The Blues got goals from Jaden Schwartz, his first of the season, Patrik Berglund, Alex Steen, and David Perron Friday night at The Saddledome in Calgary and skated to a 5-2 victory over the Flames. Jake Allen made his second consecutive start in goal for St. Louis, stopping 30 shots and earning his second win in as many tries. Although out-played in in the second period, the Blues managed to win this contest thanks to a fast start and even-strength scoring. Another fantastic performance by the rookie, Allen, in net proved to be more than the struggling Flames could handle.
Steen and Perron both had big nights offensively for the Blues, with Steen notching three points and Perron netting a pair of goals. The Blues scored four times in the first period and led 4-0 after 20 minutes. It was just what the team needed to emphasize their recovery from a long win-less streak Wednesday night in Detroit, where they won in overtime. One of the problems the Blues encountered during that streak was a slow start, often falling behind three or four goals. Friday night, the Blues got on the board less than 2 minutes into the game when Schwartz took a pass from Steen off a nifty steal to score his first of the season.
Schwartz got another point a couple minutes later, assisting on Bergie’s seventh of the season, and with the score 2-0 Calgary pulled rookie starting goalie, Leland Irving (who was sent down to the minors today.) Joey MacDonald, recently acquired by the Flames off waivers from Detroit, took over but proved just as ineffective against the Blues, suddenly surging at even-strength. The Blues would score twice more in the 1st period, with goals by Steen and Perron. Perron’s tally came on the power-play and gave the Blues 8 power-play goals in their last 8 games. They lead the league with a 35.8% man-advantage so far this season.
The highlight of the night came courtesy of Jake Allen, the St. Louis rookie netminder. With the Blues up 2-0 and Calgary getting a player back from the penalty box, the Flames had an odd-man rush that caught the Blues defense flat-footed. Some tricky tic-tac-toe passing set up what looked like would be an easy goal for TJ Brodie, but Allen made quite possibly the best save by any goalie this year:
Watching it live, I initially thought the puck had hit the crossbar and bounced up for Allen to glove it, but the review plainly shows him blocking the puck with the flattened blade of his stick before getting leather on it to stop play. Almost as awesome as the save itself is the call from Darren Pang. “Holy jumpin’,” indeed.
Taking that save and a 4-0 lead into the 2nd period, we couldn’t have been more unprepared for the stinking pile of hockey the Blues dropped down. The Blues took four minor penalties in the frame, allowing a power-play goal by former Note defenseman, Dennis Wideman, that cut the St. Louis lead to 4-1 with under 5 minutes to go. Calgary out-shot the Blues 15-5 in the period, and Allen had to be stout behind the sagging defense. The Blues had inexplicably reverted back to their losing form of a week ago, and it was all they could do to escape with their 3 goal lead intact. St. Louis didn’t manage a shot on goal in the last 12 minutes of the 2nd. Apparently, Coach Hitchcock was upset enough with his squad that he didn’t allow any of the previously scheduled player interviews during the intermission.
The 3rd period saw more pressure by the Flames who cut the lead to 4-2 just under 3 minutes in. Jarome Iginla set up Curtis Glencross and the Blues looked to be on their heels. They were out-shot 9-8 over the game’s final 20 minutes but did manage to extend the lead to 3 goals again at 4:08 on another power-play marker by Perron. After coughing up the puck trying to carry the puck into the Calgary zone, Perron circled back around and fired a wrister off a defenseman’s stick that rang off the crossbar and into the net behind MacDonald making it 5-2. It had been the first shot by the Blues in over 17 minutes.
All in all, Friday night’s win over the Flames was a good one for the Blues. They have not been scoring a lot lately at even-strength, something that had been a big part of their earlier success this season. Allen’s performance in net surpassed my expectations, though I’d guess he knew all along he could play at this level. What struck me most about his game was how cool, calm, and collected he appeared, whether making a routine stop or a highlight reel save. His play has earned him yet another start when the Blues play the Canucks Sunday night in Vancouver, the last game of their road-trip before heading back to Scottrade for a date with the Sharks on Tuesday.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!