Brad Marchand scored a pair of goals and goaltender Tim Thomas stopped 30 of 32 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night at Scottrade Center. Boston improved its road record to 18-10-0, while St. Louis' home mark dropped to a still impressive 26-4-4.
It was a big win for the Bruins, who had gone 3-6-0 in their previous nine contests, as the victory allowed them to keep a two-point lead over the suddenly blistering-hot Ottawa Senators in the race for the Northeast Division title.
The Blues remained in the fourth slot in the Western Conference, as they continue to trail the idle Detroit Red Wings by five points.
Boston had a couple of early quality scoring opportunities.
Another would come as the result of a Blues miscue, when defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk attempted to stickhandle around Marchand at the St. Louis blue line, but the forward stripped the puck. Marchand moved into the slot and used the only man back, T.J. Oshie, as a screen and snapped a shot past Elliott at the 2:29 mark.
The visitors would strike again on a sequence that began with a heavy hit by Dennis Seidenberg on Kris Russell behind the Blues' net. The puck ended up on the stick of Joe Corvo at the point, and the defenseman's shot was deflected on the way to the net by Milan Lucic and past Elliott for the rugged winger's 21st goal of the year to give Boston a 2-0 lead just 6:19 into the contest.
The Blues would get a contribution from the fourth line when B.J. Crombeen, who fought Adam McQuaid earlier in the game, picked up the rebound of a Ryan Reaves redirection of a Shattenkirk shot from the right wing boards. Crombeen whirled and fired a shot past Thomas for just his second goal of the year to tie the game at 2-2 with 7:45 remaining in the opening stanza.
Kelly finally got his chance to celebrate late in the frame, as he potted a Lucic rebound behind Elliott for his 15th goal of the season with only 40 seconds left to send the Bruins to the dressing room at the first intermission with a 3-2 lead.
The wild first period was very uncharacteristic of two of the stingiest defensive clubs in the NHL -- St. Louis had the least amount of goals yielded in the league heading into the contest (117), and Boston was fourth (132) -- as the teams combined for five goals on just 16 shots-on-goal in the opening stanza (10-6 Blues).
The middle stanza proved more true to the tight-checking, outstanding goaltending of the squads, although the Bruins came close to extending the margin of their lead early in the period. Johnny Boychuk sent a shot from the right point that double-deflected over Elliott's right shoulder and appeared to catch the top-shelf netting. Upon video review at the next stoppage of play, however, the overhead cameras showed the puck hit the crossbar, then the post to Elliott's right and stayed out.
Both netminders were able to stop each shot they faced in the second period, with Thomas being tested 14 times and Elliott making four saves.
Marchand provided the third period with its only goal, as he took a Tyler Seguin pass and skated in alone on Elliott, beating him with a forehand-backhand move in which he slid the puck through the netminder's gaping five-hole for his second marker of the night and 21st of the year to ice the game at 4-2 at 9:14.
St. Louis had not allowed more than three goals in 27 consecutive games, dating back to a 6-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Dec. 18. After falling 3-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, the Blues have now lost two consecutive games in regulation for the first time since late October.
Elliott has been in net for the last two St. Louis losses. After making just 15 saves against the Bruins, his record fell to 20-7-2, while Thomas improved to 25-12-0.