Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Berglund, Blues batter Devils 5-2

Forward scores pair of power play goals, Rattie nets first NHL goal in victory

ST. LOUIS -- The timeliness of Patrik Berglund's return to the Blues' lineup couldn't have come at a better time.

With the Blues being hit by a slew of injuries in recent days, Berglund's versatility is something they'll need moving forward until people begin to heal.

Berglund scored two power-play goals to help the Blues defeat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 at Scottrade Center on Tuesday. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Patrik Berglund (21) gets set to deflect a puck towards Devils goalie Keith
Kincaid. Berglund scored twice in a 5-2 victory on Tuesday. 

Ty Rattie scored his first NHL goal, and Scottie Upshall and David Backes scored for St. Louis (25-14-7), which has won two straight, and five in a row against New Jersey. Brian Elliott made 22 saves, and Alexander Steen had two assists. 

It was the Blues' first regulation win since Dec. 22 at the Boston Bruins. 

The win was the 200th for coach Ken Hitchcock with St. Louis; he has 733 NHL victories. 

"To me, it's been a good run here," Hitchcock said after the morning skate. "It's been a lot of winning. We want to keep it going right now, but it's a lot of winning here. This is Year Five here and we've had a good team for an extended period of time. You don't get those records unless you have good players. I was really fortunate in three of the four cities. We really had good teams and we won a lot of hockey games."

Berglund is only playing in his sixth game of the season after missing the first 40 following shoulder surgery. He's starting to get into the flow.

"I'm almost there. Not all the way but pretty close," Berglund said. "It feels pretty good out there. I feel comfortable. Today, I was just in the right place at the right time for us and it was nice."

Amidst  the Blues scoring four unanswered goals, news began to trickle through that the city has lost the Rams to Los Angeles, prompting the 17,951 in the building to begin a "Kroenke sucks!" chant for Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

"Obviously, it's tough for a city to lose a sports team, especially on the scale of the NFL," Elliott said. "Maybe it means a few more fans for us and the Cards and we will try and entertain them as much as possible."

Back to hockey, and one of the city's true teams, the Blues played the game without seven regulars who are out with injuries (Jake Allen, Jay Bouweester, Carl Gunnarsson, Paul Stastny, Magnus Paajarvi, Jaden Schwartz and Steve Ott), but the timeliness of Berglund's return -- he has three goals in six games -- helps alleviate some of the voids left by those injured players.

"He's playing really well right now," Hitchcock said of Berglund. "This is really five of the (six) games he's played really well in. When you see that, you can afford to play him at a high level. 

"You're always worried for a player coming back from such a long-term injury when does he hit the wall, but I think he hit the wall earlier than we thought and now he's punched through it. He seems more energized than he's even been, which is a good sign for us."

Bobby Farnham and Lee Stempniak scored for the Devils (21-18-5), who got two assists from Adam Larsson and 32 saves from Keith Kincaid. The Devils have split two games during a season-high four-game trip that continues Thursday at the Colorado Avalanche. 

New Jersey hasn't won here since Dec. 30, 2008. 

The key play in the game for the Blues was a trio of saves Elliott made on Joseph Blandisi less than two minutes into the second period. Instead of a 3-1 Devils lead, Elliott kept it 2-1 and gave the Blues the chance to build some momentum.

"They do a lot of lateral plays and look for that next pass," Elliott said of the Devils. "(Blandisi) was kind of in the corner, and I just tried to get over there as quick as I could. Got a skate on it, got a stick on it and then I was able to cover it." 

"That turned the game," Hitchcock said. "That's 3-1, we're chasing big time. I think (those saves) really jacked up the bench. Good for 'Ells' and good for us because we needed (them)."

The Blues tied it 2-2 when Upshall was able to backhand a rebound of Troy Brouwer's shot at 4:33 of the second period. 

Berglund's second of the game, third of the season, came on the power play when he redirected Alex Pietrangelo's pass from the high slot past Kincaid with 2:46 left in the period to give the Blues a 3-2 lead. It was Berglund's first two-goal game since April 3.

"It's good that we got some power play goals and stuff like that," Berglund said. "It felt good."

Rattie deflected Shattenkirk's slap shot from the left point past Kincaid 2:21 into the third period. The Devils challenged, claiming goalie interference on Rattie, but the goal was allowed to make it 4-2. It was the Blues' first third-period goal in the past 140:26 dating to Dec. 29. 

Rattie, the 32nd pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, was playing his 19th NHL game. 

"Of all the goals in my life, that one jumps to No. 1," Rattie said. "I was nervous, real nervous. But when [the referee] said, 'The call on the ice stands,' I couldn't wipe the smile off my face after that. ... I thought it hit my glove and I didn't feel anything else. On the replay, maybe it showed that I touched [Kincaid's] blocker a little bit, but I'm not going to argue. Upstairs said good goal and I'll take it."

Hitchcock made a switch with Rattie and Robby Fabbri, putting Rattie with Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko and playing Fabbri with Backes and Berglund.

"He was competitive and he's a smart offensive player," Hitchcock said of Rattie. "I think if this is the level that he can find, this is going to help us win hockey games because he was on the puck in the offensive zone. He still has some things he has to learn because of the difference in systems, but overall, I think the switch in the lines helped, too. 

"I think they 'Fabs' was looking a little too much for 'Vladi' today. And then when he went with 'Backs,' he just started to play. Those two young kids with Backes played really well."

Backes scored into an empty net with 35.9 seconds left. 

Berglund's second goal in six games since returning from shoulder surgery put the Blues in front 1-0. His second effort in front of Kincaid came after the puck caromed off defenseman David Schlemko's skate at 10:04 of the first period. 

The Devils scored twice in a 2:35 span to take a 2-1 lead. 

Farnham's shot from the high slot using Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk as a screen tied the game at 12:12, and Stempniak collected Adam Larsson's shot from the right point off a rebound and beat Elliott on the second chance at 14:47.

Instead of sitting back and not being rewarded for strong third periods, the Blues, who were 2-2-3 the previous seven games either tied or leading after two periods, went back to their dictating form.

"I think we've seen it here recently," Hitchcock said. "We just haven't had success with it. We played defense by spending all the time in the offensive zone. That's what we're built for and that's the way we have to play to be successful. We didn't back up, we stayed on the hunt and we forced mistakes. ... That's the way we have to play. Get it into the offensive zone, keep it, make is hard to play against down there and then we get into what's called the three-quarter ice game. Today was another example when we get on the three-quarter ice game, we're pretty effective because we can wear teams down.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Scottie Upshall pumps his fist after scoring in the Blues' 5-2
win against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

"The way we played in the second and third period, especially the third, was really impressive. We got our sea legs halfway through the hockey game and we really started to dial it up."

The game got chippy in the third period when Farnham took a run at Dmitrij Jaskin in the defensive zone corner and a melee ensued. A host of Blues players, including Ryan Reaves and Kyle Brodziak, went to Jaskin's aid, and Reaves wound up flooring Jordin Tootoo with a pair of punches.

Farnham received a five-minute major for interference.

"I just like the way we're acting and behaving right now," Hitchcock said when asked if he liked the response. "We are battling like crazy for each other right now and it's really nice to see the way that we're standing up for each other. We got each other's backs. It's good."

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