Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blues top Kings on Johnson game-winner

Oshie returns in 2-1 victory; Colaiacovo
leaves game after taking puck to face again

ST. LOUIS -- Put the puck on goal and good things will happen. It doesn't matter if it's a 100 mile-per-hour howitzer or just a harmless wrister towards an awaiting netminder.

For Erik Johnson, the bottom line was just getting the puck on net.

Johnson's wrister from the top of the right circle somehow found its way through Jonathan Quick's pads and trickle into the net as the Blues welcomed back injured forward T.J. Oshie with a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.

Johnson's fifth of the season and second in as many games came with 6 minutes 47 seconds remaining in the game as the Blues (22-17-6) got back one of their key injured players in Oshie, who missed the previous 31 games with a fractured left ankle, suffered Nov. 10 in Columbus.

The win gives the Blues 50 points and moves them up one spot in 11th place in the Western Conference, ahead of the Kings (24-21-1) by one point.

Johnson received a pass from Alex Steen, who has a point in 19 of 23 games, skated into the Kings zone and fired off what seemed like a harmless wrister with David Backes crashing the net. Quick appeared to smother the puck but it somehow trickled through for the go-ahead tally.

"We were having some trouble, in the second especially, we weren't shooting the puck a lot," Johnson said. "(Blues coach) Davis (Payne) was just emphasizing that we need pucks and bodies to go to the net to be successful. It's not going to take anything pretty. Like you saw, I just threw it at the net and I think Quick saw Backes flying in there and it just squeaked across the line."

It's not the way a team designs it, but a win is a win, and the Blues, who are 2-5-1 in their past eight games -- both wins against the Kings -- can use as many wins as they can get.

"We had some opportunities there on some line rushes and some odd-man situations where we didn't take the shot," Payne said. "It's one of those ones where you get to go back and say, 'This is why you put it on net.' I'm sure it's one that Quick would like back, but we'll certainly take it. It was a good decision by EJ to get the puck turned right back up and get in over the line and allow the rush to get somewhat there. Just to put it on net after a couple of the odd-man rushes we had was a good decision by him obviously."

The win was glorified by the return of Oshie, who returned to the lineup nearly a month sooner than originally expected when the injury occured.

Oshie, who skated with Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund on the Blues' second unit, took 20 shifts and had 17:53 of ice time in his return back. He received a rousing ovation when introduced.

"I felt great," Oshie said. "It took me a while to find my step out there, but everything was good. Probably half way through the second, I started getting comfortable. I was feeling like myself again out there. Obviously, the legs and lungs aren't where you want them to be. You can't really match a game from just skating by yourself on the ice at practice. All is well. The team got the win, which is a plus.

"It was awesome. I had a smile on my face all night. Even after a bad shift, it was kind of hard to wipe the grin off my face. The fans were unbelievable. That big cheer at the beginning of the game definitely helped me. It calmed my nerves a little bit. The team was behind me, (the fans) were behind me so I just went out and played my game."

Said Payne, "I thought he was good. There were some moments there where you could see his ability to handle pucks. Most importantly, the pursuit that he has. There were a couple of plays in the second period and a read on the PK in the third period ... these kind of plays that you recognize as a play that a guy makes with his head as well as his hustle. Really evident that he's able to step back in and give us a solid game. Was it top-notch T.J. Oshie? No. But it's his first game in a couple of months, so we'll take it."

Berglund scored the Blues' initial goal on a two-man advantage when Matt D'Agostini found Berglund coming down the right seam 11:56 into the opening period.

The Blues came into the game 3 for 39 on the power play dating back to Dec. 16.

"I knew (Berglund) and Steener were kind of going up and down there so there would be a little movement, kind of throwing their guys off," D'Agostini said. "Bergy was up high to begin with and then he moved into that bottom seam. I put it a little in front of him, but he went out and got it, so it was a good play.

"We knew we had to get something there, and the power play's been struggling lately so I think that was big for us to come out and get one like that."

Kyle Clifford scored for the Kings in the second period, as Matt Greene's shot hit Clifford in front, beating Jaroslav Halak on a screen play with 3:39 left in the second. Halak stopped 26 shots in the win.

As the Blues welcomed Oshie back, Johnson was struck on the wrist by a Alec Martinez in the opening period, but obviously Johnson returned.

"It hit me right in the bone," Johnson said. "X-rays were negative, which is good. I just wanted to make sure and put an ice pack on it and take an Advil and get back out. That's just hockey."

However, Carlo Colaiacovo, who was struck on the mouth by a puck in Anaheim last week, took another puck near the eye area off a Drew Doughty shot in the second period and did not return.

"No update other than we know he got hit, and I believe it was closer to the eye than the last one was in the mouth," Payne said. "We're looking into exactly what's going to go on there. He was hit in the eye area and that's all we know for now."

Oshie started the game and just made sure for his first night back that he didn't try too much.

"A lot of the guys were kind of talking to me," Oshie said. "Don't go too hard, don't try to do too much. I think a couple shifts I kind of did that little bit with the puck, trying to do a little too much with it. Just getting out there and being with the boys and being on the bench and being in the game atmosphere is a lot different than skating circles by yourself and doing conditioning drills.

"Sitting down for two and a half months or whatever it's been just watching from upstairs, you see some different stuff and you definitely don't realize how fast it is from up there. I was telling the boys that I'm two, three steps behind right now, or at least it felt like that. It felt like I was skating in cement there for a while. It's going to take a while for me to get my timing back. Hopefully not too long and I can get more and more comfortable each night."

The Blues will keep moving forward and welcome Detroit here Thursday.

"Two points in the bag," D'Agostini said. "We'll take it and move onto the next one."

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