Halak gave up three goals on 13 shots in the first period against
the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 28 and was pulled following the first
20 minutes. After missing several games while battling the flu,
Halak was back in the net for Tuesday night's game against the
Phoenix Coyotes — with far different results.
He stopped 20 of 21 shots, allowing only a power-play goal in the
final minute of the second period, and the Blues earned a 2-1 win
for their eighth victory in nine games.
Halak made two goals by Blues right winger T.J. Oshie stand up.
"This is a game where our goalie saved us," St. Louis coach Ken
Hitchcock said. "We wanted to play a different game than was out
there, and our goalie saved us. He was terrific from the start to
the finish. He made three big saves in the third period early, and
this was a game probably if you look at it that we didn't deserve to
Halak, coming off a shutout at Calgary in his last game on Jan. 9,
had to stop only 12 shots through the first 39 minutes Tuesday
before Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larrson scored with 48
seconds left in the second period. Blues center David Backes was
serving a minor boarding penalty at the time.
In the third period, the Blues needed Halak to step up, and he did.
The Coyotes outshot the Blues 8-2 in the period, and Halak was able
to kill off a power-play chance and the final 1:16 of the game when
Phoenix had an extra attacker after pulling goalie Mike Smith.
"The last two games, he's been outstanding," Hitchcock said of
Halak. "We needed him in both games, and he's made big save after
big save when the game has been on the line. He's gotten himself
healthy. We waited the extra three or four days so he was 100
percent. He's come back really rejuvenated. It's good to see."
Halak said the biggest key to playing well was getting healthy.
"I felt good tonight," Halak said. "The first two periods they
didn't really test me a lot, but I got some shots in the third and
I'm glad I was able to stay focused and stay in the game the whole
Oshie knows there will be nights when the Blues need their goalie,
whether it is Halak or Brian Elliott, to be the difference, as Halak
was against the Coyotes.
"He made some big saves for us," Oshie said. "That game could have
easily turned the other way. That's what we expect out of him every
night. They played hard, and fortunately Jaro held them off.
"It seems like it happens a lot when we're not playing our
best that Jaro or Ells steps up. We have a lot of confidence in
those two guys."
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The Coyotes knew Halak would be tough to beat.
"You have to earn it against him," Phoenix right winger Radim
Vrbata said. "We didn't play well enough to earn it, I guess, so
this is the result. We have to keep working and hopefully it
Oshie put the Blues ahead 9:54 into the game when he took a
perfect pass from defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and fired a shot
past Phoenix goalie Mike Smith.
With Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone serving a minor
cross-checking penalty, Oshie added his second goal 12:54 into
the second period. Oshie, who was helped by left winger Jaden
Schwartz screening Smith on the shot, said he thought the puck
deflected off Schwartz, but the goal was still credited to Oshie
after the game.
The loss was the fourth in a row by the Coyotes, their second in
two nights, their 12th in their past 15 games.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight at least," Phoenix
coach Dave Tippett said. "For a hard back-to-back, we were
competitive in the game. We did a lot of little things very
well, and we had opportunities to get points with great chances
in the third and we couldn't capitalize. Usually when you're in
a bit of a slump, you've got to earn your way out of it, and we
took steps in the right direction tonight."
NOTES: D Roman Polak returned to the Blues' lineup after missing
10 games because of a broken left ankle. ... St. Louis placed C
Maxim Lapierre on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and
recalled RW Dmitrij Jaskin from the AHL Chicago Wolves. ... The
Blues also were without C Vladimir Sobotka, who had the flu. ...
LW Alexander Steen, who has not played since Dec. 21 because of
a concussion, has resumed skating with the Blues, but there is
no timetable for his return. ... Phoenix came into the game as
the only team in the league without a short-handed goal this
season. ... The Coyotes return home to host the Vancouver
Canucks on Thursday. The Blues continue their three-game
homestand with a Thursday game against the Los Angeles Kings.
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