Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tarasenko hat trick fuels 4-1 victory in Game 2

Series tied 1-1 as teams shift to Minnesota for Games 3 and 4

ST. LOUIS -- Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko could see the hats reigning down from the sellout crowd of Scottrade Center. 

It never phased him one bit. 

"It was nice," Tarasenko said, who was more concerned to satisfying the 19,243 that came to see the Blues even their best-of-7 series against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday afternoon.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko celebrates one of three goals
scored Saturday against the Minnesota Wild.

Tarasenko will get his pick of the hats, many probably very nice and expensive, but the best way he can repay loyal hockey fans in this city?

"Our city waiting for a Cup for a long time," Tarasenko said. "I think we can do this."

Tarasenko helped the Blues get off on the right foot when he scored his first Stanley Cup Playoff hat trick, and the Blues defeated the Minnesota Wild 4-1 in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round to even the series 1-1. 

The series shifts to Minnesota for Game 3 on Monday (7 p.m.; FS-MW, CNBC and KMOX 1120-AM).

Tarasenko, who made his playoff debut last season against the Chicago Blackhawks with four goals, now has seven in his past eight playoff games. His two goals in the first period set the tone for what the Blues wanted to accomplish after losing 4-2 in Game 1 on home ice Thursday.

Tarasenko didn't have a shot on goal in Game 1. He became the first Blue to score a playoff hat trick since Mike Sillinger did it April 12, 2004 against San Jose.

"This is a win. This is 100 percent win," Tarasenko said. "There’s no time to celebrate. We have a tough couple games coming. Just bring the good part and make the next step right now. We just win. It doesn’t matter how many goals you have."

Patrik Berglund scored, and Jake Allen made 24 saves for his first playoff victory. Alexander Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk each had two assists. Shattenkirk has four assists in the series.

"We took a big step," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We know we have to play better. Now we've got to go steal a game. We've been a good road team all year, actually we've been a great road team."

Tarasenko gave the Blues a 1-0 lead with a redirection off Steen's wrist shot inside the blue line 14:18 into the period. He scored his second of the period on a power play with 1:59 remaining in the period after he took Steen's cross-ice pass and banked a shot in off Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, who peeled off the near post, for a 2-0 lead.

"I think the chemistry with Steen and Tarasenko is off the rush," Hitchcock said. "They can find each other."

Steen added: "We do a lot. We constantly talk -- mostly in English -- trying to work out details in our game and, yeah, tonight was good." 

Dubnyk took blame for the second goal.

"That’s just a mistake by me. It’s not a good goal," Dubnyk said. "I came off my post on a guy (who) likes to shoot, who's got a pretty good shot and he made me pay for it. That’s a mistake by me that cost me a goal against. Make sure it doesn’t happen again."

Defenseman Marco Scandella scored for the Wild and Dubnyk made 23 saves. 

"I thought we played two good games," Wild left wing Zach Parise said. "You find yourself down 2-0 here early, but we got ourselves back in the game. It was just a couple that we couldn’t capitalize and put in the net. 

"Overall we’d love to be going home 2-0 but it’s 1-1. There’s a lot of things we can feel good about. Of course there are areas for improvement, but there’s a lot of things that we’ve been doing pretty well."

The Blues played a better first period than in Game 1. There were 18 hits in the period, led by David Backes (four), Steve Ott (three) and Ryan Reaves (three).

Establishing a good forecheck was what the Blues were looking for to offset the Wild's speed transition game.

"Yeah, I thought we came out, we had a game plan in Game 1 which was similar to that but it didn't show up and in Game 2, it did," Ott said. "That's the difference, that's the team that we are and who we've been all year, and it's no secret that that's how we have to play to have success. I thought to a man, from our goaltenders out, everybody played their role and extremely hard."

Allen made several big saves, but the biggest was off a harmless dump-in off the stick of Wild deenseman Ryan Suter, who threw the puck off the glass. The puck took a strange carom and fell at Allen's skates, nearly going in the net. With 4:49 left in the second period, Allen made a glove save of a sharp-angle Mikko Koivu shorthanded shot while sprawled on the ice after Jason Zucker shot wide on a 2-on-1.

"Me and Schwartzy both got a piece of it," Allen said. "My glove was there, I sort of didn't want to move because (Koivu)didn't have an angle so he was trying to get close to me and Schwartzy made a heck of a back-check to get back there and we both sort of got a piece of it and he swatted the puck away. He's one of the best back-checkers in the League, so credit him for that."

Dubnyk kept Tarasenko from getting a hat trick earlier with a save off a Steen pass with 52 seconds left in the second period. 

Scandella scored 1:46 into the third period to make it a 2-1 game on a slap shot from the left point, breaking his stick on a shot that had eyes and beat Allen on the near side after a drop pass from Thomas Vanek. 

The Wild continued to press for the tying goal  in the third period, and Charlie Coyle nearly tied it with 8:37 remaining but his wrist shot from the slot hit the cross bar, off Allen's back and Backes saved the puck from going in, clearing it off the goal line.

"I hate to see a guy who walks in uncontested with a lot of speed, you're hoping Jake can make a save, see it off the bar and just keep momentum back to the net hoping to clear out bodies," Backes said. "You see it trickling in behind him and just try to whack it out of there, hopefully you got it before it crossed the line and that was the case."

Allen joked: "I'll go talk to him, buy him a beer for that one. That was a great second effort by him, like Schwartzy, coming back, doing whatever it takes."

Berglund gave the Blues a 3-1 lead with 1:58 remaining after stealing puck in the neutral zone, skating in and beating Dubnyk with a wrist shot.

It turned out to be a huge goal with the Wild pressing for the equalizer.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues' T.J. Oshie (74) works with the puck as the Wild's Zach Parise (11)
gives chase in Game 2 Saturday at Scottrade Center.

"It was a goal-scorer's goal," Hitchcock said. "If you're going to have an odd-man rush, he's not fast enough. He's going to shoot, which is good for us."

Tarasenko completed the hat trick with an empty-net goal with 16.1 seconds remaining.

"We played great from start to finish. We were ready for their pushes," Shattenkirk said. "They’re a good team, they’re not going to go through a full game without getting some solid chances. We were able to weather the storm a little bit, especially in the third when they were applying a lot of pressure on us. We were able to just take a deep breath and settle things down a little bit."

"It was huge," Allen said of the win. "It was crucial to get a win in our building where we're comfortable in front of our fans. Now we go into their barn, their territory, and try to do the same thing."

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