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Blues regain their continuity in defeating Rangers

NEW YORK -- New York native Kevin Shattenkirk played his first professional game at the newly refurbished Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. He made it a memorable debut with his eighth goal of the season, the game-winner in the St. Louis Blues' 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers.

Shattenkirk's power-play goal 3 minutes, 9 seconds into the third period was the difference as the Blues were successful in eliminating the aftertaste of a 7-1 thumping by the New Jersey Devils two days earlier.

Inside the "new" Garden, which recently received $1 billion in upgrades, the Blues also looked renovated. They were outshot 35-25 by the Rangers, but their continuity was back, their penalty-killing unit was solid and Jaroslav Halak sealed up the crease again after the Devils' touchdown on Tuesday.

"Huge change," Shattenkirk said. "We weren't the team that we normally are on Tuesday, and we didn't handle things well when we faced adversity. I think that was something that we focused on tonight. We kept it simple. We like winning these 2-1 games, when we come out of a game like against the Devils. Now we get to go in and make this a really good road trip."

The Blues were playing Thursday with Vladimir Tarasenko and Maxim Lapierre in the lineup, as Tarasenko returned from an illness and Lapierre from a lower-body injury. To make room, the team made Derek Roy a healthy scratch and

re-assigned Adam Cracknell to the American Hockey League.

New York had the upper-hand early Thursday, but it was the Blues who struck first, with Alexander Steen picking up his 26th goal of the season before leaving later with a lower-body injury.

Jaden Schwartz and David Backes played a game of give-and-go with the puck before Schwartz fired it on net. Steen was standing in front, in the right place, as the pass went off his left skate and through Henrik Lundqvist for a 1-0 lead.

The Blues' penalty-killing group has struggled of late, giving up five goals on its opponents' last 13 opportunities, including three by New Jersey on Tuesday. But the PK stood tall against New York in many critical situations.

The unit was 3-for-3 Thursday against the Rangers' No. 6-ranked power play, starting with a first-period kill that maintained the team's 1-0 lead after a delay-of-game penalty by Barret Jackman.

"After giving up three out of four in Jersey, we knew we didn't do a good job out there," said Halak, who faced only shot on the power play Thursday as the Blues blocked 17 shots. "I think tonight we did a really good job skating and being in a good position all the time."

The Blues held onto their lead through much of the second period, but with about eight minutes to go, Steen went down in the corner and was slow to stand up. He appeared to jam his right foot into the crease of the boards, and getting up slowly, he rested on the bench briefly.

Steen attempted to skate it off, putting limited pressure on his right leg. He stayed in the game briefly, but with 2:57 left in the second period, he headed for the locker room and didn't return.

"He's day-to-day, lower-body (injury)," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We'll see where he is in a day or so. He'll be back."

That was the start of a finish to the period that did not fall in the Blues' favor.

After Steen departed, New York picked up its goal from noted Blues' killer, Rick Nash. Nash beat Halak with a shot from the left circle over the goaltender's glove for a 1-1 tie with 1:43 left in the middle frame.

It marked the 21st goal and 40th point in the 50th career game for the longtime Columbus Blue Jackets star against the Blues.

A penalty by Ian Cole -- concealing the puck with his hand -- could have made matters worse. But once again the Blues' PK unit nullified a Rangers' power play, one that carried over into the third period.

The momentum swung to the Blues, and when Nash went off for slashing three minutes into the final period, Shattenkirk put the Blues back ahead 2-1 with his fifth power-play goal of the season.

Backes won the ensuing face-off, moving the puck to Alex Pietrangelo. It wound up on the stick of Shattenkirk, who with Backes screening ripped a shot past Lundqvist.

"They are pretty good getting in front and creating chances like that where you have to fight really hard to pick shots up," Lundqvist said.

It was the ninth time this season on 42 power-play goals in which the Blues have scored within the first 10 seconds of start of the man-advantage.

Shattenkirk believed the puck went in off Backes' leg, but it was credited to him, bringing a loud cheer from his section of fans at the Garden.

"Especially after it was announced, you could hear a bunch of people whistling and cheering," said Shattenkirk, who estimated that he had 70 friends and family in attendance. "It was really cool because you know they're out there. You hear the silence of the Rangers' fans and then you hear some of your fans cheering ... it's a nice thing on the road."

The Blues had one more power-play to erase, which they did, holding on for a one-goal win. They'll take it, moving to 2-1 on a four-game road trip that ends Saturday against the New Islanders.

(c)2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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