Leafs, Blues have tightened up since last clash (Feb 09, 2017)
TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs got their defense in order Tuesday night with a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars.
The St. Louis Blues have done even better defensively. They defeated the Senators on Tuesday 6-0 in Ottawa, their second straight shutout on the road, following the over the 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. The Blues have not allowed a goal in the past 120 minutes and 18 seconds.
The Blues beat the Maple Leafs 5-1 last Thursday in Mike Yeo's first game as head coach of St. Louis after taking over from Ken Hitchcock and the teams will have a rematch Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre.
The game in St. Louis was the second of a four-game stretch in which the Maple Leafs allowed a total of 22 goals, winning one of them 6-5 over the Boston Bruins.
After losing Monday 6-5 in overtime to the New York Islanders, the Leafs played a tighter game against the Stars and had 39 saves from backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney. The Stars had defeated the Maple Leafs 6-3 in Dallas last week.
"I thought we had lots of good players (Tuesday)," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "Obviously, (McElhinney) was good in net, made some big saves. I thought we were way harder around our net and in our zone than we were (Nonday) night where we were light in that area.
"You've got to give the guys credit on a back-to-back, they competed hard in that area. I thought our D in general was solid (Tuesday). It was positive. Dallas played way better than the last time we played them even though they thumped us last time. They were way more organized and they were more determined this time than they were last time. It was a better game."
"Just not getting ahead of ourselves, not cheating for offense," said rookie Auston Matthews, who scored his team-leading 25th goal of the season on Tuesday. "Just making sure we're under the puck, still in good position. ... I think we did (Tuesday) for the most part."
Frederik Andersen likely will return to the nets Thursday against St. Louis.
The Blues used both goaltenders in their back-to-back shutouts. Carter Hutton earned his third shutout of the season in Philadelphia and Jake Allen got his second shutout of the season in Ottawa.
"I was really impressed with everyone's effort (Tuesday), back to back, guys didn't look like they lacked any energy or spirit," Allen said. "We played a complete game."
The Blues had a 3.76 goals-against average in their 17 road games of the season, winning five. They have allowed 11 goals (a1.57 goals-against average) in winning five of their past seven road games, including four shutouts.
Hitchcock was the coach for the first two of the four shutouts, Yeo coached the two shutouts this week.
"It's two games," Yeo said. "This was an opportunity for us to build off the last game and the attitude from the drop of the puck was outstanding. Every guy, from the goaltender on out, it was a real solid team effort. I thought our execution was real strong (Tuesday) against a team that checks really well. It allowed us to get to the offensive zone and get on the attack a little bit more than what we had in the previous couple of games. Obviously, a good result (Tuesday) and now we've got to get ready for a new test on Thursday."
"I think we're taking care of our end," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "The last few games, we've really had an emphasis on getting the puck up as quickly as we can. As a team, the quicker we get out of our end, it's going to be tougher for them to score outside of our blue line. It just seems like we're not letting teams occupy the zone too often and that's resulting in more O-zone time and less opportunity for them."