Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jackman's game-winner gives Blues crazy win against Jets

Defenseman scores unusual goal with 1:03 
remaining after Winnipeg rallied from three-goal deficit

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues had the Winnipeg Jets right where they wanted them.

A third period lead, a comfortable third period lead. Two points were all but  given

It was a collective sigh of relief in the St. Louis Blues' locker room after a 5-4 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on one of the stranger goals to deues cide a game.

Barret Jackman's long-shot goal with 1:03 remaining in the third period enabled the Blues to defeat the Jets on Tuesday and salvage two points in the most unconventional way.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Barret Jackman (left) and Alexander Steen celebrate Jackman's
third-period goal in a 5-4 victory on Tuesday night.

Jackman shot the puck from just inside the red line, and it somehow fooled Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec to give the Blues a win after Winnipeg rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the third period to tie the game.

David Backes won a faceoff back to Jackman's defensive partner Robert Bortuzzo, who immediately passed to Jackman. The veteran Blues' defenseman was aiming to throw the puck into the offensive zone and let the forwards go to work and found a better result.

"I just tried to get the puck in and give our forwards an opportunity," Jackman said. "It so happened their (goalie) lost track of it. We'll take it any way we can. 

"When I threw it in there, I thought (Pavelec) was just kind of surveying the play and was just going to grab it and flip it to the side. It just kind of floated over the glove. He obviously didn't get a good look at it."

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo had a good look at the play.

"We were on the bench; we could see it," Pietrangelo said. "All I was saying was, 'Go in!' We knew he didn't know where the puck was. I thought it was going right in his glove. Lucky enough it changed direction. We'll take it.

"It's an interesting way to win a hockey game, but we'll take it. Not a good way to finish in the third period; I think we can all agree with that. Fun to watch."

The Blues (42-19-5, 89 points) trail the Nashville Predators by two points for first place in the Central Division and have two games in hand.

St. Louis scored goals on four consecutive shots in the first and second periods.

The "STL Line" had six points, giving it 17 in the past four games. Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera each had a goal and an assist. Pietrangelo and Backes each had two assists for the Blues, and Brian Elliott made 12 saves.

Elliott was as happy as anyone when Jackman's shot went in.

"I would like to say I called it," Elliott said. "I've never really screamed for a goal that we got. That was a quick, girlie, high-pitched scream I had. Not pretty, but we'll take the two points and move on, that's for sure. ... I guess my high-pitch scream tells you I didn't expect it to [go in].

"Sometimes you lose the puck in the stands and you're expecting one thing, especially from 'Jax,' who's kind of a get it deep kind of player and you don't expect a shot from there. If you lose it in the stands, it's tough to gain it again. It's coming pretty fast. I'm assuming that's what happened. It's a tough break for him. You never want to get scored on like that."

The Jets (33-22-12, 78 points) entered the game three points in front of the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference; the Kings played at the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. It was the second of a four-game trip for the Jets, who won Saturday at Nashville.

Andrew Ladd had a goal and an assist, and Michael Frolik, Lee Stempniak and Blake Wheeler also scored. Michael Hutchinson, who started in goal, was pulled from the game after giving up four goals on seven shots; Pavelec made 19 saves in relief.

The Jets, who were 0-17-4 when trailing after two periods, scored three unanswered goals in the third to pull even at 4-4.

To see it end for them in that fashion was painful, especially so late in the season when points are precious.

"That's hockey man, you know," said Wheeler, whose shorthanded goal in the third tied the game 4-4. "They outplayed us in the first two periods but it was an opportunity for us to build some momentum going down to Florida regardless of what the score ended up being. It was a great effort by our team.

"That's hard. That's so hard coming into the middle of the game. You're stone cold, and he made some big saves to give us a chance to tie the game so no one feels worse than (Pavelec)right now. We need to rally around him and get his back up because we don't tie that game without him. It's a crazy game, stuff happens."

