Blues forwards Patrik Berglund, David Perron, and Chris Stewart put on a show Thursday night in Phoenix as St. Louis visited the Coyotes. The line combined for 9 points and scored three goals in a dominating 6-3 Blues victory. The Blues turned to rookie netminder Jake Allen to help end a brief losing streak, as he did during a stretch of road games back in February. Allen proved up to the task making 15 saves and earning his 4th win in 5 starts.
St. Louis got on the board at 13:07 of the 1st period when Stewart banged in a rebound off an Alex Pietrangelo slap-shot. Stewie showed true goal-scorers hands on the play, keeping his stick on the ice near the net, making it easy to put the puck past Mike Smith.
Unfortunately, scoring first doesn’t always mean good things follow. The Blues got swamped by late game goals in Dallas and LA to lose a couple games they should’ve won after playing some of their best hockey of the season in the early periods and it was deja-vu all over again Thursday night. While trying to set up on a power-play, Petro turned the puck over along the Phoenix blue line and David Moss was off to the races. Allen couldn’t quite squeeze the puck tight enough and it slipped through him for a shorthanded goal to tie the game, in the last minute of the period. Phoenix made things worse for the Blues by scoring just 41 seconds into the 2nd period to go up 2-1. Here we go again? Were we about to see St. Louis collapse like they had in their last two outings?
The answer, thankfully, was a resounding, “NO!” St. Louis, led by the line of Bergie, Perron, and Stewart, dominated the rest of the 2nd and really the rest of the game. Berglund scored twice in the middle frame, first tying the game on a rebound and then, thanks to some nifty puck handling by Perron, Bergie’ s highlight-reel backhander put the Blues up for good.
Scotty Nichol notched his 1st goal of the season roughly 2 minutes later (ending a personal 38 game drought) after an incredibly hard-working play by Ryan Reaves and Jaden Schwartz, to put the Blues up 4-2.
St. Louis would add two more goals in the 3rd period. Vladimir Sobotka was the benefactor of some wickedly delicate stick work and passing from Stewart at 6:53. Sobie could hardly believe how wide open the net was and stood grinning after the play. Great to see the boys having some fun again.
Petro made up for his earlier gaffe, closing out the Bluenote scoring at 15:04 of a very chippy 3rd period with a rebound goal as the teams skated 4 on 4. Phoenix’s frustrations were evident in the waning minutes of the game and the Blues stood up for their linemates, something they did throughout the night Thursday. Coyotes “tough-guy” Paul Bissonnette acted tough throughout the contest, but practically left skid-marks on the ice leaving the area when Reaves came in to check on a scrum late in the game. While the Blues did give up another late period goal, a power-play tally by Keith Yandle at 19:35, it was of little consequence. The 6-3 win was a pretty complete team victory, and while there were certainly moments where cracks appeared, St. Louis played the kind of game the needed to after a lackluster start to their road trip.
It’s startling to me, to see the contrast in the way the Blues play when they’re firing on all cylinders compared to game when they’re doing nothing right. When they do the things Hitchcock and the coaches preach- exiting their zone quickly, getting 3 guys in on the forecheck, putting pucks on net, and NOT making bad passes to turn the puck over- they win, plain and simple. Let any one of those bad elements into their game and it all seems to fall apart. One other difference, possibly the most important one, is the goaltending.
You can’t expect your goalie to make every single save when the opposition is swarming your net, but you do need him to steal saves from time to time. Allen bailed the Blues out Thursday night more than once. The Blues turned the puck over in their own zone a few times and Allen made the difference that neither Halak nor Elliot had been this season. Here’s hoping the youngster can keep his confident play rolling as the Blues travel to San Jose to battle the Sharks Saturday night.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!