ST. LOUIS The goalie tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott were big reasons why the St. Louis Blues won the Central Division and earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Fittingly, the two may have teamed Saturday to save the Blues' season.
Halak stopped 12 shots before leaving with a lower-body injury and Elliott came off the bench to make 17 saves to help the Blues even their Western Conference quarterfinals series at 1-1 with a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks at Scottrade Center.
After combining to tie the modern day NHL record with 15 shutouts in the regular season, Halak started strong and Elliott finished even better to get the Blues back in the series before it heads to San Jose for Game 3 on Monday.
"It just shows what they've been doing all year," said defenseman Barret Jackman, who collided with Halak early in the second period. "Halak was great in the beginning and unfortunately I ran into him. Who knows what the injury is but (Elliott) came in and played solid just like he has all year."
The Blues took a 1-0 lead barely a minute into the game when the Sharks' Marc-Edouard Vlasic knocked a bouncing puck into his own net. And given the early advantage, Halak responded by stopping all 10 shots in a first period dominated by San Jose.
But Halak was forced from the game early in the second period after Jackman collided with him on the side of the net, sending the netminder sprawling to the ground in pain. Halak eventually got back on his feet but skated off the ice after deciding he wasn't fit to continue.
So the Blues called on arguably the best backup goalie in playoff history, handing things over to the NHL's regular season leader in goals-against average at 1.56 and save percentage at .940.
Elliott continued Halak's strong start, robbing Logan Couture on a wraparound attempt with a minute left in the second period with a great pad save at the left post. He made eight saves in the second period and nine in the third, preserving the Blues' first playoff victory in more than eight years.
"You never want to see anybody get hurt, especially Jaro who is a big part of our team," Elliott said. "But I just wanted to get in there and try to feel good and make a couple stops right off the bat and get into the game. The guys did a great job. I didn't have a lot of work in the second, which allowed me to slide into the game really unnoticed."
The pair of goalies teamed to win the Jennings Trophy in the regular season, given to the team who allows the fewest number of goals. Halak and Elliott allowed just 165, one off the modern-day NHL record of 164 goals.
They also became the first set of teammates to each record six shutouts in the same season. Halak was named the starter for the playoffs after ranking fifth in the NHL with a 1.97 goals-against average and winning a career-high eight consecutive decisions earlier this year.
Elliott, who set franchise records with nine shutouts and a shutout streak of 241:33 during the regular season, continued his strong play in the third period with a great save on Joe Paveleski just three minutes in.
The capacity crowd of 19,500 began to chant, "Elliott! Elliott!", after another big save on Martin Havlat, who broke in on a short breakaway a few minutes later. The Sharks threatened a few more times late, but Elliott stood tall to complete the shutout.
"Elliott did a good job," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. "He came in, a good relief pitcher, and tossed a shutout."
Halak never returned to the bench despite a press box announcement that he was expected to return to the game. He is listed as day-to-day and will fly with the team to San Jose on Sunday.
Third goalie Jake Allen will travel with the club to San Jose on Sunday, but Hitchcock said he was already scheduled to make the trip anyway.