Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Steen overtime winner helps Blues snap skid

Victory in Detroit helps Allen earn first
NHL victory; Stewart shines with goal, assist

DETROIT -- Jake Allen called it another game Wednesday morning.

Turns out the Blues' netminder was right. It was another game, and at the end of it, also his first NHL victory in his first start after an inauspicious start but quite the finish.

For one night, the Blues were who everyone thought they were ... even after another rough start that saw them fall behind by two goals.
(Getty Images)
T.J. Oshie (left) celebrates with Patrik Berglund after Berglund's
short-handed goal in the first period Wednesday night in Detroit.
Allen recovered, and Alex Steen's overtime goal 52 seconds into the extra period helped the Blues snap a five-game losing skid with a 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

The Blues (7-5-1), who were 0-4-1 in their previous five games, fell behind 2-0 against the Red Wings (7-4-2), who saw their three-game winning streak snapped and in a building that hasn't been too kind to them. They had dropped four in a row here dating back to that 10-3 shellacking they handed Detroit in 2011.

Steen banked a shot in off Jimmy Howard when Barret Jackman threw a puck at Howard that caromed into the low slot. Steen was on the doorstep and popped in his third goal in as many games.

"I was just hoping something would bounce out," Steen said. "I got lucky."

Jackman, who saw Steen driving the net, felt like a rebound could be had.

"I was just trying to get a rebound," Jackman said, "especially in overtime. Any shot on net is a potential goal. ... I was trying to pick top corner, put it in the middle of his chest and Steener did a great job of coming over the top and driving the net. We got a bounce and luckily we got it in."

Chris Stewart tallied a goal and an assist, Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Tarasenko added goals and stopped 15 shots. But after allowing two goals on his first six shots, it was Allen's clutch left pad stop on Detroit's Damien Brunner in overtime seconds before the Blues rushed to the other end to get the winner after falling behind 2-0 early in the game.

All the little things that had been missing from the Blues' game in the past week, including blocked shots, winning puck battles along the boards and most importantly: clutch saves.

"I saw [Brunner] driving the net there," said Allen, who coach Ken Hitchcock already declared the starter Friday in Calgary. "... I saw him drive the net, so I pushed a little bit and got my pad on it. I was glad for that save.

"It was not the way you wanted to start a game, especially the first one you start," Allen added, who got the game puck and will add it to his collection of first jersey and game sheet. "What can you do? The puck goes in the net. You can't take it back. So you've just got to stick with it. Even though they got up 2-0, I knew we were still capable. I wasn't worried at all."

Hitchcock called the early 2-0 deficit remnants that were left over from the previous five games' failures.

"The first period is the debris left over from not having success," Hitchcock said. "Once we really started to check and play, we really played well. We did all the things that we know how to do and we're hard to play against when we play like that. Once we dialed up the checking, I thought we felt more comfortable on the ice. Our guys seemed to be two steps quicker.

"I knew there was going to be debris left over. We had some very emotional losses."

Detroit, which had its three-game winning streak snapped, got goals from Tomas Tatar, Drew Miller and Pavel Datsyuk. Howard, after stopping 45 shots in a 3-2 win against Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon, stopped 21 shots Wednesday.

"Give them credit," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "It's a 60-minute game, we knew it was going to be a 60-minute game."

Tatar added his first goal of the season and second of his career, winning a battle near Allen, then going forehand-backhand and roofing the puck in just 2:17 into the game.

Miller scored his first of the season, the 19th time the Blues have allowed a player to score their first goals of the season, on a give-and-go with Jordin Tootoo and slipping a puck through Allen 7:54 into the opening period.

But no worries from Allen or the Blues this go around.

"I think that's what I've learned over the last three years is just to stick with it," Allen said. "... I wasn't worried. It showed. We battled back and won."

But the Blues, who have fallen behind in five of the last six games, got a huge goal when Berglund notched his team-leading sixth of the season with a shorthanded tally after T.J. Oshie beat Brunner and Justin Abdelkader before feeding Berglund for a one-timer with 4:42 left in the period.

It was the goal that turned the Blues' motor on and kept it churning.

"It always helps to get that first goal overall," said Berglund, who's tied with Stewart and Tarasenko for the team lead in goals with six. "After that, we started to play well.

"We competed really hard. It wasn't pretty, but we competed and we got what we came for."

