Friday, February 15, 2013

After ridding themselves of leftover debris, Blues find a way

Overtime victory in Detroit saw Allen get better, team doing little things again

Coach Ken Hitchcock won't say his team is there yet, but a clutch overtime win in Detroit helped Wednesday helped the Blues alleviate some of the things that have plagued them in the past couple weeks.

They checked, they chipped pucks, they blocked shots, they delivered timely hits. They're stats that show up on the scoresheet but typically go unnoticed. But those are some of the smaller elements the Blues need to complete their game and bring their swagger back after a breakout 2011-12 season and 6-1-0 start to this abbreviated campaign.
(Getty Images)
Jake Allen (left) picked up his first NHL win and Kris Russell (4) got back
into the lineup in the Blues' 4-3 win at Detroit Wednesday.

"It's a step in the right direction," said right wing Chris Stewart, who was strong with a goal and an assist in the 4-3 overtime victory." Any time you can come into the Joe and sneak two points out, it's obviously a great thing. It was a full 60-minute effort.

"We could have packed our bags after being down 2-0 but went out there and got some big blocks on the penalty kill and I think that really changed the game around."

When the Blues allowed goals to Tomas Tatar and Drew Miller, third- and fourth-line guys for the Wings, Hitchcock said, "This could have got away from us ... again. We had that 'oh no, here we go again' look.

"Bergy's goal brought us back and we really just started to play after that."

Hitchcock was referring to Patrik Berglund's shorthanded goal late in the opening period. It cut the Detroit lead to 2-1 and helped Jake Allen, making his first NHL start, forget about a bit of a shaky start and settle in quite nicely even though the 22-year-old only saw 18 shots -- seven after the first period.

"It makes me feel good, too, that I still gave them a chance to come back and get in that position," Allen said. "We had a great second period there. It was a good feeling coming back in the locker room for the third playing some good hockey. Fortunately enough, turned it up and we win."

Allen, who got the game puck and will add it to his collection of first official game sheet and jersey, stopped 15 shots and will get the nod again tonight in Calgary when the Blues (7-5-1) face the Flames (4-4-3) at 8 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

"Right from the opening faceoff, we really got in their face," Stewart said of the Red Wings. "You look at their shots tonight, I think they had less than 20 shots and that's St. Louis Blues hockey. We gave a 60-minute effort and got the result we wanted."

And they did. The second period was indicative when the Blues gained the lead and didn't cave after Pavel Datsyuk's goal from behind the goal to tie it 3-3.

"We played exactly the way that we needed to no matter who's in net," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "But I think Jake rebounded very well. He was steady throughout the game and really gave us a chance to win. He was seeing the puck very well and controlling rebounds and that's how you need to play."

And when a 22-year-old making his first NHL start was calm, his teammates didn't wilt under pressure.

"The way things had been going lately, that would have been the easy way out ... pack 'er in and look forward to Calgary, but we wanted to put an end to this losing streak," Stewart said. "This is one of the toughest buildings in the NHL to get a win and it was a character win.

"Once (Allen) got the jitters out, he looked like an NHL goalie. He has a bright future in this league."

Alex Steen, who scored the overtime goal 52 seconds in, called the gut-check regroup after falling behind by two early goals crucial.

"That was big," he said. "I think there's a lot of positives we should bring with us. Obviously the fact that we didn't give up, Jake's play between the pipes was fantastic ... very cool, first game like that to play like he did was impressive and fun to see.

"It was a step in the right direction. I still think there's a few more notches to be honest. I think our five-on-five game can still pick up quite a few notches."

Hitchcock called the early 2-0 hole consistent with his team's recent play.

"I knew there was going to be debris left over," Hitchcock said. "We've had some very emotional losses. We have played games like this, and lost 5-1. We just needed to see a little bit of success."

(Getty Images)
Patrik Berglund's shorthanded goal Wednesday got the
ball rolling for the Blues. They would go on to top Detroit.

And when Berglund short-handed one-timer beat Jimmy Howard, one in which T.J. Oshie beat one skater along the wall after chipping it by him and cutting past another to make a play, the Blues had that game-on sense.

"After that, we started to play well," said Berglund, who is tied with Stewart and rookie Vladimir Tarasenko with six goals. "Jake played good, too. He had some huge saves for us.

"We competed real hard. It wasn't pretty but we competed and we got the result we came here for."

The Blues will face a duo of stern tests in Canada with the Flames up tonight and a Sunday night battle with upstart Vancouver.

"Obviously it's just one win, but we did some good things," Stewart said. "We're going to take this momentum on the road. I think this road trip came at a great time."

"We learned a lot about ourselves today," Hitchcock said. "We learned that the harder we check, the more we score, which was an easy sell last year. It was a hard sell this year, and still going to be a hard sell. Our players really learned we can score four goals, check like crazy and still be really effective."

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