The curse is over! The St. Louis Blues finally beat a team from California this season, trouncing the Los Angeles Kings 5-0 Thursday night at Scottrade Center. TJ Oshie scored twice which was more than enough offense for Brian Elliott who made 30 saves for his 3rd shutout of the season. The win marked Coach Ken Hitchcock’s 100th regular season and the fourth win in a row for the Blues. The Kings find themselves now having lost 5-games straight after being blanked Thursday night.
Once again, St. Louis won without top scorer Alexander Steen and captain David Backes. The top line, however, continued playing outstanding hockey in no small part to the performance of Oshie, recently named to the U.S. Olympic squad. Backes has also been chosen to represent his country in Sochi and fellow Olympian Kevin Shattenkirk assisted on the first goal of the night Thursday, a power-play tally by Brenden Morrow. The Blues were seemingly out-played for a good portion of the 1st period, being out-shot 13-6 by LA, but Morrow made the Kings pay with his 7th of the season, banging home a rebound off LA starter Martin Jones.
The Blues didn’t necessarily play poorly in the early goings Thursday, but The Kings are a big, strong, heavy team and spent most of the first 30 minutes of the game in the St. Louis zone. Despite that fact, Oshie and company made more of their scoring chances and took a 2-0 lead on their 2nd power-play goal of the night when he corralled a Jaden Schwartz shot that hit traffic in the crease and snapped an easy wrister into a nearly open net. The goal chased Martin from the game.
Less than 2-minutes later Oshie struck again taking the puck straight from a face-off win and blasted the puck past Ben Scrivens, a rude welcome for the LA backup. Oshie appears to be energized by the Olympic selection, though with both Backes and Steen missing from his line, Osh may simply be growing into the role of finisher. Both goals were the direct result of face-off wins by Vladimir Sobotka (best in the league at the dot,) centering Schwartz and Oshie, and the three obviously have great chemistry.
Late in the 2nd period, the Blues encountered a potentially disastrous situation when, LA, already on a power-play, drew a second minor penalty on Sobotka. With Oshie and Sobie, two of their best penalty killers, in the box, the Blues were tasked with killing almost 90-seconds of a 2-man Kings advantage. Elliott came up with some huge saves while Schwartz, Jay Bouwmeester, Ian Cole, and Alex Pietrangelo, among others, masterfully kept shooting lanes clogged, and did not allow the Kings to score, effectively blowing the best chance for LA to get back into the game.
St. Louis dominated the rest of the game, extending their lead to 4-0 early in the 3rd period when Magnus Paajarvi, impressive on the forecheck, capitalized on a mis-play by Scrivens and the LA defense, feeding a streaking Vladi Tarasenko into the slot. Vladi wristed a rocket past the too late recovering Scrivens for his 13th goal of the season. Momentum carried Tarasenko across the ice and his celebration was nearly as fun to watch as the goal.
I’d be remiss not to mention that the play began by Tarasenko making a nifty play to keep the puck in the offensive zone. He’s been playing like gangbusters this season and now has 4-goals and an assist in his last three games against the Kings. Schwartzy has a 7-game point streak intact with his assist on Oshie’s power-play goal, tying his career high. Cole was a monster in the defensive zone, personally blocking nine shots on the night of St. Louis’s 24.
The Blues rounded out the scoring at 6:11 of the 3rd period on a Barret Jackman slapshot, his first goal of the season. Forwards, Morrow, Derek Roy, and Chris Stewart were deep on the forecheck and with two Kings tangled up behind the net chasing down Roy, Morrow whipped a cross-ice pass off the boards to Jax, who had plenty of room to step into one and launched a howitzer of a shot through traffic beating Scrivens.
LA had been the proverbial monkey on the Blues’s back for the last two seasons, eliminating St. Louis in the playoffs in both years. Thursday night’s victory over the Kings was big emotionally for the team, and besides marking a historical win for Hitch with the Blues, it was also Elliott’s 12th consecutive win at home as a starter, setting a new franchise record. Shatty has an 8-game consecutive point streak, best among defensemen in the NHL this season.
Should the two teams meet again in the playoffs we can probably expect a much more physical battle, but for now the Blues are focused on their opponent tonight as the Columbus Blue Jackets come to town. A flurry of roster moves were made today to accommodate injuries and illnesses.
Goalie Jake Allen was recalled from the Chicago Wolves to backup Elliott tonight as Jaroslav Halak’s illness is apparently more severe than originally thought. Chris Porter was re-assigned to the Wolves as Backes returns from his injury, and Adam Cracknell cleared waivers, also heading to Chicago to make room for Jordan Leopold who will play tonight. Leo’s missed 26-games after injuring his hand and having ligament surgery.
Columbus (18-19-4) was just starting to become quite a rival in the Central Division before moving to the Eastern Conference this season and will not come in quietly. The Blues will look to improve on their 12-1-1 inter-conference record and beat the Jackets for the second time this season. St. Louis won their other meeting in Columbus in overtime.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!