of Columbus and Detroit with seven to play, including six at home. They were 0 for 4 on the power play, extending a run of futility to 6 for 76.
The Blues had been outscored 7-0 over three games since Kevin Shattenkirk’s first-period goal in a 4-1 loss at Columbus on Friday night before Bouwmeester, a key acquisition on defense for the stretch, scored his first goal in eight games with St. Louis to tie it midway through the third.
Bouwmeester got his seventh of the season on a 2-on-1 rush at 10:50, driving the net on Schneider after collecting a puck lofted into the offensive zone past a Vancouver defender caught flat-footed. The play was set up by a pair of players in deep slumps with David Perron earning just his fourth point with no goals in 16 games and Alex Pietrangelo getting his fourth point in 17 games without a goal.
Hitchcock said Bouwmeester felt guilty that he might have been able to block the shot on the Canucks’ goal.
”I was kind of lucky it came down like that and I could get it that easy,” Bouwmeester said. ”It always fels good when you can score and we just need to find a way to win games.”
The Canucks were outshot 25-11 through two periods, but needed just one shot on a power play late in the second to take the lead and end a string of 25 straight penalty kills by St. Louis.
With Vladimir Sobotka off for hooking, Edler threaded a high drive through traffic past Brian Elliott that clanged off the far post. Both Sedins assisted on Edler’s seventh goal of the season, giving Henrik Sedin 11 points in his last seven games and Daniel Sedin nine in that same span.
Seconds earlier, Schneider denied Alex Steen on a 3-on-2 short-handed rush.
NOTES: Steen is among several Blues still struggling with one goal in 12 games. Patrik Berglund has one goal in 13 games, an empty-netter, and Chris Stewart has one goal in 12 games after scoring nine goals in eight games. … The Sedin twins each have four points in three games against the Blues this season.