Oilers shut out in St. Louis

Blues forward David Backes (left) takes a shot against Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin at the...

Blues forward David Backes (left) takes a shot against Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Miss., Jan. 19, 2012. (SARAH CONARD/Reuters)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:25 AM ET

ST. LOUIS - If the plan was to lull St. Louis to sleep, leave them so exhausted from pounding shots at them that they'd have nothing left for the third period -- it didn't work.

If the plan was to curl up, hide behind their goaltender and hope they didn't lose too badly -- mission accomplished.

The Blues only beat Nikolai Khabibulin 1-0 on Thursday. The official game sheet suggests it was close, but only because there isn't room to describe how St. Louis spent most of the night stepping over 18 Oilers lying in fetal positions.

"It was a full-on assault," said defenceman Andy Sutton, making no attempt to sugarcoat the debacle. "The first 15 or 16 minutes we were defending the whole time."

It went much the way everyone expected when the team with the NHL's best home record (19-3-3) took on a 29th place club missing six of its best guys.

Badly.

But while everyone expected St. Louis to be better, few expected the ridiculous scene that played out in the first period, with St. Louis moving into Edmonton end of the ice like it was an Occupy Khabibulin protest. They spent the entire frame there, outshooting them 18-0 in the first eight minutes.

"The only player to show up in the first period was our goaltender," said defenceman Theo Peckham. "When our goalie, the oldest player on the team, is working his butt off, we need to score some goals."

They couldn't even get shots. The Oilers had four in the first, seven in the second and four in the third. The Blues finished with 38.

"We knew we'd have to weather the storm, but we didn't know the storm would be 20 minutes," said head coach Tom Renney. "We never really felt overwhelmed -- we tried to deal with it as best we could."

Which is to say, not very well.

"For some reason it looked like we were a step behind from the start of the game," said Khabibulin, who was dropping understatements like carpet bombs in the post-game interview. "I think it's fair to say we got out-played in the first period. But we survived it."

He survived it. The rest of them didn't go anything.

"We did a lot of absorbing tonight, to say the least," said Sutton. "Khabby gave us a chance in a game where we didn't have much going."

The Blues, 7-0-1 with four shutouts in their last eight games, have been great. The Oilers? Not so much. You have to count back to Nov. 22 (26 long games) to get seven wins. It looked like a father-son game, if the sons had a really awesome goalie.

"Those are heavy bodies, they were hard on the forecheck and on top of our guys," said Sutton. "We didn't really weather it that well. I don't like the way we handled the pressure, I don't like the way we broke out. Thanks goodness for Khabby in there."

But it's not how many you shoot, it's how many you score and the Blues didn't score any in the first 40 minutes.

Neither did the Oilers, which goes without saying, but nevertheless they were still alive.

They responded with four shots in the third.

"We were having troubles getting out of our own end," said Jordan Eberle, in his first game back from a sprained knee. "If you don't shoot you're not going to score and if you don't score you're not going to have a chance to win hockey games. It's as simple as that. They're a good team over there, but we have to be able to make plays in our own end to get the puck out."

At 14:46, they were dead. Alex Pietrangelo finally put something in the back of the net for all the offence St. Louis would need.

"We didn't create much," said Khabibulin.

Nope. On this night 1-0 would be far too much to overcome.

"You're going to have to score a goal," said Peckham. "To win a game."

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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