Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Steen's winner late in regulation helps Blues down Jets

Left wing's 11th goal of the season leads
NHL, comes with under minute remaining

ST. LOUIS -- Alexander Steen may not want to talk about being in the same company as Alexander Ovechkin and other goal-scoring leaders, but the Blues' left wing has no choice.

Especially since he's finding ways to score clutch goals.
The puck is finding Steen's stick, and he's finding the back of the net with precision and accuracy.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues players David Backes (left) and T.J. Oshie watch as Alexander
Steen's shot beats Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec in the final minute Tuesday.
Steen's 11th goal of the season with 59.4 seconds remaining Tuesday night at Scottrade Center led the Blues to a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. It also moved Steen into the NHL lead in goals, passing Ovechkin who has 10.

Steen took an open shot-pass from Jay Bouwmeester into the slot and beat Ondrej Pavelec as the puck caromed off the right post and Pavelec's backside and into the net.

"As we walked the line and it comes back, I know I've got a little bit of space," said Steen, who has 11 goals on 31 shots and Ovechkin has his 10 on 78 shots. "It's a great read by Bouw and a great pass. Once I get it, I kind of figured I had a little bit of time. It's nice to see it go in.

"I'm going low glove. I got fortunate though. It hit the post and then hit (Pavelec), I think and went in. I thought I hit the post and didn't go in. It was nice when I heard the buzzer go."

Steen's teammates are marveling at his success, and feel it's well-deserved.

"It's pretty impressive isn't it? We all know he's pretty deserving," said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who scored a goal and assisted on Steen's game-winner. "He works his tail off day in and day out. He's one of the hardest workers I've ever seen in any sport. He deserves all the success. We've just got to make sure he keeps going. We've got some pretty good supporting cast to help him out as well."

The Blues remembered how they gave a point away to the Jets 11 days ago. They were determined not to squander a lead again.

The Blues dropped a 4-3 shootout decision in Winnipeg Oct. 18, a game in which they led 3-1 with under seven minutes to play before allowing the Jets to rally.

"We said that in the locker room here. I think Shatty said it right before we were walking out," Blues right wing T.J. Oshie said. "That was a tough one to give up with the week off having that loss and that kind of taste in your mouth, but it was good to get the win here in regulation."

Brenden Morrow scored for the Blues (7-1-2), who have earned points in nine of 10 games this season. Jaroslav Halak stopped 21 shots to improve to 7-1-1 on the season.

"This was not a work of art today, but it's two points. Move on and get some rest," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're in that thing right now where we're really over-playing players. That's not how we're built. We've got to find a way not to over-play players and get more from the rest of the group. We've got to get a lot more from some people if we expect to get to the next level."

Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little scored for the Jets, who wrapped up a four-game trip 1-2-1 but feeling like they could have earned more. Pavelec stopped 30 shots as the Jets have played in five straight one-goal games and six out of seven.

"We gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "The frustrating part is we're finding ways to lose the game.

"... Really disheartening. We've got to find ways to repair these areas, they become different every night."

Steen's goal was his seventh in five games, and he passed Ovechkin. Three others have nine. Coupled with Oshie's dogged determination on the puck to help set up the second goal and his ability to force Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom into an interference penalty to set up Steen's winner.

"He's just such a major factor," Hitchcock said of Oshie. "He's just such a major factor on our team. Him and Steen are the conscience of the team. It's good to see."

Morrow's second goal of the season put the Blues ahead 1-0 6:36 into the game when Pavelec gave up a big rebound off Ryan Reaves' shot from the right circle. Morrow came in off the back side and one-timed the rebound into the empty side.

The Jets tied the game when Derek Roy (interference) and Morrow (roughing) took simultaneous penalties, giving Winnipeg a two-minute 5-on-3 advantage. Morrow drew his penalty when he reacted to Olli Jokinen delivering a shoulder check that sent Alex Pietrangelo into the corner boards.

Wheeler whacked in a rebound off an Andrew Ladd shot on the power play. Halak stopped the initial shot, but lost sight of the puck as it popped up high and toward the back post. Wheeler finished into the empty side at 11:20 of the first. It broke an 0-for-26 skid on the power play for the Jets.

The Blues felt they had the game in control early. They had the lead and were keeping the puck in Winnipeg's zone and pressuring well, but the penalties changed the momentum, according to Hitchcock.

"What turned the momentum of the game around was the 5-on-3," Hitchcock said. "We had it killed off. We made a couple mistakes. We got caught out on the ice long, but we had the penalty killed off. ... That's what really turned the game. We were playing great, we were rolling four lines and everybody was in the game and they got momentum of being able to play their players off that 5-on-3. That changed the game completely around."

Neither team could light the lamp in the second period, but the Jets nearly scored late when Wheeler was sent in alone from the blue line as he split the Blues' defense, but his backhand attempt hit the left post with 55 seconds left in the period.

St. Louis regained the lead thanks to Oshie's dogged determination to win a loose puck and keep possession. He then faked a shot and fed an on-rushing Pietrangelo, who was able to beat Pavelec high short side with an open side to shoot at 4:16 into the final period to break a 1-1 tie.

"That's the work ethic from Osh," Pietrangelo said. "I knew it was coming. He's got that fake in him, he's got that patience.

"I'm surprised I didn't panic. Lucky enough, he had that fake. When someone gives you an open net, when he works that hard to get that puck, you want to make sure you score for him."

The Jets were able to come back and square the game 2-2 when Oshie failed to keep a puck in the Winnipeg zone on the power play, and Little was able to convert Ladd's pass at 10:27 on what amounted to a 2-on-0 play.

It was the second straight game the Blues allowed a shorthanded goal.

Halak preserved the tie when he was able to get a glove at point-blank range on Michael Frolik's backhand off a deflected shot with five minutes remaining in regulation. Halak made a number of quality saves in the game.

"Another great game," Pietrangelo said of Halak. "He's been great all year."

Added Hitchcock: "Jaro was terrific tonight. We needed him, and it was good to see."

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Alexander Steen (right) scored his NHL-leading 11th goal of the season
Tuesday night in a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets.
The Blues, after giving up the shorthanded goal, were really determined to get a result out of the power play late, especially after giving up the lead with their power play.
"Yeah, obviously," Oshie said. "I think more so, we were focusing on getting shots. if not getting a goal, building momentum to get it into OT there."

Said Hitchcock: "Those are our best players right now. They went out there and played very determined when the game was on the line."
The game marked the first time a team from Winnipeg visited St. Louis since April 8, 1996, when the original Winnipeg Jets franchise faced off against the Blues.

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