Ladd and Stempniak scored 11 seconds apart early in the period to make it 4-3. Ladd's power-play goal at 1:34 ended the Blues' streak of 17 straight kills, and Stempniak took an Adam Lowry pass and beat Elliott under the crossbar at 1:45. 

The Jets tied it 4-4 on Wheeler's shorthanded goal, a slap shot from the high slot that beat Elliott high to the glove side with 5:28 left but lost in gut-wrenching fashion.

"It's a tough loss," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "They were clearly better in the second and we were better than they were clearly in the third. We didn't skate in the second and they didn't skate in the third."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who win his 699th game in the NHL, was not displeased with his team after frittering away a 4-1 lead. He called Jackman's goal, "Justice. 

"Play that good for two periods, deserve a good fate. I was really happy with the way we played in the second and third period. The hockey gods took care of us. Good for him; I'll go to church tomorrow."

"I don't think it got away from us at all," Hitchcock added. "The first period, they were really on us. Their press-up game, we practiced for two days against it and showed video but we weren't ready for how intense it was. And then we played a great second period and played even a better third period. The two goals they scored to make it 4-3 were both flukes. Broken stick, defenseman can't defend and it ends up being 5-on-3. [Paul] Stastny does a great job on the backcheck, gets over top of the top and it hits a skate. Those are two fluky plays, and after that, we played great. We had all the scoring chances, we played great. What are you gonna do? They scored on their three scoring chances, they got them and that's the way it was."

Hitchcock did say the only mistake the Blues made was on the shorthanded tally by Wheeler.

"We made a back-checking mistake," Hitchcock said. "First of all, we turned it over on the power play, we kind of made a casual play in-zone and then we turned it over and didn't have the proper coverage coming back. That's the one goal that we made the mistake on, but man, we did a lot of good things."

Frolik opened the scoring and extended his point streak to seven games with his 16th of the season off a flip pass from Ladd. Frolik beat Lehtera to the puck and took a wrist shot that beat Elliott five-hole 8:50 into the game for a 1-0 lead.

It was the ninth straight game in which the Blues have allowed the first goal.

Schwartz scored with 5:40 remaining in the period to tie the game 1-1. Then the Blues got goals from Tarasenko 31 seconds into the second to make it 2-1; Ott scored to make it 3-1 at 10:08 and Lehtera ended Hutchinson's night after finishing off a tic-tac-toe play 1:01 later to make it a 4-1 game.

The points are starting to rack up for the "STL Line" again.

"Puck was finding our sticks," Schwartz said. "We were moving our feet and creating chances and checking the puck back when we had it. We had chances and they seemed to go in.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko (right) reaches for a puck defending the Jets' Jacob
Trouba in t. Louis' 5-4 victory.

"That was pretty crazy. Everyone's pretty excited. Not really sure what happened, but that was nice. Relieved to see it go in. Couldn't happen to a better guy to win it for us."

The Blues got the two points at the end of the night, and that's what they'll hang their hat on.

"Two points out of first place," Pietrangelo said. "That's a great accomplishment right now. We've got two games in hand still. Couple more home games before a really long road trip, so these next two games are really important for us."

However ... 

"It's good, but it's also kind of a check yourself in the mirror time," Elliott said. "You've got to preserve those leads. We built up a good one, had a great second period, but kind of let it fall away. Took an early penalty in the third period. That's the stuff you want to get away from. With a finish like that, you kind of have to take the two points and not worry about it too much."

* NOTES -- The Blues announced on Tuesday afternoon they have signed prospect Colton Parayko to a two-year entry level contract.

Parayko, 21, a 2012 third round draft pick, will report to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

Parayko has spent the past three seasons at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. This season, the 6-foot-4, 224-pound defenseman appeared in 34 games and ranked third on the club with 23 points, including six goals and 17 assists.

In 2013-14, he was named a WCHA First Team All-Star while earning the League’s Defensive Player of the Year honors. In addition, he was chosen as a NCAA Second Team All-American.

Overall, Parayko dressed in 104 collegiate games and had 66 points, with 17 goals and 49 assists.

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