Tarasenko, Brodziak also score for St. Louis; Allen
comes up with 22 saves to help break two-game losing streak
ST. LOUIS -- Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz gave the 18,752 a scare Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.
There was a hushed silence when Schwartz crashed face-first into the back boards after getting an attempt on goalie Corey Crawford.
It happened at 12:46 of the first period of the Blues' 5-2 win, and Schwartz had already scored to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead and appeared well on his way to a strong game.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Jaden Schwartz (17) scores the Blues' first goal of a 5-2 win over Chicago
on Wednesday at Scottrade Center.
He left for the remainder of the period, but when he stepped back onto the ice, the crowd gave its approval with a loud cheer.
What followed? Well, Schwartz's third-career hat trick followed.
He scored three goals, Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and assist and Kyle Brodziak scored for St. Louis (5-2-0), which got 22 saves and an assist from Jake Allen, the fourth of his career. It also marked the return of Alexander Steen, who played his first game after sustaining a broken left thumb Sept. 19.
"I just toe-picked or caught a (divot) in the ice and it just happened fast and went head-first into the boards and I couldn't get my hands up fast enough," Schwartz said. "Just kind of a bit of a scary moment, but it could have been worse. I ended up taking 20, 30 minutes there and I felt like I was good enough to come back.
"You want to give it a few minutes and see how you're feeling. Adrenaline's going so things could tighten up after that, but just went through some tests and did a few things to see if I was ready to go and I felt like I was."
The Blue were glad Schwartz did. His third-career NHL hat trick was the first since April 3, 2015 against the Dallas Stars and three years to the date of his first, Oct. 18, 2014 against the Arizona Coyotes.
"When he's going, he brings everyone else into it," Allen said of Schwartz. "He's really the guy that gets guys going, sparks guys, gets guys the puck. He works his best down below the goal line, right turns. ... He's really coming into a league of his own."
Schwartz's play typified the Blues' game, especially through 40 minutes when they throttled the high-flying Blackhawks (4-2-1) and outshot Chicago 26-8 through two periods and gave the Hawks very little room to breathe.
"I think we did a good job of taking away their time and space," Schwartz said of the Blackhawks. "Obviously they've got a lot of skilled players and you don't want to give them a whole lot of time. At the same time, we did a good job of hemming them in their own zone, playing in the o-zone and creating chances that way, tiring them out and that's what happened on my second goal there. Two or three lines before us did a great job and they couldn't change and I ended up getting a breakaway off of it. We took some penalties in the third and gave them some chances, but I thought we did a pretty good job of playing defense against them."
Blues coach Mike Yeo, who picked up career win No. 200, wouldn't say the Blues locked the Blackhawks down, but thought they got to the way they wanted to play early.
"What I can say is we were able to get to our game," Yeo said. "We talked about that from the start, making sure that we knew we were going to have to go out and execute. I thought we did that. I thought the d-man got the puck quickly up to the forwards' hands and I thought the forwards put pucks in places where we could establish our forecheck in our offensive zone play. Obviously grabbing the lead was big, but I felt like for the most part, we didn't back off on that."
"I thought right from the drop of the puck, everybody, every line, every single man was ready to play," Brodziak said. "We knew how big of a game it was tonight. You look at the standings already this early into the season, a division rivalry, it was big. It was a huge test for us and I thought everybody did a great job of responding and coming out. We didn't give them a whole lot, we were on our toes the whole game pressing forward. I think we made it difficult on them."
The Blackhawks got a couple late power-play goals from Richard Panik and Ryan Hartman, and Corey Crawford made 28 saves, but for most of the game, it was not evident this was the team that took points in five of six games.
"They played well and we were brutal," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was a bad start, it was a bad middle, it wasn't very good. Even a little excited at the end, but that wasn't very good. That was as close to brutal as you can get."
Schwartz put the Blues on top 1-0 at 4:46 of the first period to give him a point in six of seven games this season. He picked up Tarasenko's pass from near the blue line, cut in front of Crawford before backhanding a shot in.
"I asked him if he was shooting or passing and he said he was passing," Schwartz said of Tarasenko. "I don't think Crawford saw me coming from that angle. Just great heads-up play by him. It's something that he does quite often."
