ANAHEIM, Calif. — The St. Louis Blues sent a message to the Western Conference Friday night when they acquired Steve Ott and Ryan Miller in a trade with the Sabres.
But before the trade could take effect, the Ducks sent the Blues a message of their own with a 1-0 win at the Honda Center: Catch them if you can, the Ducks are still the best team in the league.
"They pretty much gave themselves a good chance to be a contender for the Cup," said Ducks’ goalie Jonas Hiller. "It makes them a real dangerous team. But I think at the same time, we’ve proven we can play with them."
The win, which was Bruce Boudreau’s 300th career victory, gave the Ducks a sweep of the Blues for the season and it was the first time they shut out St. Louis on home ice since 2006. There wasn’t much room for error but a physical defense and the net-minding of Hiller led to his league-leading fifth shutout of the season. He had some help in the form of 27 blocked shots from a defense that matched a gritty team hit-for-hit.
"That’s how you win – you pay the price," Boudreau said. "If you don’t block shots in today’s game, then you’re not going to be successful. We had guys that did a great job blocking shots."
"Everybody was sacrificing their bodies tonight," Hiller said. "The guys in front of me had more blocked shots than I had saves."
With Jaroslav Halak on his way up to Buffalo in the goalie trade, Brian Elliott found himself as the only goalie on the roster. The Blues dressed Ducks’ locker room attendant Jeff Tyni in an emergency call-up, much like the Sabres dressed a former video coordinator in place of Miller. Tyni did not play and Elliott stopped 18 of 19 shots faced.
The top line produced early in the first period when Saku Koivu picked off an errant pass in the Blues’ zone and found Andrew Cogliano on a breakaway. Cogliano backhanded it around Elliott for the only goal of the game.
It was his 18th goal of the season, tying his career-high.
"(The Blues) don’t give you a lot on their end because they’re so big and strong, when you get turnovers you have to capitalize and I was lucky to do that," Cogliano said.
Corey Perry nearly had an identical goal off of a turnover a few minutes later but missed the net. From there, the game grew increasingly physical and few chances were had for either team.
"They’re a tough team to play against," Hiller said. "They have big guys and it was quite a battle for all three periods. We didn’t give them too much, especially in front of the net."
The win gave the Ducks a five-point cushion over both the Blues and the Blackhawks in the Western Conference and with San Jose losing to Buffalo earlier in the day, a seven-point lead in the Pacific Divison.
The cushion is still far from comfortable. With the trade deadline rapidly approaching the West could get wild.
"It’s the start of an exciting five days, I’m sure," Boudreau said.