Saturday, April 4, 2015

Blues pull into tie for first with wild 7-5 win against Stars

Schwartz hat trick, Berglund's two goals lead 
offensive way; St. Louis rallies in third period

DALLAS -- It resembled more of the 80s style of wide open game than that of today's 3-2 style of NHL game.

The league has abandoned the plethora of goal scoring years ago and gone with a more defensive, neutral zone clogging style.

The Blues and Dallas Stars tried their darndest to recreate the game of yesteryear.

In the end, the Blues were able to outlast the Stars 7-5 in a game that meant everything to both teams Friday night at American Airlines Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues celebrate a goal scored by Alex Pietrangelo (27) in the third
period of a 7-5 victory against the Dallas Stars on Friday.

The Blues (48-23-7, 103 points) were momentarily passed by the Chicago Blackhawks for second place in the fiercely-competitive Central Division after Chicago pulled out a 4-3 victory against the Buffalo Sabres earlier on Friday.

So the Central Division standings currently have the Blues and Nashville Predators tied with 103 points and the Blackhawks have 102. Each team has four games remaining in the race to the finish.

"It's fun. It makes it exciting," said defenseman Zbynek Michalek, whose goal in the third period tied the game 5-5. "That's the good thing about this league. There are so many teams, so many races going on for divisional lead, for a playoff spot. I think it's great for the fans and the league. I'm sure it's fun for us as players. We have to play up to the end. We have a huge test on Sunday. We'll just take it game by game and go from there."

Added Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who said he's never seen anything like it: "No, but it's going to be fun. They’re all big games. Home and home against Chicago. Winnipeg’s desperate. Minny’s desperate. It’s going to be a great next week."

The Blues somehow on the second of a back-to-back, after traveling off a 4-1 home victory against the Calgary Flames and getting into Dallas at 2 a.m., found a way -- and a will -- to win.

Jaden Schwartz's second career hat trick -- both this season -- and Patrik Berglund's two goals fueled the Blues' comeback. 

It was a game in which the Blues were outplayed in the first but escaped tied, they blitzed Dallas (37-31-10) with two quick goals in the second and surrendered four unanswered before getting one late in the period, then rallying to win for the seventh time this season after trailing after two.

It was the kind of win that the Blues needed to keep pace in the race for the division. It wasn't the cleanest of wins, but as Alex Pietrangelo -- who scored the game-winner midway through the third -- said, good teams find a way.

"You know what, you've got to find ways to win," he said. "'Moose' held us in there that first period; he was unbelievable. We knew we had to bail him out. Just one of those games where I guess you've got to score more than five. We did. I've said a lot of times this year ... good teams find ways to win. It's not always going to bounce your way, but there's a lot of perseverance we showed. Pretty impressive the character in this room."

Schwartz agreed.

"It was kind of a crazy game, some ups and downs," he said. "A little lapse there in the middle of the second period and they got some momentum and we just stuck with it. We kept working, believing in ourselves. Those are always nice wins to be a part of. That goes a long way for belief and character in the locker room."

The Blues, who were down 5-4 after two periods, found the belief after Schwartz's second of the game that came with 25.5 seconds left after Pietrangelo gained entry into the zone, found Schwartz, who cut around Jason Spezza and another Stars player and snapped a shot top shelf.

Instead of trailing by two, the one-goal deficit seemed more doable.

"I think so. Definitely helps when you make it a one-goal game going into the third," Schwartz said. "Twenty minutes left, it's a lot of hockey. We had goals from everybody today. Every line's been contributing, big timely goals and it was nice to see."

The three-goal comeback came on goals by Michalek, Pietrangelo and Schwartz, who completed the hat trick with 22 seconds to play.

Michalek tied the game 5-5 when his centering pass caromed off a Stars player in front and off goalie Kari Lehtonen at 4:44.

"I got it wide and I was looking; there was traffic going to the net and I was trying to pass it in front," Michalek said "I think it bounced off their d-man's skate and it was a lucky bounce and we'll take it for sure.

"That late goal in the second period was huge. That gave us a chance. We said before the third period what we needed to do. We just wanted to play well defensively and get in on the forecheck. Luckily, we turned around the game and came out with a huge two points for us."

Pietrangelo's game-winner came three seconds after the Blues' final power play, when he whirled in the slot and beat Lehtonen through a Dmitrij Jaskin screen at 9:57.

"I wanted it originally from Jori (Lehtera), but he didn't want to give it to me obviously," Pietrangelo joked. "I was just trying to make a move and they said shoot, so I just spun. 'Jask' was in front there and didn't really give the goalie a chance to see."

