It took more than 3 periods but the St. Louis Blues came back from down 2 goals to force overtime and beat the San Jose Sharks Saturday afternoon, 4-3. Vladimir Sobotka notched his first career hat trick and Patrik Berglund got the game winner in the extra time. Jake Allen made 22 saves to improve to 5-0 on the road this season.
St. Louis took yet another early lead Saturday, Sobie scoring his 1st goal at 4:51, banging in a rebound off a shot from the point by Kevin Shattenkirk. Giving up early leads has become a problem for the Blues lately and the Sharks continued the trend, scoring at 15:19 on a wide open net as the defense got caught standing still. Not much Allen could have done about that one. St. Louis played an outstanding all-around, team period in the 1st period but had a few lapses and paid dearly for them. San Jose would go on a tear in the 2nd frame, out-shooting the Blues 12-11 and scoring twice more. The Blues allowed the Sharks time to set up in their zone and Allen had a some trouble covering up rebounds. San Jose is a tough team who isn’t going to miss too many of those opportunities. They hadn’t scored more than 2 goals in their last 13 games coming into Saturday’s tilt.
Down 3-1 as the 2nd ended, St. Louis looked like they were fighting the puck, getting knocked back on their heels a bit, but they hung in the game and I thought they showed a lot of character, turning up the pressure on San Jose netminder, Antti Niemi in the 3rd period, ultimately chasing him after two more Sobotka tallies tied things up. He pulled the Blues to within one on a bad angle shot that sneaked through Niemi at 4:18, and then knotted it up at three apiece just over a minute later on a power-play goal.
Both of those 3rd period goals were what I’d call “soft,” and apparently San Jose coach Todd McLellan agreed, pulling Niemi in favor of rookie Alex Stalock. Stalock had been a teammate of Allen just last season in Peoria. Throughout the game we saw Chris Stewart taking a major role in standing up for his fellow Notes, and as a whole the Blues were making sacrifices up and down the ice to get back in the game, taking hits to make plays and blocking shots. It’s those kinds of selfless plays that make a talented team a winning team and St. Louis showed their willingness to give up the body for their team Saturday. David Backes and TJ Oshie both played very aggressively, something we’re starting to see more of from those leaders on this Blues team. One area the team needs to improve on though, in my opinion, is not shooting the puck wide of the net. The Blues out-shot San Jose 35 to 25 in the game, but it felt like there were at least half as many shots that missed the net completely. Matt D’Agostini had a chance to win the game with only a few seconds remaining in regulation and beat Stalock but sailed the puck well high and wide, forcing overtime.
Berglund, parked in front of the net as the Blues applied some offensive zone pressure, tipped in the winner at 1:14 of the extra session, giving St. Louis the second straight win and Allen his 5th road victory. Barret Jackman fired the puck at the net and Bergie was able to deftly knock it past Stalock for the goal. Putting pucks on the net is never a bad thing.
Out-shooting their opponents. Taking hits to make plays. Moving the puck quickly out of their own zone and up the ice. It seems like a pretty simple game plan and when the Blues execute, they usually win. Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal for St. Louis Sunday in Anaheim against the Ducks, and I hope the Blues can feed off their recent efforts to play that tough, gritty, team game.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!