The St. Louis Blues got a timely goal from Derek Roy, and outstanding goaltending from Jaroslav Halak as they took down the Boston Bruins in a shootout Thursday night at the TD Bank Garden. Scoring was sparse in the tightly contested match-up as the teams traded leads through two periods. Though the Bruins bested the Blues in almost every category, St. Louis played a solid game and hung right alongside the Eastern leaders from start to finish. Halak stole the extra point in the shootout stopping 3 of the 4 Boston shooters.
Boston got on the board first inside the last two minutes of the opening frame, but Jaden Schwartz tied it 1-1 only 30 seconds later, deflecting in a seemingly harmless shot by Roy. The goal was originally credited to Chris Stewart who skated through the face-off circle as the puck slid through traffic. However, Schwartz was paying the price in the crease, getting dumped by Matt Bartkowski, and the puck grazed his boot after going under Tuukka Rask. It might’ve been the slowest goal ever scored by the Blues, and it took until well after the game to get the credit right, but kudos to the league for going back to double-check.
David Backes put the Blues ahead 2-1 late in the 2nd period, tipping in a shot from the point by Kevin Shattenkirk. Two take-aways from the captain’s goal: First, St. Louis really did a nice job of going to the front of the net and putting bodies in front of Rask last night. The play also demonstrated the skill of Backes as he deftly deflected the puck with the blade of his stick about six inches off the ice. Both teams had plenty of quality scoring chances Thursday, and both goalies looked to be at the top of their respective games.
This was a game that, like the one two weeks ago versus Pittsburgh, could’ve been a Stanley Cup preview and certainly was played with playoff intensity. As high-energy as the game was, not a single penalty was called until the 3rd period when each team got whistled for an obstruction minor. Neither club could light the lamp with the man advantage, and the 3rd period remained scoreless sending it into overtime. Some of the best chances came in that extra five minutes, including a near game-winner by Roy as he skated in alone on Rask less than a minute into OT. The puck rang loudly off the crossbar over Rask’s shoulder and the teams played on, rushing back and forth, forcing Rask and Halak alike to make game saving stops over and over again.
Ultimately, Roy would redeem his missed chance when he beat Rask in the shootout to seal the win for St. Louis. Patrice Bergeron scored on the first shot against Halak, but Alexander Steen evened things up in the 2nd round. Jaro would make three stops before Roy’s winner. I don’t care for the shootout format, and while I’m happy with the two points for the Blues, it was really a shame the game ended that way after the stellar play of both netminders. St. Louis was out-shot 31-26, a rarity these days for the Blues. Yet, you could really see the improvement of this team since last year. Despite having the best inter-conference record in the NHL, the St. Louis Blues haven’t looked this good, this fast and strong for a full 60 minutes (plus!) in almost 2 years.
The Blues return home to Scottrade Center Saturday night versus the Dallas Stars, their first meeting this season. Dallas is coming in off a 3-2 loss to the NY Rangers on Thursday, a game in which they peppered Henrik Lundqvist with 43 shots- 23 of them in the 1st period. The Blues will have to withstand the early onslaught and find a way to solve Kari Lehtonen who always plays tough in St. Louis. The Blues have won 5 of their last 6 match-ups against Dallas, and will look for the 4th straight win against the Stars at home. Brenden Morrow will play for the 1st time against the team he spent 13 seasons with, including seven as the captain.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!