David Perron scored the game winner in the 3rd period and Jaroslav Halak made 18 save as the St. Louis Blues beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 Saturday night. The match-up also saw Barret Jackman play his 616th game, the most by any Blues defenseman. Prior to Saturday night’s tilt, the Blues hadn’t won a game on home ice since back in January, gaining a single point out of a possible 8 over that span. Halak came into the night with a 3-0-1 record in his last 4 starts at Scottrade Center, and hadn’t given up a goal at home in over 5 periods of hockey.
St. Louis got off to a decent start- something they’ve struggled to do consistently- and while they were able to get pressure in the Columbus zone early on, they didn’t record their first shot on net until more than 5 minutes in. It was mentioned numerous times during the broadcast that “nobody is going to outwork the Blue Jackets,” and it was a very evenly skated game for the first 10 minutes or so.
The Blues started the momentum swinging their way with an excellent play on the backcheck by Alex Pietrangelo. It was the kind of goal-preventing play that Petro, as the Blues top defenseman, should be making game after game, though I feel he’s been a bit soft defensively so far this season. St. Louis matched the Jackets with tough, physical play at both ends of the ice, punctuated in the 1st by a clean, seemingly innocent, though heavy and board-rattling body-check by Patrik Berglund on Jack Johnson. Johnson left the game and was subsequently placed on Injured Reserve the following day with an upper-body injury.
The game’s first goal finally came at 13:55 off the stick of Chris Stewart. Stewie took a nice pass across the blueline from Kevin Shattenkirk and fired a high, rising slapshot that somehow beat Sergei Bobrovsky over his blocker to make it 1-0 Blues, despite Columbus out-shooting them 10-6 to that point.
The Jackets continued their aggressive forechecking, and Halak was forced to make 12 saves in the period as the Blues, while doing a better job backchecking, fell into a habit they have of making sloppy passes trying to clear their zone.
Back and forth play was again the theme in the 2nd period. The line of David Backes, David Perron, and TJ Oshie had a particularly good scoring chance denied by Bobrovsky, forced to do the splits, at 9:27. The Blues put plenty of pressure on the Columbus netminder in the middle frame, out-shooting the Jackets 13-3. It was the kind of period the Blues play when they’re dominating a game.
There were excellent scoring chances had by both teams in the 2nd, each goalie getting help from iron to prevent goals. Neither team allowed a power-play goal in the game but with just over a minute left to play the Blues made a costly turnover in the neutral zone while on the man-advantage, and Matt Calvert skated in alone, scoring the short-handed goal to tie it up 1-1.
St. Louis took a very undisciplined Too Many Men penalty to close out the 2nd, and started the 3rd period on the kill. Vladimir Sobotka showed why he’s the hardest working Bluenote, getting a good short-handed scoring chance and drawing a penalty on the play. The Blues tried too hard to make the perfect pass and couldn’t register a shot on goal during their power-play, also shooting pucks high and wide of the net.
Columbus did a much better job in the period of clogging up passing lanes, their backcheck working very well. The Blues didn’t have a shot on goal for almost the entire first half of the frame. One their first of the period though, Perron finished a hard-working play by Backes to put St. Louis up 2-1.
Backes bulled his way through a hip-check by Tim Erixon and made a near-perfect pass to Perron in the high slot. Perron’s wrister beat Bobrovsky for what proved to be the game-winner. The remainder of the game was all St. Louis, their 4th line flexing muscle with Ryan Reaves connecting on two HUGE body checks, including this crushing hit on Nikita Nikitin:
Columbus managed a later power-play and pulled their goalie, looking for some magic skating 6-on-4, but Halak made a highlight reel save from his back to preserve the victory:
Halak’s fine play since his return comes as no surprise, but the lack of Blues scoring concerns me. St. Louis remains in the top 10 teams with a 2.94 goals per game average, and continues to lead the NHL in power-play percentage at 30.6%, but scoring only 4 goals in their last 4 games isn’t a trend I’d like to see continue. The Blues have some time off this week, not playing again until the high-flying Chicago Blackhawks come to town Thursday night. Chicago still hasn’t lost in regulation through 18 games, and will come in with a ridiculous goals for/against ratio of 3.11 to 1.78. If St. Louis intends to win the West, they’ll need to start by beating the ‘Hawks.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!