ST. LOUIS – The Flyers and the St. Louis Blues locked horns in a scoreless battle Thursday at Scottrade Center.
Up and down the ice they went, as Flyers understudy Ray Emery went skate-to-glove with Blues leading man Ryan Miller in the save department. Miller made 31 saves in regulation; Emery 28. It was 0-0 at the end of regulation and after the five-minute overtime.
But the Blues finally earned a 1-0 victory in the postgame-skills showdown known as a shootout.
In the SO, T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk lit the red lamp for the Blues, with Oshie dipsy-doodling all over the place before beating Emery and Shattenkirk scoring on a wrister to clinch it. (Alexander Steen didn’t get off a shot, losing control of the puck.) At the other end, Miller stopped Vincent Lecavalier with his right pad and gloved a salvo from Claude Giroux.
The Blues are 9-3 in SOs this season; the Flyers 3-7.
It was a quite different game than the teams’ meeting March 22 at Wells Fargo Center. In that one, the Flyers decisively beat the Blues 4-1 to extend their winning streak to five games; they’ve gone 1-2-1 since then. The Blues won three in a row after the loss in Philly before losing to Dallas on Saturday.
So, the Blues had revenge on their minds, and the Flyers wanted to show the victory on the 22nd wasn’t a fluke in any way.
The Flyers started strongly Thursday, controlling the play early on and making Miller earn his keep. Once the Blues got their sea legs, they tested Emery at the other end as Steve Mason got a much-needed day off to rest up for the Flyers’ game Thursday vs. Columbus.
Michael Raffl had the Flyers best’ scoring chances through two, but Miller stopped him twice. Emery also stood tall and benefited from the Blues’ hitting a couple of posts in the second period.
Penalty killing was solid with the Blues killing two and the Flyers one, including Giroux’s high-stick of Oshie in a center-ice collision with 1:24 to play.
The Flyers came out like gangbusters with odd-man rushes/situations in what seemed like every time down the ice and/or in the Blues’ zone. One time, Blues defensemen Alex Pietrangelo fell down and took out partner Jay Bouwmeester on the Blues’ side of center ice, giving the Flyers a two-on-none rush -- a two-on-none! Ryan Miller stopped the shot by Raffl on a pass from Giroux, a nightmare of a break for a goalie to see coming at him if there ever was one.
Another time, the Blues’ Patrik Berglund made like Jaromir Jagr and stickhandled around several Flyers in the Philly zone, then hit Brayden Shenn on the shin and the puck bounced out of the zone for another Flyers’ rush. The shots were 5-0 in favor of the Flyers before Jaden Schwartz got the first shot for the Blues 4:21 in.
Miller kept the Flyers off the board and helped the home team survive the visitors’ onslaught and take the crowd out of it just like home teams do all the time. Yep.
The Blues ended up outshooting the Flyers 11-10 in the first period, 11-5 after the Flyers’ strong start, and Emery stood tall. He made strong stops on Schwartz, Ryan Reaves and Maxim Lapierre among others. Both goalies were the stars of the first period, through two periods really with the Blues holding a 19-18 edge in shots.
The goalie’s best friend -- the post -- helped out Emery twice in the second period. Schwartz hit the pipe on a slapper from the slot less than 10 seconds into the second period. The end of the period provided the perfect bookend, as the Blues’ Pietrangelo also did the ping routine behind Emery in the final 15 seconds.
Referees Tim Peel and Don VanMassenhoven pretty much let the lads play without interfering with them. Only one foul was called in the first period -- the Blues’ Barret Jackman for delaying the game by clearing the puck out of play -- and the tone was set early in the second period when Andrew MacDonald and Alexander Steen went off for coincidental penalties for roughhousing in front of Emery at 1:28.
There would be no monkey business on this night. (The crowd later gave VanMassenhoven a cheer -- yes, they cheered the ref -- when the PA man announced that he was reffing his second-to-last game before retiring after 23 years.)
Raffl had a glorious scoring chance in both the first period and in the second. Miller stopped him on the two-on-none with Giroux in the first period, and Miller slid to his left to rob Raffl with his left pad on a pointblank salvo early in the second period.
He had yet another chance in the third, but Miller stoned him on a semi-break-in. Miller also stopped Jakub Voracek on a wrap-around in overtime.
D-man Erik Gustafsson returned to the Flyers’ lineup after being lost in the vortex known as March -- 14 games as a healthy scratch; he hadn’t played in an actual game since Feb 27, when he was minus-2 in a 7-3 loss vs. visiting San Jose. He replaced injured defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who stayed home in Philadelphia for the quickie in-and-out trip after taking a slapshot on the chops Sunday vs. Boston. Gustafsson started the game on a pairing with Luke Schenn.