Blues beat Blackhawks 3-0 in Hitchcock’s debut
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jaroslav Halak shrugged off his shaky start to the season, making 29 saves as the St. Louis Blues won coach Ken Hitchcock’s debut with a 3-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.
Chris Stewart scored on the power play to end a 10-game goal drought. Vladimir Sobotka and T.J. Oshie also scored and Barret Jackman had two assists for the Blues, whose 6-7 start cost coach Davis Payne his job.
Stewart’s deflection in the second period was only the fourth goal in 41 power-play opportunities for St. Louis, which entered as the NHL’s worst team with the man advantage.
At his introductory news conference Monday morning, Hitchcock said it would take only one practice to fix the power play.
Corey Crawford made 20 saves for Central Division-leading Chicago, which has lost three in a row. The Blackhawks were blanked for the second time.
The 59-year-old Hitchcock was the third straight Blues coach to face the Blackhawks in his first game at home. The first to win, too, after Payne lost 6-3 in 2010 and Andy Murray fell 3-2 in 2006.
Halak entered 1-6 with a 3.35 goals-against average and has been splitting time with backup goalie Brian Elliott. Halak was especially strong during several scrambles in front of the net, earning his first shutout since last season’s finale against Nashville.
Stewart, who finished last season with 15 goals in the last 28 games, scored his third of the season and first since Oct. 13 for a 2-0 lead at 1:23 of the second. Stewart, who was planted in the slot to redirect a feed from Oshie, totaled just one assist during his slump.
The Blues blunted a late charge by the Blackhawks when Oshie scored his third goal in three games on an innocent-looking shot from the left circle at 13:54.
Sobotka drove to the net and wedged the puck past Crawford midway through the first period for his first goal since March 30. He has four points in the last four games.
NOTES: The Blues paid tribute to Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev, who died in the plane crash that wiped out a Russian KHL team, in a pregame ceremony attended by Korolev’s wife and two daughters along with several former teammates, including Brett Hull. The Blues wore patches with the No. 38, worn by both Demitra and Korolev, and placed a mural honoring Demitra in the lower bowl concourse. ... Blues forward Scott Nichol (upper body) was sidelined in the first period. ... Hitchcock coached his 1,043rd game, sixth-most on the active list. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is third with 1,096. ... The attendance of 19,150 was the Blues’ 46th sellout in a row.