They were goaltending partners in the American Hockey League for two seasons and “good buddies still to this day.” But Jake Allen and Ben Bishop put their friendship aside Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.
Allen and Bishop came up together in the Blues’ system, sharing the net with the Peoria Rivermen in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Bishop, who was drafted in 2005— three seasons ahead of Allen — was considered the ‘goalie of the future.’ But in 2012, with the Blues set in goal and poised to lose Bishop to free agency, the club traded him to Ottawa.
Suddenly, Allen held the distinction of being the heir apparent.
Three years later, they squared off for the first time in their careers Tuesday, with Allen’s Blues hosting Bishop’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Both rose to the occasion, allowing one goal between them, but it was Allen who walked away with a 2-0 victory in front of a crowd of 19,184.
“A shutout always makes it a little bit better, but we got the win,” Allen said. “I thought he played really well too. It was a good battle by both teams.”
Scott Gomez’s first goal as a Blue, which came in the first period, was the game-winner. Troy Brouwer, with Bishop pulled for an extra attacker, added an empty-netter with 40 seconds left in the contest.
The Blues ended their losing skid at two games and will have a chance to turn it into a two-game winning streak when they host Anaheim on Thursday night.
In addition to the Allen-Bishop matchup, the game also pitted the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko vs. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos. Each came into the game with five goals.
But neither player would add to those totals on what was another quiet night, in particular, for the Tampa Bay offense. The Lightning were blanked for the second straight game, following a 1-0 overtime loss Saturday in Chicago.
The Blues wanted to keep the Bolts bottled up.
“We know that they try and wheel pretty fast through the neutral zone,” Brouwer said. “So we tried to slow that down as much as possible.”
The Blues took the lead with Gomez’s first goal as a Blue, in his fifth game with a club. It was set up by a familiar source of offense lately.
Defenseman Colton Parayko, who still is holding down a top-four spot on the blueline with Kevin Shattenkirk (groin) sitting out again, put a shot on net from the point. Gomez was skating in front of the net and got a stick on the puck, deflecting it past Bishop.
Bishop called for a high-stick, but after the NHL took a quick look at the height of Gomez’s stick, the ruling was that it was not above the crossbar. The Blues had a 1-0 lead with 4:01 left in the first period.
“I don’t have many tip-ins in my career, so that was definitely nice,” Gomez said. “The kid, that was all him. He read it right.”
For Parayko, the rookie had his sixth point of the season in his ninth game. He has three goals and three assists, and with an assist on the Gomez goal he had a hand in the last four Blues’ goals, dating to the Winnipeg game, Oct. 18.
“He’s swinging a hot wand right now,” Brouwer said.
The Blues took the one-goal lead into their locker room, but it was hardly telling of how the first period played out. The Lightning outshot the Blues 12-8 and won 11 of 19 face-offs.
In the second period, Tampa Bay handed the Blues an opportunity to take control of the game, as Erik Condra tripped Blues’ rookie Robby Fabbri. But the power-play unit fluttered again, though, going zero for three in the game. It now has gone 11 chances without scoring.
The Blues were clinging to their 1-0 lead in the third period when Bishop kept the Lightning in the game, making a great glove save to take a goal away from Fabbri with 13½ minutes left in regulation.
In his first game back after missing six because of a concussion, Fabbri played 11 minutes, 43 seconds, including 2:07 on the power play. He finished with four shots on goal, which was second on the team Tuesday.
“I thought Fabbri was dangerous all night,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He was hungry, he had four or five quality scoring opportunities, I thought he was jumping into holes, he got more and more comfortable as the game went on.”
The Blues didn’t ice the game, though, until Brouwer scored his third goal of the season via his second empty-net goal of the year.
Allen finally breathed a sigh of relief.
“It’s always nice to see that, takes a little bit of weight off your shoulders, especially when you have that skilled of team,” he said.
On the Lightning bench, Bishop was both disappointed and perhaps a bit proud of his old pal.
“He obviously played real well,” Bishop said. “I came up a little short, but overall I think it was a pretty good game. He’s a great goalie. It’s fun to watch him and see him come up from his first professional game to where he is now.
“I would have liked to have seen him play a little worse tonight, but he’s worked hard and I think he’s going to be a great goalie. I think he’ll have a great future in St. Louis.”
Tom Timmermann of the Post-Dispatch staff contributed information to this story.