Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Third period blitz helps Blues topple Kings

Tarasenko leads charge with hat trick, four-point game in 5-2 victory

ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko needed to end his media session as soon as possible. A call to his grandfather in Russia was in store.

Tarasenko, who scored his second hat trick of the season and first since Brett Hull did it twice in 1996-97, speaks to grandfather Vladimir after each game. The two dissect the Blues right wing's game.

So what would grandpa Vladimir say after Tarasenko was a catalyst in the Blues' 5-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings?

"We'll see. Hope he will be happy," Tarasenko said of his grandfather.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Kevin Shattenkirk and Vladimir Tarasenko celebrate Tarasenko's
goal in the third period of a 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings.

Blues needed a flurry of goals in the third period to finally overcome the Kings, a nemesis in recent seasons. 

Jaden Schwartz, Tarasenko and Alexander Steen scored in a 2:30 span to erase a one-goal deficit in the third period at Scottrade Center. 

And in a short span, the Blues exorcised the demons that had been plaguing them plenty in recent seasons, including a pair of playoff defeats.

Tarasenko had his second four-point night for the Blues (21-8-2), who found out hours before the game that right wing T.J. Oshie would not play because of family reasons. But St. Louis ran its streak of points on home ice to eight games (7-0-1). 

"It's unbelievable how he elevates his game," Blues winger Steve Ott said of Tarasenko. "It's pretty impressive to kind of see it every single game, but scoring 20 goals already before Christmas is something special that it's a testament to his work ethic, his practice of shooting that puck and being such a smart player at a young age. It's really neat to see him excel."

Jake Allen made 21 saves in a winning effort to help the Blues win their fifth straight game.

The Blues are 11-1-1 in their past 13 home games and defeated the Kings (15-11-6) for the third time in the past 12 regular-season games (3-7-2). 

Despite scoring four times in the third, the Blues didn't register their first shot on goal until eight minutes in. They finished the period with eight but limited the Kings to one.

"Even though there was tough sledding in the third period at the start getting through the neutral zone, we were still at least pushing the envelope," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said, "and starting to do the things that I think we anticipated we'd do early. 

"It was a very tactical game. ... For us, we need to see some reward for the effort and the work and we need to see some reward for playing the right way. So we get a little reward, we feel good about ourselves and hopefully we can build on this momentum."

The Kings were going according to script how they've had success against the Blues in recent history. They got pucks deep, they forechecked in the offensive zone and turned the Blues over in the neutral zone. The recipe was working for 40 minutes.

They needed 60.

"You kind of felt it in the game; it was time to sink it swim," Blues captain David Backes said. "Our guys responded really well. We get on our horse and start playing our game where we're getting pucks deep and forcing them to take a couple penalties there.

"You started to see that glimmer in our eyes. Enough of taking a back seat to these guys. We can play with them when we're all in on the effort. ... You don't come back from a 2-0 hole to the defending Stanley Cup champions too often."

Los Angeles, which got two goals from Marian Gaborik, ended a five-game trip 1-3-1 and lost for the first time (12-1-1) in regulation when leading after two periods. Jonathan Quick made 18 saves.

But momentum swung in the game when the Blues cut the Kings' lead in half and then used a two-man advantage to level things off and then take control.

"We're a team that usually closes things out," Kings right wing Justin Williams said. "Leading after two, we didn't do it tonight ... very frustrating.

"They shot a puck on a 5-on-3, it went off a couple bodies and in the net. There's a lot of twist and turns in the game that indicate the result and we weren't good enough in the third."

Shattenkirk's shot on a 5-on-3 power play tied the game 2-2 at 11:20 of the third on a shot from the slot that was deflected by Schwartz in front; Tarasenko's power goal at 13:00 on a wrist shot from the right circle gave the Blues the lead for good on; Steen scored off 3-on-2 rush at 13:50 to make it 4-2. 

Tarasenko's empty-net goal with 1:24 completed the hat trick, his second of the season. He leads the Blues with 20 goals.

"It's only one game," said Tarasenko, who extended his point streak to six games with 10 (six goals). "Thanks to my linemates and my teammates to support me. It's really nice ... first hat trick here in Scottrade and thanks for the fans. It was unbelievable.

"... We were happy we were able to compete at a high level. We just have to keep up the good work." 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz (17) and Alexander Steen (middle, back) crowd the net
next to Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) Tuesday night.

Gaborik, who has 38 points in 35 games against the Blues, scored 5:39 into the second period when he was able to deflect a loose puck in front of Allen off a scramble. Chris Porter was initially able to save a goal by kicking the puck off the line, but Gaborik was on the doorstep to make it 1-0. 

Gaborik doubled the lead when Anze Kopitar threaded a pass into the slot for a quick redirection over Allen 11 minutes into the second. It was the Kings' first power-play goal against the Blues in 30 attempts. 

Tarasenko's first of the game cut the Kings' lead to 2-1 when he took Ott's pass into the high slot and beat Quick with a precise wrist shot high glove side 1:29 after Gaborik's power play goal. 

Tarasenko's first goal was the Blues' first against the Kings and Quick in 131:34. The floodgates would soon open after that, and the Blues -- for one night -- could revel in a win against the champs.

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