The Blues didn’t play a full 60 minutes of their game Wednesday night in Detroit, but they did beat the Red Wings 4-3 in overtime at Joe Louis Arena, thanks to a goal by Alex Steen and the first career win by rookie goaltender Jake Allen, making his first NHL start.
After losing five games in a row, the victory came at a critical time for the Blues and was significant in a number of ways. Their five game winless streak started in Detroit back on Friday, February 1. The last time the Blues won at The Joe was in March, 2011, and the last time a Blues goalie made his first start against the Wings he took the loss (Pat Jablonksi, 1989.)
Most importantly, the Blues finally found the game they’d excelled at for the first seven games of this season and defensively dominated a streaking Detroit squad to get a win on the road. The Wings came into the game Wednesday night having won their last three matches. St. Louis held the Wings to a mere 7 shots on goal over the 2nd, 3rd, and overtime periods and showed their true character, giving up their bodies for the team and blocking a total of 24 shots.
Wednesday night began much the same as the last five games had, with the Blues struggling to defend their net and giving up two 1st period goals. The Wings were up 2-0 only ten minutes in, Allen appeared to be and it looked like St. Louis was in for another long night. Playing a full 60 minutes has been something they’ve not been able to do lately, and it’s cost them dearly. They pulled within one with about 5 minutes left when TJ Oshie fed Patrik Berglund for a short-handed tally.
If you didn’t watch the game Wednesday night, go back and check out that replay one more time. Notice the unbelievable effort Oshie makes to take the puck up the ice and into the Detroit zone, through a defender, and literally sprawls out making a perfect pass to a waiting Bergie. Oshie has shown that kind of passion since his first game in the NHL but it had been missing from the team’s game until that play.
Jake Allen made consecutive stops on Dan Cleary later in the 1st that could really be considered game saving, all things considered. The first on a point-blank tip-in and the second a minute later on a one-timer that for all intent and purpose should have been a goal. I still don’t know how Allen got his shoulder on the puck, and I’m sure Cleary couldn’t believe it either.
The Blues really turned it on in the 2nd period, scoring twice to take the lead, albeit briefly. A power-play goal by Vladimir Tarasenko tied the game at 2 and then Alex Pietrangelo sprung Chris Stewart for a breakaway to take the lead 3-2. A true “goal-scorer’s goal” that one was, and the first time we’d seen one of those long outlet passes from a Blues defenseman, another sign the team may have found its game again.
Allen gave up the game-tying goal kind of late in the 2nd, perhaps a bit of a rookie-mistake, but certainly one we’ve seen other goalies make. He failed to hold the near post and when Pavel Datsyuk has the puck behind you, it doesn’t take much to give up a goal.
The 3rd period was a defensive clinic by the Blues, who didn’t allow a Red Wings shot to actually reach Allen until nearly 18 minutes had gone by. They finally got the kind of backchecking from their forwards we were used to seeing early this season and the defense continued to fill shooting and passing lanes, blocking just about everything Detroit threw at them. The Wings finished the period with only 1 shot getting through, and Allen turned it aside to push the game into overtime.
A win punctuated by hard work. Been a while since I could say that about the Blues and their game but it was very satisfying to watch it come together again. Despite a rough start, the defense finally woke up and gave the effort we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. Allen will get a well-deserved second consecutive start Friday night when the Blues travel to Calgary to take on the Flames who are coming off a 7-4 triumph Wednesday over the Dallas Stars.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!