ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues came into Friday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks well aware of what was at stake.
All they had to do was earn a victory to clinch a playoff spot and their 4-0 win also moved them into a tie for first place in the Central Division with the idle Dallas Stars.
Brian Elliott made certain that there was never any doubt that would happen.
“We talked about it before the game … you work so hard during the season to lock that up,” Elliott said. “These last few games, we’ve definitely done a great job of playing our style of hockey. We want to be playing (that way) going into the playoffs and to solidify it tonight in front of our home fans, it puts icing on the cake. We’ve still got work to do and it’s just a first step in a mountain climb here.”
Elliott posted his third consecutive shutout and the Blues got first-period goals from Kyle Brodziak and Robby Fabbri.
Elliott had to stop only 15 shots by the Canucks, their fewest in a game this season, as they lost for the seventh consecutive time (0-6-1). It is their longest losing streak in two years.
Elliott stopped all 71 shots he faced in the three games he has played since returning from a 10-game absence because of a knee injury. He has gone 9-0-1 in his last 11 starts, including the game he was injured and was not involved in the decision.
“I’m kind of the beneficiary on the back end with how they (his teammates) are playing and putting pucks in the net,” Elliott said. “These types of wins, when you keep a team to about 15 shots and not a lot of scoring chances, it’s not a lot of ‘me’, it’s a lot of ‘we.’ The guys did a great job tonight and the past two games as well.”
For coach Ken Hitchcock, clinching the playoff spot was significant even it has been considered a formality for a while because of all the injuries the team had to overcome during the season.
“This one feels different,” Hitchcock said. “This one was up for grabs. This was a real challenge. It was a challenge where without an experienced coaching staff this could have gone off the rails. You see it with other teams. I think our experience at knowing that two goals and even at times one goal has to get you points, and the way to manage the game and the players that way, really helped.
“We got points in games where we didn’t score; we got points in games where we weren’t the best team. We had frustrated the opposition. That’s experience, and that’s what I’m proud of. I’m proud of the players but really proud of the coaching staff.”
Brodziak scored on a 3-on-1 shorthanded break off a pass from Scotty Upshall and Fabbri scored his 18th of the year to put the Blues in front 2-0 in the first period.
The Blues also got goals from Carl Gunnarsson in the second period and Joel Edmundson, the first of his NHL career, in the third period. Paul Stastny and Troy Brouwer each earned two assists.
That was more than enough offense for Elliott, who earned his fourth shutout of the year, 25th with the Blues — extending his own franchise record — and 34th of his NHL career. It is the third time he has earned shutouts in three consecutive games, although the streak in 2012 included a 1-0 shootout loss.
Elliott also had three consecutive shutouts in 2013, tying the franchise record set by Greg Millen in 1988-89.
Two of his shutouts have come against the Canucks, who have been shut out four times during this losing streak in which they have been outscored 22-5.
Elliott had to make two saves on breakaways in the first period, and the Canucks’ Dan Hamhuis hit the post on a shot early in the second period.
“I thought we battled hard; we had made a couple more mistakes than we did in Nashville (Thursday night) but again we had some chances to get on the scoreboard but in the third it wasn’t good enough,” Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin said. “They kept coming at us and the game got away.”
Added Alexandre Burrows: “They made us look slow and not very good so we’ve got to learn from it and get better.”
NOTES: D Robert Bortuzzo, a healthy scratch in nine of the last 10 games, replaced D Jay Bouwmeester in the Blues’ lineup. Bouwmeester also will miss Saturday’s game at Washington because of an upper-body injury. … As insurance, the Blues recalled D Petteri Lindbohm from Chicago of the American Hockey League, but he was a healthy scratch. … Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said G Jake Allen will start against the Capitals. … Vancouver reassigned RW Alexandre Grenier to Utica of the AHL. He played in five games since being called up from the minors. … RW Derek Dorsett was back in the Canucks’ lineup after missing five games because of an upper-body injury. … The Canucks return home to host the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.