Saturday, January 10, 2015

Blues rally past Hurricanes 5-4

Oshie scores lone shootout goal; team 
rallies from three deficits; Allen gains win in relief

ST. LOUIS -- After outscoring their opponents 20-4 during a three-game winning streak and the team in last place in the Eastern Conference coming to town, the Blues were in a dangerous position for a letdown.

And judging by the first period in which the Carolina Hurricanes dictated a lot of the play and led by two goals after two periods and had leads three different times, it seemed the Blues were destined for one of those games where leaving two points on the ice against a team it should beat look like a reality.

The Hurricanes came in healthy and gave the Blues fits, but St. Louis regrouped and gutted out a 5-4 victory on T.J. Oshie's lone goal in the shootout.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' T.J. Oshie (right) beats Carolina goalie Cam Ward during the
shootout of Saturday's 5-4 St. Louis victory at Scottrade Center.

The Blues trailed 3-1 in the first period and 4-3 entering the third, and after a lackluster first period that resulted in starting goalie Brian Elliott get pulled from the game, the Blues needed a jumpstart.

Jake Allen came on and stabilized the net, the Blues' best players were their best, and it turned out to be one of those games where the Blues found a way.

Sometimes, that's all it takes.

"We weren't very good in the first, but basically just regrouped, took a breath and started fresh in the second period," said left wing Alexander Steen, who scored the Blues' first goal. "We wanted to make sure we weren't going to treat 'Alls' the way we treated 'Ells' in the first."

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who had two assists, agreed.

"Just needed to get better," Pietrangelo said. "We knew we had to be better all around starting in the 'D' zone. We had to manage pucks better. 

"We have a pretty mature group of taking ownership when we've got to be better. We all did that and got the result."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who picked up his 150th career win as Blues coach, said earlier in the day that the Blues needed to play with an edge against an unknown team.

"I think the edge was the way we played in the first period," Hitchcock said. "It was pretty loose. We were just playing hockey and I thought we grabbed it a lot better in the second.

"It's hard in the league to play catch-up. We're lucky that we've got some really good offensive players that can catch games for us. it's hard playing catch-up. When you're down 3-1 and you're down (4-3), you're battling. You've got to really be battling back in the game. ... It wasn't the prettiest of the games but there were a lot of individual performances that brought us back, I'll tell you that. Some of the individual plays in the third period and end of the second were terrific. I thought what got us back in the second was our checking. We got back-checking again."

Oshie shot first for the Blues and beat Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward for his first shootout goal of the season after starting 0-for-3. 

"I usually don't celebrate after the goals, but 0-for-2, 0-for-3 before ... it was nice to get that one," Oshie said. "I've been so worried about the ice because the format now without the Zamboni's coming out. I had to just go out there and try to make a good move and if it rolled, it rolled. She stayed flat for me, for the most part, and I was able to put it in."

Allen saved three attempts by the Hurricanes' Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal and Alexander Semin.

"You just have to relax," Allen said. "You have to be a realist, you’re not going to win every shootout, but I wish I could. I just go in there and have fun with it, try to be as patient as I can and let them make the first move."

The Blues thought they won the game on Jay Bouwmeester's goal with 1:52 left in overtime, but it was waved off because Patrik Berglund interfered with Ward.

"I knew the goalie was off-balance and he kind of hit somebody or just kind of fell over," Bouwmeester said. "That's the way it goes, doesn't matter.

"You just kind of regroup. There was only a minute and a half or something. We did a good job. We haven't had many shootouts this year. It's nice to win one."

The calls were mixed on whether the call was the correct one.

The call was made by referee Steve Kozari, who had to officiate the third period, overtime and shootout as the lone referee after Rob Martell was involved in a collision in the second period and did not return. He was being evaluated for an undisclosed injury.

"It was tough. We all thought it was in," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We really didn't see what happened and after we saw the replay, it looked like maybe Bergy touched him before the defenseman clipped him. Probably the right call; it's just tough when you're in overtime like that and you get such a big momentum change and you have to go back out and focus. We did a good job of doing it. It was a break in the game that just didn't go our way. Tonight, it felt like there were a couple more of those. We've been fortunate lately, but the good thing is we stayed with it."

