Alex Pietrangelo had two goals in the 3-0 victory for St. Louis over the San Jose Sharks, but the real story is goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who has gone from fighting for playing time to tying the NHL's shutout leaders.
After seeing his job as the starter taken away following a series of shaky performances, the Slovakian netminder was one of the greatest beneficiaries of the new systems put into place by head coach Ken Hitchcock.
After slowly improving through the new year, Halak has reclaimed the starting job in no small part because of four shutout performances since mid-January.
After meeting the San Jose Sharks tonight at the Scottrade Center, that number is now five.
Though San Jose certainly put up a spirited effort vs. the Blues, that same energy also worked into the hands of the home team. The Sharks repeatedly found themselves in penalty trouble, including an early two-man deficit with both Dan Boyle and Brent Burns in the box, robbing San Jose of two of their best defensemen.
As the two man advantage wound down, Alex Pietrangelo corralled the puck along the San Jose blue line, found a lane through the penalty kill, and unleashed a shot past Antti Niemi to give the Blues all the scoring they would need.
That said, the Blues continued to look for opportunities, and their play opened another two-man advantage late in the second period when Ryan Clowe took an initial infraction for tripping Kris Russell, and Brad Winchester managed to clip Roman Polak with an elbow before San Jose could touch up on the delayed call.
With Pietrangelo firing another shot from the top of the zone, Niemi made a blocker save, but David Perron knocked the puck out of mid air and into the back of the net to pad the St. Louis lead.
With the shutout bid holding well into the third period despite San Jose finally receiving two power plays of their own, the Sharks called Niemi to the bench, looking less for victory and more to at least ruin the shutout bid with their extra attacker.
After another save by Halak, the puck kicked across the ice to Alex Pietrangelo, and the defenseman sailed the puck down the length of the ice for his second goal of the evening with six seconds left in regulation.
Halak made 25 saves in his performance, and his sixth shutout of the season tied him for the NHL lead. With the Blues set to take on the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, it seems quite possible that he will have the opportunity to break the three way tie.