The Bluenote played one of its most complete games of the season tonight in Edmonton, beating the Oilers 5-2 in regulation. After taking a 3-0 lead early in the second period, one which forced Edmonton coach Tom Renney to pull his young goaltender, Devan Dubnyk, the Blues weathered an unexpected surge by the Oilers.
Following Corey Potter’s slap shot that cut into the Blue’s lead halfawy through the second period, Ryan Smyth received a ten minute game misconduct for checking from behind on Roman Polak. With a five minute major ensuing, most Blues fans probably imagined the man advantage would quell Edmonton’s comeback attempt. The power play had the exact opposite, as Edmonton didn’t allow St. Louis to register a single shot on net throughout the five minute major. The eighteen year-old, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored with forty-eight seconds remaining in the period and the Blues lead was cut to just one heading into the final period.
Whatever Ken Hitchcock said to his team during the intermission obviously worked, as the Blues came out and dominated the third period. Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart both scored to put the game out of reach and give St. Louis its first four game road winning streak since March of 2009.
The victory over Edmonton give St. Louis eighty-seven points on the season, matching last years total with eighteen games reaming.The win also puts the Blues in position to take over first place in the league with a win at Rogers Arena in Vancouver tomorrow.
Simply put, the Mac attack is back. St. Louis’ speedy sniper put two in the back of the net tonight in Edmonton, reminding Blues fans that he is still one of the most lethal scoring threats in the league. McDonald opened up St. Louis’ scoring fifty-two seconds into the contest, beating Dubnyk on a wrist shot to the far post. He got his second goal of the night on a beautiful move to his backhand in the second period that put the Blues up 3-0. Mac also won seven face offs, registering a 63% win percentage on the draw. McDonald looks like his is really clicking in Hitchcock’s offensive system. With Langenbrunner, D’Agostini, and Steen all out with injuries, look for number ten to put up big numbers offensively in the coming weeks.
The twenty-three year-old played a monster game on Wednesday night in Edmonton. Shattenkirk tied his career high for points in a game with three, assisting on Scott Nichol and Andy McDonald goals in the first period, and scoring a power play goal in the third period. The young defenseman also registered five shots on goal, two blocked shots, and a +/- of three in his twenty-one minutes of ice time. Both Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo have developed into impressive offensive defensemen, a future pairing that will excite Blues fans for many years to come.
Ken Hitchcock named Brian Elliot the starter for the Vancouver game on Tuesday, but he may be reconsidering now. There’s no doubt that Halak has the hot hand in net right now. Since Hitch pulled him in the second period of the New Jersey game in early February, Jaro has gone 5-1 and has posted two shootout victories. Tonight, Halak registered twenty-two saves on twenty-four shots. He made a number of circus saves on Taylor Hall and Nugent-Hopkins that preserved the Blues victory. The win toinght gave Halak twenty victories on the season, thus matching Brian Elliot and reaching a franchise milestone. Halak and Elliot are the first goaltending tandem in team history to each reach twenty wins in a single season. With Jaro playing great in net, I think Hitch should go to his hot goaltender on the second leg of the back to back and let Brian Elliot start in San Jose. Hopefully Elliot will provide the same stability and consistency that Jaro has through the first four games of the Blues’ six game road trip.