Not long after during a TV timeout, Lehtonen was pulled in favor of Jhonas Enroth. Lehtonen allowed six goals on only 19 shots -- the Blues finished with seven goals on 21 shots. It didn't matter.

Schwartz completed the hat trick -- his 28th of the season, which is a career-high.

"Obviously a lot better when you get the win," Schwartz said of the hat trick. "When you lose and get a hat trick, it's not quite the same. It's a nice feeling, especially this time of the year. When you work hard and just stick with it, individual success comes as the team plays."

It was the seventh one as a team for the Blues. Schwartz (2), Vladimir Tarasenko (2), David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Lehtera have them. 

"That is a lot," Schwartz said. "I don't know if I've been on a team that has that many hat tricks. Don't know what to say other than to say we've got guys that can shoot the puck."

"Nobody had any control of anything," Hitchcock said. "I don’t know how either coach could feel like you were controlling anything. We were under siege. They were under siege. I was impressed that we didn’t roll over in the third period, you know. The goal at the end of the second was a big goal, really gave us life in here. It was good to see."

The Blues, who were outplayed for much of the first, got the lead when Berglund redirected Michalek's right point shot from the high slot with 2:11 remaining in the period to go up 1-0.

But an unfortunate break against the Blues gave the Stars a penalty shot with 10.1 seconds left in the period. Carl Gunnarsson's clearing attempt couldn't be corralled by Chris Porter, who inadvertently knocked the puck back into the zone, and Cody Eakin found Travis Moen, who split the Blues' defense and was hauled down by Michalek for the penalty shot. 

Moen snapped a forehand past Brian Elliott, who made 27 saves, to tie the game 1-1.

The Blues came out ripping early in the second, scoring twice in 17 seconds to go up 3-1. 

Berglund's second of the game came off another redirection of Kevin Shattenkirk's left point shot 15 seconds in to go up 2-1.

Schwartz took a feathery feed from T.J. Oshie and beat Lehtonen on a rebound backhand 32 seconds in to make it 3-1.

But Stars coach Lindy Ruff called a time out and the Stars scored six seconds after the faceoff on Benn's shot from the high slot that beat Elliott near side 38 seconds into the period to make it 3-2 after Jay Bouwmeester lost handle of t he puck.

From Moen's goal to Benn's goal, it's the fastest four goals scored in NHL history (49 seconds) according to Elias Sports Bureau. The previous record was 53 seconds.

"Yeah, I just found that out," Hitchcock said, then joked. "Both teams were playing good defense."

It was the first of four unanswered Stars goals.

The Blues had multiple opportunities to get a puck out of their zone, but instead kept going backwards and it bit them when Seguin's initial shot was stopped by Elliott, but the puck caromed off Shattenkirk's chest and into the net 10:01 into the second to tie the game 3-3.

Benn scored his second of the game and 30th of the season when Seguin slotted a sharp pass that Benn redirected at 14:40 for Dallas' first lead at 4-3.

Roussell made it 5-3 just 43 seconds later when he came from behind the net and stuffed a puck inside the short side.

The teams combined for seven goals on 21 shots in the second period.

"It was a bit odd," Pietrangelo said. "I think both teams, when the other team scored, your first thought is, 'Your next shift's got to be your best one.' Obviously it wasn't the case a few times there. Sometimes you've got to score seven; we did tonight. Everybody contributed. A big game from Schwartzy. We needed that."

The win was the fifth time this season the Blues won both ends of a back-to-back. 

"You're not going to use fatigue as a factor, but these are the games where your depth comes into play," Pietrangelo said. "We rolled a lot tonight, four lines and six 'D.' Getting in at two in the morning, getting up having to play again is never an easy thing. It's the character we have. We're going to find ways to win."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players (from left to right) Zbynek MIchalek (6), Jori Lehtera (12)
and Jay Bouwmeester celebrate a third-period goal Friday in Dallas.

Seven different players (Schwartz, Berglund, Michalek, Jay Bouwmeester, Shattenkirk, Pietrangelo and Oshie) all had two or more points.

"I think the way the game turned out, obviously I think it was kind of even bigger to come back from that," Berglund said. "Obviously not a very good second period, but the way we fought back and the way we played at the end of the third period too, I thought it was pretty solid. It’s a good feeling to come out of here with two points."

And they've done it without their top two scorers, Tarasenko and Alexander Steen, who both missed the game with lower-body injuries.

"No, we sure do want them back but when people are out, someone has got to come in and try to do the best they can to fill some shoes," Berglund said. "We’ve been getting scoring from others, which is good."

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