The St. Louis Blues came from behind to best the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in overtime Saturday night at Scottrade Center in their third and final meeting this season. Kris Russell notched his first goal of the season and Chris Stewart scored his 2nd straight game winner while Jake Allen was one again superb, stopping 18 or 19 shots for the win.
Saku Koivu scored for the Ducks inside the last minute of the 1st period giving them the early lead. Yes, another goal inside the last minute of a period. It’s uncanny, and has become the only time I get really nervous watching them play anymore. St. Louis was out-shot 9-6 for the frame despite getting the only power-play chance and actually gave up two very good shorthanded chances to the Ducks. It felt inevitable, the late goal, and while Allen had been riding a 75+ minute scoreless streak, he can’t always stop what he can’t see, and the Blues gave him very little, if any, chance on Koivu’s tip-in at 19:40.
St. Louis needs to do a better job of keeping the net clear in front of Allen, who has shown in a short time that if he can see the puck coming he’s probably going to make a save. He settled down quickly after the lapse and wouldn’t allow another puck by him. He made some very big saves look almost routine in the 2nd period Saturday night, and withstood some intense Anaheim pressure. The Blue allowed 10 shots in the 2nd but they got 12 themselves, one by Russell which finally beat Jonas Hiller at 12:52 after a nifty pass by Vladimir Tarasenko.
It was Russell’s 1st goal this season and Tarasenko’s 1st point since missing 10 games with a concussion. Russell has been playing very well lately and had to step up to the power-play with Alex Pietrangelo out with the flu Saturday. The St. Louis man-advantage has been awful since the beginning of February, and this was only their 4th PPG in their last 40 attempts. Allen made it hold up, looking very comfortable between the pipes, as he has in every game he’s started this year.
The 3rd period was all Ducks and they swarmed and buzzed the Blues up and down the ice. St. Louis looked slow, tired, and reeling for most of those 20 minutes, Anaheim out-shooting them 9-2. Allen once again made the difference, something neither of the other Blues goalies has been able to do this season, and the teams skated into overtime just as they did back in February.
This match-up would have a very different outcome for St. Louis, partly because Stewie is one of the hottest things on ice lately. He took a gorgeous pass from Vladimir Sobotka just 45 seconds into the extra session and beat Hiller for the winner. The play was made by Sobie first blocking a pass at his own blue line then rushing up ice with Stewart. It moved in near slow-motion from there:
Sobie out-waited the sprawling defense, passed to Stewie who then out-waited both a defender and Hiller, burying the puck in a mostly empty net. It was one of the prettier goals the Blues have scored this season.
St. Louis was outplayed for much of the game Saturday night, but they didn’t make as many costly mistakes as they have in tight games where they’ve lost. The Ducks outworked the Blues in the corners and clogged up the middle of the ice well, but the Bluenotes, thanks largely to Allen, remained in the game from start to finish.
Tuesday night the Blues are on the West Coast again playing in Vancouver. Adam Cracknell was sent back to Peoria today, a move likely predicating the return of Andy McDonald, who skated with Stewie and David Backes this morning. Word around Twitter is that TJ Oshie skated as well, and while he’s not assumed back any time soon, he plans to make the trip with the team. He could be back in the lineup by Saturday when St. Louis visits Edmonton. Coach Hitchcock said today we’ll see Allen in net again Tuesday and Jaroslav Halak on Saturday.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!