Hitchcock disagreed.

"I didn't like it," he said. "My view is probably different from the league's. I think outside the blue it's anybody's ice, that's the part I don't like. The goalie owns the blue for me, but I don't like it when a goalie can attack the puck and be outside the blue and he's not fair game. He's not fair game for the scoring team, because if you have to keep avoiding him, then the goalie can play six feet outside the blue and you've got to go around him all the time. I don't like that."

The Blues scored twice in 54 seconds in the second period to tie the game 3-3 on goals by Jaden Schwartz and Berglund. David Backes had two assists, and St. Louis (26-13-3) extended its winning streak to four games. 

Victor Rask and Skinner each had a goal and an assist, and Eric Staal scored for the Hurricanes (13-24-5). Ward made 31 saves.

Allen made 19 saves. He came on in relief of Elliott, who allowed three goals on 10 shots before being pulled. 

"It was really good for Jake," Hitchcock said. "Really good for Jake to come in and help us a little bit."

Vladimir Tarasenko's Blues-leading 23rd goal tied the game for the third time at 6:46 of the third period. He received a stretch pass from defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk before beating Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason and Ward with a rebound goal off his initial shot. 

Tarasenko and Shattenkirk were named as the Blues' representatives in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game earlier Saturday. 

"I think everyone in this league can make that pass up to him, but no one can really do what happens after," Shattenkirk said of Tarasenko. "I skate to the bench and next thing I know, I hear the goal horn going off. It's one of those moments again this year, you give Vladi the puck and next thing you know, it's in the back of the net.

"I see him. Based on how we run our neutral zone, we have forwards going in all three lanes. I stopped the puck, looked up and saw he was standing there at the very least to just chip it in and go to work. We all know the type of plays be can make."

Tarasenko, who scored for the first time in six games, 

"Home (run) play," Tarasenko said. "We talk a lot about it in the practice. Happy to score again.

"This is a really big win. It was a big comeback. ... We needed these two points." 

Riley Nash gave Carolina a 4-3 lead with 4:54 left in the second period off a scramble to the right of Allen. 

Schwartz got the Blues within 3-2 at 4:07 after picking off a pass in the Carolina zone, extending his point streak to four games (three goals, four assists). Berglund scored from the high slot past Ward as Steen screened the goalie at 5:01.

"Despite the slow start, we came back in the second period hot and got a couple goals to tie it up," Shattenkirk said. "I know we had one little lapse when they scored to go up 4-3, but from that moment on and in the third period, I think we played great hockey and we were able to get the tying goal and a couple good chances in overtime. It was a good effort getting it back and getting on the right side of it."

Rask's wrist shot from the left point caromed off Blues defenseman Chris Butler's left skate and through Elliott's pads 2:00 into the first period for a 1-0 lead. 

After Steen tied the game to extend his point streak to a career-best six games (four goals, eight assists) at 6:21, Skinner scored on a wrist shot from the slot at 7:43, and Staal's breakaway gave Carolina a 3-1 lead at 12:42 after Shattenkirk fell trying to get back into coverage. Elliott was replaced by Allen. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Goalies Jake Allen (left) and Brian Elliott cross paths in the first period
after Elliott was pulled after allowing three goals on 10 shots Saturday.

"It's a combination," Hitchcock said. "It was anything I could do to try to change momentum. I switched (Paul) Stastny and (Jori) Lehtera and that seemed to work. Just anything we could do to change momentum."

It worked.

"That’s your job, you have to be ready when called upon," Allen said. "It’s not always the prettiest way to go in, but that’s your job as a backup, to be ready. I don’t think there’s any blame to put on Brian on those first three goals. We started out a little slow."

And ended strong.

"It's not always going to be pretty," Pietrangelo said. "We play 82 games. It's not always going to be easy to win. We've had some wins this year at points where it's not pretty, but we find ways to do it and come the end of the season, those are the points that are really going to matter."

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