Monday, November 23, 2015

Blues rally in third to top Sabres 2-1

Brouwer, Fabbri score, Allen stops 24 shots 
to give St. Louis first win when trailing after two

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Blues have been in this position before. The key was not to panic.

They've been in this position before and instead of getting on each other after falling behind a goal against the Buffalo Sabres after two periods, the Blues stayed even-keeled, talked about what they needed to do and implemented it with a third period that produced a road victory.

Troy Brouwer tied it, and rookie Robby Fabbri won it with a fluky game-winner, but the Blues somehow pulled out a 2-1 victory against the Sabres on Monday night before an announced 17,563 at First Niagara Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Troy Brouwer (left), Jori Lehtera (right) and Alex Pietrangelo (second from
right) celebrate with Robby Fabbri after Fabbri's goal turned out to be the
game-winner in a 2-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.

The Blues (14-6-1) had trouble generating much, if any, free ice against the determined Sabres (8-11-2), who coach Ken Hitchcock said checked the Blues the hardest for any two periods he's seen all season long.

So what did the Blues do? They checked back, and pucks remained in the offensive zone that led to opportunities in front of Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark.

Brouwer scored on a rebound off a blocked shot, and Fabbri scored applying pressure in the slot that led to Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges inadvertently knocking a puck into his own net with 6 minutes, 34 seconds left in the game.

Jake Allen did the rest with 24 saves.

"I thought we started checking them," Hitchcock said. "That's the hardest for two periods we've got checked all year. They were in our face, no space, no room, hard on us every shift. They made us pay a price if we were going to do anything. That's the hardest people played and I thought some of our veteran guys dug in and started to give it back a little bit in the third period, started to check them hard, scored a goal because of it, turned the puck over about three times in their zone. That's the hardest I've seen us get checked in a long time.

"We had to invest way more than we were if we expected to win the game. For the first two periods, we were looking for something easier and it wasn't there, and they weren't going to go away. They've got great structure, they've got speed, they've got tenacity, they've got size and they're starting to mature. You're going to have to pay a price to beat them. They're not going to give you anything easy, but we had to dig in a lot deeper than we were going. We did in the third period."

The Blues got Paul Stastny back for their game after the center missed 16 games with a broken foot. That was the good news.

But until the third period comeback, which was the Blues' first win when trailing after two periods (1-6-2), not much happened.

"We had to get in on the forecheck a little bit more," said Brouwer, whose goal was his first point in six games. "We had a couple rush opportunities, but we never were able to follow it up with anything. They do a real good job getting it back to their d-men, their d-men do a good job boxing out of the net. So it was tough for us to get in and around the goalie. They just did a good job getting it out of their zone real quick and apply enough pressure on us. I thought in the third period we did a good job of getting pucks behind them making sure that it was just a little bit slower for them to be able to clear their own zone.

"We're past that. Our young guys, we were talking to them making sure that they're settled in. I feel they've done a great job this entire year, just feeling comfortable knowing that we are going to make mistakes, we are going to be down in games, but the last thing you can do is get on each other. Our biggest comeback was against Chicago and there was nothing but positivity in our room and we were down three goals a few times. Tonight was no different. We just wanted to make sure that guys were feeling good about themselves, guys were making good plays because when you're down on yourself, that's when you're not going to make good plays, you're not going to have your head up and that's the mentality that we want to have in this room."

A scoreless first period had both teams with scoring opportunities; perhaps the Sabres had the better of the chances.

Both Ryan O'Reilly and Johan Larsson had high percentage looks in front of Allen but each hit the post. Allen actually got a piece of Larsson's rebound attempt.

"That's my job, to calm things down for the guys, make them relaxed back there, make them comfortable, give them a chance to play their game," Allen said. "It doesn't matter if it's in the first 10 minutes of the game or the last 12 minutes of the game like it was tonight where we found a way to win."

Steve Ott had the Blues' best chance after he scooped up a loose, bouncing puck and went in alone in Ullmark, but the Sabres goalie came up with the glove save with 12:41 remaining in the period.

The Sabres' tenacity finally paid off and they cashed in with a fourth-line goal late in the second period.

David Legwand's first with the Sabres came after Nicolas Deslauriers pushes a puck behind the net where Kyle Brodziak lost it trying to come back around the same side with it. Legwand picked the puck up, threw a backhand through the crease, catching Allen looking the other way and the puck caromed off Allen's left skate and in with 3:15 left in the period.

It was the first goal the Blues allowed to the Sabres in this building in the past 156:35.

"I didn't really know what happened on that," Allen said. "I'll have to look at the video after. I think it was meant to transition the other side of the net. Whatever happened, happened; it went in but we found a way to win. 

"I think it was a little bit of a chaotic first two periods, a little bit sloppy, some weird bounces for both teams off the glass, pucks weren't laying flat for anyone. But it was only 1-0, it wasn't the end of the world. We came out and guys did their job."

The Blues just couldn't generate any offensive zone pressure for 40 minutes but changed tactics in the third.

Brouwer's fifth of the season came after Kevin Shattenkirk's shot from near the point hit Zach Bogosian in the slot and Brouwer, camped out in front, popped home a backhander inside the near post 5:07 into the third to the the game 1-1.

Shattenkirk extended his point streak to six games (two goals, six assists).

"We weren't getting a lot of second opportunities," Brouwer said. "I thought we had a couple good shifts before that trying to get some momentum, creating some opportunities, get some speed through the neutral zone. We were able to get one and the second one was in similar fashion."

Fabbri's second game-winner in the NHL came after Jay Bouwmeester's shot fell into the slot, and Gorges tried to clear, but his clearing attempt hit Fabbri, caromed back near the top of the crease and off Gorges' right skate past Ullmark.

"I'll take it any way it comes," Fabbri said. "I know a lot of the guys feel that way. I was lucky to get that bounce and we've just got to keep it going here.

"To be honest, I couldn't really tell you. I didn't know where the puck was and I was spinning around and when I looked, I saw it was in the net and I put my hands up and didn't know who put it in, if it was me or not. It was something crazy like that. ... I went to go put it in and it went off my foot and up in the air and then it fell in between my feet again. I don't know what happened after that."

The Sabres, who fell to 6-1-0 when leading after two, used a challenge on the play. Coach Dan Bylsma contended the Blues were offsides entering the zone with the puck, and replays showed Brouwer dragging his skate to remain onside until David Backes moved the puck into the offensive zone. The call stood on the ice as a good goal.

"I just tried to drag it as long as I could," Brouwer said. "'DB' made a good play to stay out of range of the guy's stick. I probably could have straddled the line and gone with it, but I didn't want to lose my speed. Luckily I was able to stretch just a little bit far enough."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark makrs a glove save on Steve Ott's breakaway
attempt in the first period Monday at First Niagara Center.

The Blues played 6-on-4 for the final minute of the game when Carl Gunnarsson was whistled on a questionable closing hand on the puck penalty, but the Blues, who didn't have a power play in the game, weathered the storm.

"Our goalie was good again," Hitchcock said. "Our goalie was our best player again. It's getting to be like a broken record, but you're grateful for it. I thought their tenacity on us was really, really strong."

Stastny played 19:37 in his return to the lineup, centering Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko. He won eight of 17 faceoffs and had a shot on goal.

"Any time you can have one of your best players on the ice, it always helps," Brouwer said. "A big boost in the room for us. ... To have 'Stas' back, he adds a different dynamic to our game. When he's on the ice, he controls the play the majority of the time."

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