Sobotka makes play, Russell nets first goal,
Allen stays hot for St. Louis, winners of five of six
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Chris Stewart had so much time once he got the puck, he had nearly had too much time on his hands.
But fortunately for the Blues, with Stewart on an unbelievable hot streak and showing the deft touch of a goal scorer, the power forward was able to cap off a terrific play by teammate Vladimir Sobotka.
Stewart scored 45 seconds into overtime to give the Blues a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday before 19,593 at Scottrade Center in a battle of Western Conference heavyweights.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' Roman Polak (left) is being chased by Anaheim's Brandon
McMillan during Saturday's 2-1 overtime win.
Sobotka was able to pick off a Teemu Selanne pass near his own blue line and take off on a 2-on-1 with teammate Roman Polak. Stewart, who was trailing on the play, got the puck from Sobotka, who ever-so-patiently dangled the puck around a sliding Selanne and Cam Fowler, fed Stewart in the slot, who in turn out-waited Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, pulled it to his backhand and roofed the winner.
"Altogether he's arguably one of our best players 4-on-4," Stewart said of Sobotka, who played in his 300th game Saturday. "His skillset, his patience, it was all him. I went to the net with my stick on the ice and he looked off about three guys there. l think by the time he passed it to me, no one knew what was going to happen. I like to get the puck in tight, make a nice power move and put her home.
"I got it I looked up and I was like, 'I'm gonna shoot it,' but Hiller was still there, gave him a little fake, cut back to my backhand and got lucky."
Stewart now has five goals in the past three games, 14 points [seven goals, seven assists] in the past seven and 24 points [10 goals, 14 assists] in the past 18 contests.
Kris Russell scored his first goal of the season, and Jake Allen continues to roll, improving to 8-1-0 on the season after making 27 stops to see the Blues win their fifth in six games. They improved to 16-10-2 on the season playing without injured stars Andy McDonald (knee), T.J. Oshie (upper-body) and top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who was a late scratch with the flu.
"Guys have been dropping all year and guys have been stepping up," Stewart said. "Petro goes down with the flu and you look at Ian Cole, who's been out the last four or five games, he steps up and he has a great game for us. It's going to be scary when we do get healthy. I think we're going to be getting healthy around the right time of the year. We're going to be a team to be reckoned with."
Saku Koivu netted a goal, the 798th point of his career, and Hiller stopped 19 shots as the Ducks (20-3-4) saw their five-game winning streak snapped, but they still took five of six points on a three-game trip. They also set a franchise record for most points in a 17-game stretch in which the Ducks collected 29 points.
"It was a very well played game," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Sometimes the well-played games aren't the most entertaining games. They got the break at the end of the game. We make an error, they capitalize on it. What are you going to do? Bobby Ryan had an open net and the puck rolls off his stick. We had chances to score. It didn't go our way tonight."
The Ducks grabbed the lead late in the first when Koivu netted his eighth of the season. The Ducks kept several attempts at clears by the Blues in the zone, Cam Fowler found his defensive partner with a cross-ice feed to the left side of the blue line. Bryan Allen's shot had eyes, deflected off Koivu in the slot and beat Allen top shelf with 19.5 seconds remaining in the period for a 1-0 Ducks lead.
The Blues had their best chance three-plus minutes into the game when Matt D'Agostini's check on Koivu forced a turnover, and David Perron's shot from the high slot had Hiller beat but rang off the left post.
Russell's first goal since April 7, 2012 [the final day of the regular season] tied the game 1-1.
The power play goal, which saw the Blues score for only the fourth time in their last 40 attempts, came after Vladimir Tarasenko, who returned to the lineup after missing 10 games with a concussion, reverse a pass to Russell. He skated to the middle of the point and ripped a shot over Hiller's right shoulder at the 12:42 mark of the second period.
"I think my main focus is trying to get pucks to the net for the forwards," Russell said. "We've got a skilled bunch up front. If we can do a good job of getting it through the lane on that first guy, we're going to get some chances. Stewy did a great job on the screen. I don't think [Hiller] seen it at all. It's tough for the goalies to stop what they don't see. That goal doesn't happen if Vladi doesn't make that play off the wall and Stewy's obviously a big part of that with the screen."
Both goalies made their share of stops on the period, with Allen coming up with the best one, as he robbed Andrew Cogliano with a terrific left pad save as Cogliano tried flipping in a backhand from a sharp angle into an open side. Allen also robbed Fowler after Anaheim won an offensive zone faceoff and Fowler ripped a shot from the slot that saw Allen flash the leather. Allen also made a nifty right kick stop on a breaking Matt Beleskey with 7:24 left in the third period.
Hiller also had a couple key stops, thwarting back-to-back attempts from Ryan Reaves and Wade Redden before flashing his glove on Tarasenko late in the second period.
"He had about four of them in the third period, and then pick them," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Allen. "When you've got goaltending like this and it gives you a chance to win every night ... he makes hard saves look routine, which calms everybody down on the bench because as good as he was against Phoenix, he was way better than that tonight. He was excellent tonight. This was the best I've seen him play was tonight, and we needed him badly. Both goalies were really good."
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues teammates celebrate with Kris Russell (4), who scored in the second
period of Saturday's 2-1 overtime win over Anaheim.
"The puck sort of came to me," Allen said. "I just had to sort of skate in there. He was sort of close-angled to the goal line, but he still got it on net. I was sort of late, so I just tried to dive out and get my pad there and just got it before the goal line."
The Ducks brought pressure in the third period, and the Blues didn't register their first shot of the period until 9:24 left on a turn-around shot by Tarasenko.
Ryan had the terrific chance early in the third period but the puck rolled off his stick wide of an empty side that would have given the Ducks a 2-1 lead.
"I thought I did everything right on the play except put it on the net," Ryan said. "The pass was great. I put [Allen] in the other corner, I just didn’t finish. Hindsight’s one thing. I’m not going to worry about it too much."
In the meantime, Allen keeps trucking along for the Blues. He lowered his goals-against average to 2.18 and now sports a .920 save percentage.
"It's still a bit of a whirlwind, but just enjoy it tonight, relax tomorrow and come back and prepare on Monday," Allen said. "I know I had some big saves there, but that's my job. I'm just happy to get the victory now and have a day off tomorrow."