The Blues thrived off the big goal, coming out firing and tilting the ice in their favor. They grabbed a lead by scoring twice in 1:45 when Tarasenko and Stewart both caught Berglund with their sixth goals of the season for a 3-2 lead.

Tarasenko took Stewart's saucer feed and beat a screened Howard at 7:12 on the power play, giving the Blues an 8-for-14 conversion rating against Detroit this season, and Stewart took a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beat Howard on a backhand breakaway attempt at 8:57.

"We caught them on a quick change there. We caught them on a quick-up there from Petro," Stewart said. "It was a heads-up play to send me in on a breakaway.

"Step in the right direction. Any time you can come into the Joe and snake two points out, it’s a great thing. 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 changed the game around."

Datsyuk tied the game with 7:21 left in the second when he caught Allen peeling off the left post and banked one in from behind the net after the Wings had sustained some good pressure. It's the 15th straight period the Blues have allowed a goal dating back to the second period of their 5-3 loss here in Detroit on Dec. 1.
(Getty Images)
Blues players rush off the bench to congratulate Jake Allen (34) after Alex
Steen's overtime winner in Detroit Wednesday night.
Neither team scored in the third, and the Blues had their team game going so well, they held Detroit to one third-period shot (Abdelkader's attempt with 1:43 remaining), and 24 blocked shots in the game attributed to a lot of that.

"We're not there yet, but this is a real boost for our team," Hitchcock said. "This is a boost that we can go back and play the way we played last year and have success. We scored, we checked, we held the opposition ... I think we allow the fewest shots on goal in the National Hockey League by far, and that's the way we've got to play to win right now. We've got to limit the opposition until we get the ship righted here."

"I thought we had no quit in our game tonight,"Jackman said. "Right after that (2-0 deficit), we get a couple goals, a couple bounces went our way. The boys continued to battle. A great shorthanded goal to get us going. We kept putting shots on goal and finally got bounces."

* NOTES -- After a blazing start to the season in which he had nine points (five goals) in seven games, Tarasenko had cooled off until scoring a big goal Wednesday night.

The Russian right wing only had one assist in five games. So in an effort to get the 21-year-old rolling, Hitchcock put Tarasenko back together with Andy McDonald and Steen.

"Tarasenko played his best with those two guys," Hitchcock said. "As much as we probably need help somewhere else in the lineup, those three guys were a good combination so we'll just stay with it.

"The last game that Tarasenko played was an unbelievable wake-up call because he's never seen a game like that where you look up and you've got two feet of ice. I've said this before when you play ... and I didn't mean to dismiss the KHL, what I meant was that Russian players or Euros that come over and play college or maybe junior and then turn pro, have an advantage over playing in the KHL all the time because the game is different. ... He played in a league his whole life where there never was a defenseman that pinched. He's played where everybody's received the rush. In this league, you attack the rush and you pinch all the time. So he's having to learn to play with people right in his face, no room to move the puck, people stepping on him."

It's more of a testament and tribute to players in the NHL recognizing Tarasenko and his skill. But the rookie has had to adjust.

"I swear to God, his middle name is 'look-out' now, because that's what's getting yelled on the bench five times a game," Hitchcock said, "and that's what we're hoping, that he learns this quick because the awareness issues have to get better for him to get there because he's dealing with not only being a good player but also being an important player and now people are stepping up on him and saying, 'you're not going to get the ice that you did the first six games. I'm taking your ice away now.' He's having to learn to fight through that.

"It was a huge wake-up call against LA because they just stepped up on him every shift trying to negate some of his ice. Halfway through the game, he learned to start fighting back a little bit, so it was good."

. . . Goalie Jaroslav Halak was on the ice for the morning skate Wednesday with both Allen and Elliott and got in some light work with skating and shots.

. . . Veteran defenseman Wade Redden and right wing Matt D'Agostini were healthy scratches. Defenseman Kris Russell, who was a healthy scratch the previous two games, replaced Redden in the lineup.


  1. Love your in depth analysis, Lou. Everyone has been saying that Jaden is minus 5, he's not playing well. When I watch the game my eyes are telling me that he is playing very well. Stats may not show it, but I swear he had at least five "wow" plays tonight (slick steals, hustle plays, corner battles) and that effort play at the end of regulation that be finished off with a sweet pass that nearly set up a game winning goal. Love how he plays.

  2. Thanks. Hitch really liked that line last night. I thought it was their best line.