Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blues finish tough stretch with 5-4 overtime win over Wild

Sobotka OT winner caps 5-1 start as team ends six-game, nine-day stretch

ST. LOUIS -- Roman Polak could joke about it afterwards.

Only a victory can bring a smile to the Blues defenseman's face after a whiff of the puck that eventually culminated with a game-winner.

After finishing a six-game stretch over nine days, the Blues can feel good about coming away with 10 of a possible 12 points.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Vladimir Sobotka celebrates after scoring the game-winner in
overtime Sunday night.
It was one of the toughest stretches of their 48-game season, but the Blues can take pride in the fact they were knocked around a few times and were able to stand up in the face of adversity against some tough teams.

Sunday's overtime win over a tough Minnesota Wild squad was the culmination of getting kicked, only to get back up and stand victorious.

Vladimir Sobotka's tip-in of a Andy McDonald pass gave the Blues a 5-4 win against the Wild on Sunday night at Scottrade Center improving St. Louis to 5-1-0 on the season and keeping pace with the 6-0-0 Chicago Blackhawks for the top spot in the Central Division. It's the Blues' best start since the 1997-98 when the Blues began 7-1-0.

"I don't think it's the back-to-back that's the big deal. It's the three in four nights," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, talking about his team's second set of three games in four nights. "This is six games in nine nights. To play like this, it's a good sign. It shows we've got a lot of compete in us and a lot of character. We're going to need it, but it's a good sign.

"I've been around a long time and the third period was impressive. Back-to-back, it was a very physical game [Saturday] night [in Dallas, a 4-3 Blues victory] and to come with that type of effort [Sunday] was, I think, a real confidence booster. We didn't get down on ourselves. We really took our game to another level. A full value for the win in my opinion."

McDonald fed Sobotka in front, and the Blues' fourth-line center chopped the puck past Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom 2:16 into overtime.

"That's what we practice all the time," Sobotka said of his 19th career goal. "I just stayed in front of the net, and Andy made a good play.

"I just saw it landed right on my stick and it was a weird chop. It ended up in the net and I'm happy for it."

The play originally started with Polak, who had the puck along the half wall looking to throw the puck at the net. He whiffed on the puck but was able to recover and get the puck to McDonald anyway.

"It was a great fake by me," Polak joked, "and I lost the puck ... I was looking at the net and I tried shooting it. I realized when I tried shooting it that I didn't want to do it.

"... I looked and it was behind me, so I went in the corner and took the puck again and tried to go to the net. Andy Mac was there and the guy slashed my stick. The puck went onto Andy Mac's stick and he did a helluva job getting it to Sobe. It was a great win."

The Wild fell for the third time in a row (0-2-1 in that span).

"Very disappointed," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "It was a recipe for how to lose a game. ... There were more than several mistakes.

"The bottom line is we can sit here and talk about our potential, the fact that we have a nice team on paper. (But) the winners do things that it takes to win hockey games."

Wade Redden scored his second goal as a Blue and in as many games, Patrik Berglund, Chris Stewart and Barret Jackman added goals, David Perron, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk each assisted on two goals.

"We showed lots of patience and lots of character in our team," Polak said. "We stuck with it. We played for 60 minutes and we got the result. We got the two points."

Zach Parise scored twice and set up another. Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu each added a goal and an assist and Tom Gilbert and Ryan Suter each added a pair of assists.

"It doesn't matter, we lost the game," a frustrated Parise said of another game that slipped away. "We have to win games here."

Redden's second goal in as many games -- he had two in 75 games with the New York Rangers in the 2009-10 season -- gave the Blues a 1-0 lead. Behind the net, David Backes found a streaking Redden in the left circle, and the veteran defenseman made no mistake with a one-timer past Backstrom 9:16 into the game.

Minnesota's best chance came early in the game, when Marco Scandella's shot from the blue line deflected in the crease and off the post. Elliott then robbed Matt Cullen in tight on the rebound.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' David Backes (right) leaps in front of Wild netminder Niklas
Backstrom in St. Louis' victory Sunday night.
The Wild were effective in their shooting percentage in the second period, scoring three times on only four shots.

Parise was in on all three goals, scoring a pair of power-play goals. The first tied it up 1-1 when his shot from a tough angle caromed off the left skate of Brian Elliott 2:04 into the period.

Parise gave the Wild a 2-1 lead, taking a flip pass from Koivu and curling a shot around Elliott 10:52 into the period.

Then in a 4-on-4 situation, Parise's drop pass to Koivu in the right circle set up the Wild captain, who snapped a shot over Elliott's shoulder at 14:40. Play continued but after review, it clearly hit the back of the pipe and came out for a 3-1 Minnesota lead.

Berglund cut the lead to 3-2 just 58 seconds later, taking Perron's cross-ice feed and beating a sprawled Backstrom.

The Blues came out humming in the third period, swarming the Wild goal. But three missed power play chances hurt their cause. However, they got the equalizer on Stewart's redirection of Pietrangelo's shot from the right point to tie it 3-3.

Jackman gave the Blues a 4-3 lead at 13:47 on a shot from the right point, off a drop pass from Vladimir Tarasenko, but Heatley's goal with 4:08 left, on a tip of a scrum in front of Elliott tied the game 4-4. Officials needed video review to see if Heatley touched it with a high stick, but the goal stood.

The Blues continued to come at the Wild in bunches and needed the extra session to claim the extra point. They are now off until Thursday.

"They're a helluva team," Hitchcock said of the Wild. "We're having a tough time. They were on our butt as much as we were on theirs. We didn't give up very many shots [34-16 advantage for the Blues], but I think if there was frustration, it was maybe we weren't creating anything because they were winning the board battles. Even though they were in their zone, they were winning the board battles, so we weren't getting any zone time.

"They were winning the puck-support battles to get exits, and then it just seemed like every little breakdown was in our net. I think there was some frustration with the fact that we were getting pushed hard. I just liked the way we responded when we got pushed like that in the third period. We pushed back in a big way. It's a good sign."

* NOTES -- Jackman played in 603rd game, surpassing Larry Patey for eighth place all-time in club history. ... Seven of last 10 meetings between Wild and Blues have been decided by one goal, including five of last six. ... The Blues are 7-0-3 in last 10 home matchups vs. Wild. ... Shattenkirk [eight assists] and Pietrangelo [one goal, six assists] rank first and second, respectively, among all NHL defensemen ... The Blues are 33-6-5 at Scottrade Center since 2011-12.

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