ST. LOUIS – All it took for Brian Elliott to regain his form was a simple two-game trip to the minors in late March.
Elliott continued to sizzle in the nets on Friday night, making 21 saves to help the St. Louis Blues to their ninth win in the last 11 games with a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars.
Ryan Reaves and Chris Stewart scored for the Blues, who are in sixth in the Western Conference with 54 points—one behind Vancouver, Los Angeles and San Jose, who are tied for third.
Antoine Roussel scored for Dallas, which came in with six victories in its last seven games. The Stars are tied with Detroit for ninth place in the West with 47 points, two behind Columbus, which holds the final playoff spot.
Elliott, who recorded his league-leading eighth triumph in April, won for the sixth time in his last seven games and improved to 8-1 with a 1.01 goals against average and a .960 save percentage since a two-game stint with Peoria of the AHL.
“That seems so in the past,” Elliott said. “Right now, I’m just happy to look forward.”
Elliott has been virtually unbeatable since the short conditioning trip, which came after he sat out 10 consecutive games following a rough stretch.
“It’s not really about me, but the guys in front of me,” Elliott said. “They’re the ones doing a great job. They’re blocking shots and doing what it takes to get the W’s.”
The Blues scored only seven goals in their previous seven games but posted a 5-2 mark thanks to the play of Elliott, who stopped 74 of 77 shots in winning three 2-1 games over the last four days. Elliott (11-7-1) has not allowed a goal in 17 of his last 22 periods.
Elliott struggled in early March giving up a total of five goals on 35 shots in games against Dallas and Los Angeles.
But he has bounced back at the right time.
“I had confidence in him all year,” Reaves said. “He hit a rough part, but every hockey player goes through that. He’s bounced back unbelievably for us and he’s going to keep doing it.”
St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock eventually knew that Elliott would regain his form of last season, when he led the NHL in goals against average (1.56) and save percentage (.940).
“For someone to swallow their pride and go down and get your game organized, that’s a great story,” Hitchcock said. “To me, it’s like a baseball pitcher going down to Triple-A, finding it, and then returning to have a heck of a season.”
St. Louis jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals in the first two periods and then rode Elliott down the stretch. He stopped nine of 10 shots in the final period.
Stewart broke a seven-game drought on the power play midway through the first period, flicking in the rebound of a shot by Alex Pietrangelo. St. Louis had failed in its previous 18 power-play attempts.
Reaves pushed the lead to 2-0 with his second goal of the season in the second period. He converted from close range off a rebound of a shot by Chris Porter. Reeves, who is primarily known for his aggressive play, has seven goals in 127 career games.
“Usually I’m into the physical aspect trying to get the crowd and the boys into it.” Reaves said. “When I can get a goal and do something like this, it’s a great feeling.”
Roussel brought the Stars to 2-1 at 4:37 of the third period when he tipped in a shot by Stephane Robidas.
Elliott, who won five in a row earlier in the month, made a pair of key saves in the final eight minutes.
Kari Lehtonen, making his second start since missing three games with a groin injury, stopped 18 shots for the Stars, who had scored 27 goals in their previous seven games.
The Stars remain in the playoff chase with four games left.
“We just have to keep battling and play well the next game,” Lehtonen said. “We’re still in this – we just have to play a little better.”
The Stars put pressure on in the third period after six shots each in the first two periods.
“I thought we played hard,” Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We made a big push in the third to get some offence against a stingy team. We just fell a little short.”
The highlight of the night for both teams may have come in the second period when news of the capture of the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing was announced to the sellout crowd. The bulletin was followed by chants of “USA! USA!”
“I was almost going to cheer, too,” Roussel said. “That was great from the crowd. It was tough for Boston. And we don’t want that to happen to anybody.”
Notes: Dallas RW Alex Chiasson and LW Lane MacDermid missed the game with upper-body injuries. Both are day-to-day. … Blues coach Ken Hitchcock spent parts of seven seasons with the Stars, guiding them to five straight 100-point campaigns from 1996-2001. … The Stars last reached the playoffs in 2007-2008. … Blues G Jaroslav Halak missed the last 10 games with a groin injury.