Monday, November 16, 2015

Backes helps Blues end two-game slide with 3-2 win against Jets

Captain nets two goals, including 25th career 
game-winner, adds assist; Tarasenko has goal, assist 

ST. LOUIS -- Despite a strong record through 17 games, the Blues felt coming into their game Monday against the Winnipeg Jets they had been playing too much catch-up hockey.

They needed better starts to games, and being outscored 18-10 in first periods this season wasn't the recipe for success.

But the Blues alleviated some of those ailments by jumping on the Winnipeg Jets for two first-period goals. Despite giving up the lead, David Backes' second goal of the game, the 25th of his career, helped the Blues snap a two-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory against the Jets before 18,680 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Backes (second from left) celebrates with teammates after scoring a
goal against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday in a 3-2 victory.

The Blues got first-period goals from Vladimir Tarasenko and Backes to grab a 2-0 lead. They outshot the struggling Jets 11-3 and held a decided edge in play.

"It wasn’t perfect by any means. I think they were in our face and playing physical and we had to find a way to respond," said Backes, whose game-winner moved him into 10th place on the franchise list past Brendan Shanahan. "We found our game as it went on, scored a big power-play goal and those things become perpetual. 

"We had a lot of great efforts I think by guys that maybe don’t show up on the score sheet in (Kyle) Brodziak’s line and (Jori) Lehtera tonight winning big draws in our zone, playing those hard minutes to allow us to have a little bit more time in the offensive zone. Jake (Allen) was stellar as he has been for the last while for us."

"We really felt like we needed to get off to a good start," said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who had two assists in the game. "This is a team that I think feeds off that when you let them get into their game, let them check, let them kind of hit you around and play that transition game that they have. They have such a good transition game when they can get their speed going in the neutral zone. We did a good job of taking care of pucks and getting on their defensemen early."

Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, and Allen made 16 saves for the Blues (12-5-1), who play at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

"I didn't think I had too many shots or a lot of quality shots," said Allen, who had to make a reflex save with seconds remaining to preserve the win. "They usually throw a lot of pucks at the net from weird angles. That's their game, but tonight, they didn't do that as much. I don't know how many shots they had, but some decent ones. It was a little close at the end, but we got it done."

The Jets (8-9-2) were winless on their four-game road trip and were outscored 21-8. Michael Hutchinson made 25 saves for Winnipeg, which has lost six in a row (0-5-1).

The Blues led 2-0 heading into the second period, but the Jets stormed back to tie the game on goals 36 seconds apart. 

Dustin Byfuglien's slap shot from the right point at 2:16 made it a 2-1 game, and Bryan Little's wrist shot from the slot after taking a pass from Mathieu Perreault at 2:42 tied the game. 

But Backes' second goal of the game 4:24 into the second period gave St. Louis the lead again at 3-2. The Blues captain scored his fifth goal, all in the past eight games, after a give-and-go play with Alexander Steen and a backhand shot past a screened Hutchinson.

"When it's 2-0, you want to discourage them more and take the energy out of them," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Jets. "When they got that first goal, they really got energized and it was a dogfight.

"I think the third goal by David right back at them, that was really good for us because I thought it settled us down."

Backes agreed.

"It's huge because we’ve had those little periods in games and it’s been our crutch," Backes said. "I think we've identified that last year, especially in the playoffs, where we're playing well, they get one and they are going to score goals, they're a good team, too, you've just got to pick up your game and play well right after that and respond well. They got two but after that we picked our game up and played the right way and we’re able to seal it down once we had the 3-2 lead."

Tarasenko's 11th goal gave the Blues a 1-0 lead. After defenseman Colton Parayko pinched along the right wall, he fed Tarasenko in the slot and paved a way for the Blues' leading scorer to take a wrist shot that beat Hutchinson 5:33 into the first period. 

Backes' power-play goal put the Blues up 2-0 with 5:47 remaining in the first. Tarasenko raced and beat Jets defenseman Mark Stuart to the puck and poked it to Shattenkirk. From the corner, Shattenkirk whipped the puck to the slot, where Backes pulled it to his forehand and beat Hutchinson before crashing into the crossbar.

"Steener gets a good puck there and kind of tries to make a play coming in the zone, puts the puck in the right spot," Shattenkirk said. "Vladi recognizes it and skates hard to just get any sort of 50-50 puck. Fortunately it comes right to me and I heard Dave screaming, 'Net, net, net!' I knew he was there. Fortunately it was right on his tape."

"It was a good start," Hitchcock said. "I think we're still trying to learn how to keep up the level of intensity for 60 minutes. That's the challenge for us right now, to take a team and bury them. We had it 2-0 in our building, we kind of give it back pretty quickly there. There's a feeling there's these emotional swings and they're very draining, and I think we're doing that to ourselves. That's something we want to talk about in the next couple of games, to maintain a higher level. We've got our foot on people, we really have to close it down. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Backes joins Vladimir Tarasenko (middle) and teammates to
celebrate Tarasenko's goal in the first period of a 3-2 victory against the 
Winnipeg Jets.

"You look at us in the third period on the power play, we had some really good looks early in the power play and then we stopped shooting it. It's just that aggressive mentality that we want to get to. We want to get to a position where you want to discourage teams from taking penalties by hammering the puck at them. We're set up as a shooting power play and we want to get more aggressive that way, too." 

The Blues locked it down in the third period, like the Chicago Blackhawks did to them here on Saturday, and were able to protect a lead.

"I think the best period we played was the third period when we were protecting the lead and we protected it by spending a lot more time in the offensive zone," Hitchcock said. "I thought that was a good sign for us."

* NOTES -- Hitchcock said a couple players sustained "minor ailments" in the game Monday and their statuses will be updated in Columbus on Tuesday. He was also non-committal on a goalie, and with Allen only facing 18 shots, Hitchcock could come back with Allen again Tuesday.


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