Sunday, February 28, 2016

Fourth line provides spark for Blues in 5-2 win against 'Canes

Brodziak, Upshall, Rattie combine for five 
points; Pietrangelo returns with goal, assist

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Blues didn't have much time to rid themselves of the lousy game played Saturday in Nashville.

And it took an effort from the gritty guys to get the Blues out of a mini rut Sunday afternoon.

Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall each had their first multi-point games with the Blues and helped them defeat the Eric Staal-less Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 at PNC Arena.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Scottie Upshall (left) and Kyle Brodziak celebrate Brodziak's
shorthanded goal Sunday at Carolina in the Blues' 5-2 victory.

The Blues (36-20-9), who snapped a season-long three-game regulation losing streak after a disheartening 5-0 loss to the Predators 24 hours earlier.

Fourth-line winger Ty Rattie got the ball rolling early in the first, linemate Brodziak had the Blues' second shorthanded goal this season and added an assist and Upshall had a pair of helpers; the line accounted for five points in the game.

David Backes' line with Dmitrij Jaskin and Magnus Paajarvi accounted for a big goal early in the second, and the return of Alex Pietrangelo provided the Blues a jolt with a goal and assist. Robby Fabbri also had a goal and assist.

"Brodziak's line was fantastic and probably is the turning point for our squad tonight," Backes said. "Obviously the shorthanded goal, but the first one to lift our spirits after we'd been shut out in the game (Saturday) and kind of get the boys going. That's what they're there for, to give us energy. Two goals out of those guys is fantastic and the rest of us follow suit. We need efforts like that with some of the bodies we've got out. We got it tonight. It's a good feeling in here."

The Blues, who complete this portion of a four-game trip Tuesday at Ottawa before taking four days off, were down 2-1 in the second but turned the game around.

They fired 20 shots at Carolina goalie Cam Ward and played their best period since Alexander Steen went down to an injury five games ago. 

Backes from the slot popped home Paajarvi's wrap around initially stopped by Ward. Jaskin was battling in the corner for the puck, allowing Paajarvi to dig it out and use a backhand wrap around that Ward stopped by Backes in the slot unaccounted for tied it 20 seconds into the period.

"You're down 2-1 and you need to get back to our game," Backes said. "First shift, we won a draw and we get it deep. Magnus and 'Jask' go to work down low and they did a tremendous job all game. I'm the beneficiary in front after they take two or three guys below the goal line." 

The Blues were buzzing the entire period, and Brodziak gave them a 3-2 lead with the the first shorthanded goal since Steen scored against Arizona on Dec. 8.

"Definitely felt good," Brodziak said of his first goal since Nov. 21 (38 games). "'Uppy' made the whole play happen. Once they turned it over just outside our blue line, he read it, he jumped early, won the battle and I took off as soon as I seen it happen. He made a good play and luckily I finished it off."

After a tough cross-ice feed from Victor Rask that Noah Hanifin couldn't handle, Upshall used his speed to get inside position on Noah Hanifin, feed Brodziak who beat Ward from the slot with a wrister gloveside top shelf at 11:10.

"I think he thought I was going to come on the other side of him," Upshall said of Hanifin. "By the time we got to the puck, I had complete body position on him on the offensive side. It as just had to be a strong play on his stick, get body position. It was one of those just quick on the puck and force him to play under pressure and make a mistake."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock called it the most important goal.

"Brodziak's goal was a big goal for us, huge goal for us," Hitchcock said. "Rattie gets us off. He gets us thinking differently and then the goal by Fabbri, young guys really came through for us today."

The Hurricanes (28-26-10) were already playing without Staal, who was traded before the game to the New York Rangers for a prospect and pair of second-round picks. They then lost forwards Kris Versteeg and Riley Nash presumably to injuries in the second period, so Carolina was down three forwards in the game. Former Blue Jay McClement, who was not supposed to play with an upper-body injury, dressed because Carolina scratched Staal but did not play a shift.

"We got into their defense a little bit (in the second period) and really got a lot of energy," Hitchcock said. "I thought it's one of the best periods we've played; we hemmed them in and didn't let them out. We had a lot of scoring chances and then I thought you saw the affect of back-to-back in the third a little bit. We were a little bit reaching and stuff like that, we didn't have any legs but overall second period and even a good part of the first was good for us, but second period was outstanding."

The Blues scored twice in 37 seconds to put the game away in the third.

Fabbri's breakaway goal was the rookie's 15th of the season and came off Pietrangelo throwing the puck off the glass and it taking a fortuitous bounce into Fabbri's path. Fabbri got an edge on Hanifin, pulled the puck to his backhand and tucked it past Ward at 6:02.

"It was sort of a funky play there with the puck off the glass," Fabbri said. "When I picked it up, I saw I had some space and just got good body position on, I think it was Hanifin. I just thought that was the play to fake the shot, use my body and go to my backhand.

"I see them going to that side, so I'm going over to support. I got a fortunate bounce off the glass there."

Pietrangelo, who played 23 minutes his first game back with five of the Blues' 21 blocked shots, scored off what looked like a delayed shot after getting Patrik Berglund's feed to the left circle.

"Shatty's yelling shot clock when I got back to the bench," Pietrangelo joked. "None of us really knew what was going on, but whether it was blocking shots or scoring goals, to be able to contribute was a good feeling."

Pietrangelo got the pass from Berglund, who could have took the shot uncontested himself in the slot, and saw nobody in goal and almost looked bewildered.

"You see him kick it to his stick and he kind of looked up and just saw nothing in then net and take a shot," Shattenkirk said. "Obviously he's got the wide open net, but it's definitely nice for him to come back and get a big goa like that. You could tell as the game went on, he started to ease into it and feel like himself again. 

"He looked good. He made a couple plays in the first that he looked like his old self. Then they kind of turned the game around on us; I think we were all kind of a little bit scrambly. I don't think he tried to over-extent himself too special early and then he was able to feel the game out and keep building on it."

Pietrangelo said it was his call not to play on back-to-back games.

"For me it was. It's not easy on a back-to-back when you have an like I did," Pietrangelo said. "A little bit easier on the second of a back-to-back than putting your body through two games in a row. Felt more comfortable coming into this game. Obviously watching last night, I wish I would have been in there, but you know what, at the same time, I came in and we got the result today.

"Any time you miss a little bit of time, 10, 40 games, whatever, it usually takes you a period to get back in the swing of things. As the game went on, I started feeling better."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Jaden Schwartz (17) moves the puck past a fallen Carolina
defenseman John-Michael Liles Sunday at PNC Arena.

Rattie gave the Blues a 1-0 lead 2:17 into the game with a rebound goal off Upshall's spin shot from the left circle, but Carolina got goals 1:24 apart in the first to go up 2-1 on goals by Jeff Skinner at 8:01 and Ron Hainsey at 9:25.

But Jake Allen, who was pulled Saturday at Nashville after giving up four goals on 23 shots, finished with 32 saves, including the last 27 he faced. Sixteen came in the third period.

It was Allen's first win in the past eight starts; he had been 0-5-1 since defeating Nashville on Dec. 29.

"That's his demeanor. He's a cool, collected guy," Backes said of Allen. "He tries his butt off every play. He's a realist and knows should have had that one or that's a heck of a play and he'll make the next save when it comes to him. That sort of calmness behind you is a great thing to have as players in front of him. He was outstanding again on a few timely saves when it could have gone either way when it's a one- or two-goal game."

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