The St. Louis Blues beat the visiting New York Rangers 5-3 Saturday night to start the season 4-0 for the first time in team history. Jaroslav Halak provided another strong outing in net, stopping 26 of 29 shots, and the Blues top line had a big night with David Backes scoring twice, Alexander Steen scoring a goal and adding 3 assists and TJ Oshie tacking on another 2 helpers. Derek Roy and Vladi Tarasenko added power-play tallies for St. Louis, giving them a special teams goal in all four games this season so far. The win extended the Blues unbeaten streak on home ice in the regular season to 10 going back to last season.
The Blues took the lead first for the fourth time in as many games when Steen, rushing hard to the crease, banged in a rebound off an Oshie shot. It seems so simple: shoot on net, rush the net, and you get goals. St. Louis continued to work this formula to perfection Saturday and looked pretty good doing it. The little give-and-go pass from Steen was just the beginning of a dominating night for him.
St. Louis struggled to clear the puck for much of the rest of the 1st period, however, and a good portion of the 2nd as well. The Rangers were able to sustain pressure and out-shoot the Blues 24-17 over the first 40 minutes. Fortunately, thanks to stout goaltending from Halak and opportune odd-man rushes, the scoreboard tilted heavily in favor of the Blues. Roy powered his way into the New York zone on a power-play for his 2nd goal of the year. In addition, Backes scored twice, ultimately giving the home squad a 4-2 lead heading into the third period.
The Rangers crept back within a goal in the 3rd period, scoring on a power-play of their own- after what I’ll generously call “creative officiating.” Ryan Callahan rang up his second goal of the game as New York continued to pressure the Blues in the St. Louis zone. Henrik Lundqvist replaced starter Martin Biron in goal and made some big saves to keep the Rangers in the game. About halfway through the final frame, the Blues finally settled into playing their game, locking down their blueline and peppering King Henrik with shots. St. Louis out-shot New York 17-5 in the final 20 minutes, including a wicked wrister by Tarasenko on the power-play with about 10 minutes left in the game to put the Blues up 5-3.
The Blues won this game despite some shaky puck control in their own zone. They finally have seemed to figure out that they have to keep their foot on the gas for a full 60 minutes. Once again, the Blues received outstanding goaltending from Halak, who looks about as comfortable as a goalie can be. Not to be overlooked in their success, St. Louis had 4 players win 60% or more of their face-offs Saturday night (Steen leading the way with a 71% clip). The team sits in the top-10 in the NHL with a 54.4% win-rate.
St. Louis hockey is heating up as the weather finally starts to cool down. With the Cardinals rolling in their playoff series, the Blues hope to continue their streak Tuesday night when the undefeated San Jose Sharks come to Scottrade Center. St. Louis leads the NHL in power-play % at 37.5, and will look to improve on that with the feisty Sharks in town. If the Blues can stay out of the penalty box, I think chances are good the boys will be celebrating another victory.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!