The St. Louis Blues won their 6th straight game Tuesday night, beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 at Rexall Place. The visitors managed to look beyond the media circus surrounding the announcement of multiple players being named to their respective Olympic squads, riding a strong (for a change) opening period to the eventual win, St. Louis’s 7th in their last 8 games versus Edmonton. The Blues have outscored the Oilers 11-2 this season alone.
The Blues out-shot Edmonton 13-7 in the 1st period and lit the scoreboard first courtesy of Chris Stewart on a power-play goal. Stewie nearly went coast-to-caost with the puck to score but was turned away by a timely Ilya Bryzgalov save, only to receive a long pass moments later and one-time an absolute bomb into the net for a 1-0 St. Louis lead.
Edmonton would trade goals with the Blues in the 2nd period as St. Louis made too many mistakes with the puck. Former Bluenote David Perron picked up a turnover and dropped a pass to Nail Yakupov who tied the game 1-1 early in the frame, but Maxim Lapierre scored less than a minute later to put St. Louis back on top 2-1. His goal would come under some scrutiny later in the game, likely the result of Edmonton grasping at straws after being dominated for so long, but the goal obviously stood. It was suggested that the puck had perhaps entered the net through the side rather than through Bryzgalov, but replay proved otherwise.
The goal was Lapierre’s 6th this season in only 37 games with the Blues who, with the recent return of Ryan Reaves, have four viable lines that continue to consistently contribute. Reaver was a beast on the ice last night, leading the team in hits with 5, including a solid thumping along the boards in the 3rd period on Ales Hemsky that put the Oiler winger out of the game.
St. Louis struggled a bit through the 2nd period as Edmonton would again tie it up before David Backes put the Blues ahead for good at 10:56, again on the power-play, with an absolute rocket snap-shot past Bryzgalov.
Vladi Tarasenko would score on a similarly wicked wrister three minutes later to give the Blues a 2-goal lead and essentially ice the game for St.Louis. Newly appointed Olympians, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester, along with the rest of the Blues would go into lock-down mode for most of the 3rd period, limiting Edmonton to only 3 shots and just 17 total for the game. Patrik Berglund would add an empty net goal with under a minute to play, with assists by Tarasenko and Vladimir Sobotka.
The pair of Vlads would each finish with 2 points, Berglund with the one, but that line, centered by Sobie with Berglund moved to the wing, put on puck-handling and forechecking displays throughout the game that you could run clinics on. Cycling the puck in the Edmonton zone, those three guys showed a chemistry bordering on the unbelievable with short passes in small spaces, leading each other with the puck to open areas, and skating circles around the Oilers defense. The combination of 21-17-91 was about as impressive a line Tuesday night as I’ve seen all season. Sobotka continues to vanquish all opponents in the face-off circle with ease, finishing 83% on the night.
That’s not to say the win wasn’t a team effort. Petro and Jordan Leopold each registered a pair of assists and the Blues played the entire game without taking a penalty, the first such game for St. Louis since April of last year. Also nearly lost among accolades for the Blues offense, firing on all cylinders again (and I sound like a broken record with this but it bears repeating) without top-scorer Alexander Steen, was yet another strong performance in net by Brian Elliott. Despite the 2-goals allowed, Ells is 13-1-2 with a .926 save percentage and 1.86 GAA and has won 7 straight, a personal best since joining the Blues. He’s also allowed 2-goals or fewer in seven straight games.
The victory Tuesday night marked #30 for St. Louis in 42 games, the fastest the Blues have ever reached the mark, which until now had been 44 games in the 2000-01 season. The 2-points also brought the Blues within 2-points of Chicago for the Central Division lead and just 4 shy of Anaheim atop the Western Conference. St. Louis has 3 games in-hand on both of those teams. Additionally, the Blues have not yet lost in regulation when taking a lead into the 3rd period (20-0-3.)
It was a special day for the team, with 6 players added to Olympic rosters Tuesday, bringing the total number of players heading to Sochi to 10, tied for most in the NHL with Detroit and Chicago, but even in beating Edmonton the Note left with a dark cloud hanging over their heads. Late in the 3rd period TJ Oshie collided with Taylor Hall and Osh had to be helped off the ice and to the locker room. It looked like a knee injury though as of this writing no news or further details had surfaced.
The Blues head to Calgary where they’ll face the Flames tomorrow night in the 2nd of their 3-game Western Canada swing. Hopefully Oshie’s not seriously injured and wont miss a lot of time. While St. Louis has overcome a number of high-profile injuries already this season, his energy and effort day after day could be tough to replace.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!