Schwartz returned for the second period and made it 2-0 at 5:59. Allen was able to survey the ice and see Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook caught out of position as Schwartz was coming off the bench, and the Blues' goalie wristed a pass off the side boards past Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp in stride to Schwartz. Schwartz moved in on Crawford, cut to his left and scored into an empty net.
"I saw we were changing, I sort of let the puck come to me a little bit and I could tell Schwartz, he was coming in," Allen said. "Seabrook, he was trying to pinch on me a little bit. I don't think he thought I was going to bypass him there. I just saw 'Schwartzy' coming onto the ice, so I just tried to put it up in an area for him and it got to him.
"The puck was coming real slow, so I had the chance to look around. ... If I didn't get good wood on it, it could have been ugly. I just tried to put it an area for him."
Schwartz saw Crawford commit out of his net.
"It happened fast," Schwartz said. "He did a great job of reading the play. Good heads-up play by him. I didn't even know he passed it because I was trying to hop on the ice. Next thing I knew, it was on my tape. He's obviously good at handling the puck and that helps us out a lot."
Tarasenko, who also has a point in six of seven games, scored from the slot at 7:49 to make it 3-0. The Blackhawks had the perfect breakout of their zone set up, with defensemen Duncan Keith and Seabrook going tape-to-tape with the puck. Seabrook's pass seemed to hit the shaft of center Artem Anisimov, which enabled Tarasenko to steal the puck and quickly beat Crawford high to the stick side from the slot.
"For me, (Tarasenko's game) has been building," Yeo said. "Tampa Bay was arguably his best game of the season for 60 minutes, and then tonight was a different level. The first thing you always think about is his shot, but when you see him getting involved in the forecheck and creating turnovers and getting scoring chances because of that ... he's a smart player, h can read the play, he can get his stick on pucks and create turnovers, and that leads to offense. So that was probably his best 60-minute game."
Brodziak scored off a 2-on-1 with Tarasenko at 7:01 of the third to make it 4-0. Scottie Upshall chipped the puck out of his zone, spring his teammates on the odd-man rush, and Brodziak faked the pass, decided to keep it and snapped a wrist shot high glove side.
"That's what I was initially thinking," Brodziak said. "I was looking to pass and the d-man kind of gave me a little fake and showed he wasn't coming, so then I just decided to shoot.
"Every once in a while, you get lucky, I guess. ... I'm just happy I hit the net. If you miss an opportunity with Vladi coming with you, it doesn't look good."
It's the first goal scored by a third- or fourth-line skater.
"It's six games into the year and we haven't contributed a whole lot," Brodziak said. "We know how much pressure that puts on the top guys. As a bottom six group, I feel like we're capable of contributing more. We know we can do it. It's just a matter of getting it done. I think tonight, not only the goal, but I think the shifts that the third and fourth lines put in for most of the night were quite a bit better than it has been and hopefully we'll continue to roll and continue to be able to contribute like that."
Allen's save on Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane defined his game. A loose puck came across the goal mouth and Kane had a seemingly empty side to score into, but Allen dove to his right, got the paddle of his stick down by the post and kept Kane's effort out at 12:17.
"I just battled, the second effort," Allen said. "There was a chance on the side, he misfired, the guy did so it just went on (Kane's) tape and I tried to put something over there. I got my stick inside the post so I had some strength on it to hold it out."
The Blackhawks ended Allen's shutout bid on Panik's goal with 5:13 remaining, and Hartman made it 4-2 with 3:53 remaining that needed video review after the Blues challenged for goalie interference.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Vladimir Tarasenko celebrates after scoring in the Blues' 5-2 victory over
the Chicago Blackhawks on Wedneday at Scottrade Center.
But the little scare was squelched after Schwartz scored into an empty net with 51.1 seconds remaining from three-quarters length of the ice.
"We played really well the first two periods," Allen said. "It's probably the best we've honestly played for 40 minutes this year. We sat back on our heels a little bit. That happens when you're up a few goals, but definitely, we want to get that out of our game a little bit. You can see with the skill and talent they have that they can hem us in there a little bit, get a couple goals and get a chance. We did a good job, I thought. That was a big win, a big divisional win."
* NOTES -- Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson played in his 500th NHL game. ... Yeo joking on his 200th NHL victory. "Yeah, only 3,000 more to catch 'Hitch,'" he said in reference to former Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.