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Blues prevent Penguins' playoff berth with shutout

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Entering this afternoon’s contest with the St. Louis Blues, the Pittsburgh Penguins had an opportunity to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a victory over St. Louis and if the New Jersey Devils defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs later tonight. Other scenarios were a win over the Blues plus losses by the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Well, the Blues put a stop to that right away for the time being with a 1-0 triumph over the Penguins in a goaltending duel between Brian Elliott and Marc-Andre Fleury.

The first period had a similar look and feel to it as the opening period between the Penguins and Lightning the afternoon before. The only real contrast between the two was all the power play opportunities the Penguins had against the Blues. Pittsburgh had three chances with the man-advantage with all of them coming after the halfway point of the period. The period came to a close with the score tied at zero, but the Penguins would have a two-man advantage to begin the second period after a hooking penalty on T.J. Oshie and a tripping penalty on Jaden Schwartz. Not only was the score tied, but so was the shots as both teams were gridlocked at ten shots apiece.

The second period saw the intensity pick up a bit between the two sides. Around the thirteen minute mark, Craig Adams laid a hit into Ryan Reeves. Maxim Lapierre took exception to Adams’ clean hit and made an attempt to drop the gloves with the Harvard grad. What followed was basically a hugfest, and Lapierre was assessed minors for charging and roughing while Adams only got a lone roughing minor. The Penguins were unable to take advantage of the power play, and the period ended with the score still tied at zero. Unlike the first period, the Penguins led in shots, 13-8.

With Marc-Andre Fleury and Brian Elliott being brick walls in goal, something had to give going into the final period. That moment came about eleven minutes into the frame. Evgeni Malkin took a hi-sticking penalty against David Backes to put the Blues on the power play. The Penguins killed off the penalty, but at that same moment in time, Backes tipped an Alex Steen shot from the slot past Fleury to put St. Louis ahead, 1-0. Pittsburgh would get another power play chance with about five minutes remaining, but no dice. Brian Elliott held the fort the rest of the way, and prevented the Blues from losing three straight games for the first time this season.

The Penguins continue their homestand against Western Conference opponents when the Phoenix Coyotes venture into Pittsburgh on Tuesday night (7:00 pm/et; Root Sports, FS-Arizona).

Notes:

-Both teams were a combined 0-for-7 on the power play.

-Evgeni Malkin had a game-high seven shots, and probably could’ve scored on a few of them if Brian Elliott wasn’t on top of his game.

-A Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Penguins and Blues would be something to see.

-In tune with the March Madness season, Sidney Crosby chose Michigan St. to win the NCAA Tournament, so there’s that.

Three stars:

1. STL G Brian Elliott (33 saves, 1.000 save %)

2. STL C David Backes (1G)

3. PIT G Marc-Andre Fleury (26 saves, .963 save %)

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