Monday, March 7, 2016

Blues take command early, hold off Wild 4-2

St. Louis nearly squanders second 3-0 lead in as many 
games, win seventh road game in eight; Allen strong in goal 

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- This time, the Blues made sure if they got a three-goal lead, they would manage the game in the right way.

They tried to let it slip away again in the third period but managed to hold on this time.

For the second straight road game, the Blues scored the first three goals; they did it Tuesday at Ottawa.

But instead of getting into what coach Ken Hitchcock called "a track meet," the Blues neutralized the Minnesota Wild.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing Ryan Reaves (75) chases the Wild's Mike Reilly during
Sunday's 4-2 Blues victory in St. Paul. Reaves scored a goal in the first.

Jori Lehtera, Ryan Reaves, Patrik Berglund and Robby Fabbri scored for the Blues, who won their seventh game in the past eight on the road and third straight in a 4-2 win against the Wild on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center to snap the Wild's four-game winning streak.

Jake Allen made 30 saves in arguably his best game since his return from injury.

The Blues built a 3-0 lead after two periods but saw the Wild (31-26-10) make things interesting with two goals to cut into the Blues' lead and make things tense at the end, but Fabbri's empty-netter late preserved a different ending than the one that saw the Senators rally and tie the game with .1 seconds remaining before the Blues won in a marathon 11-round shootout.

The Blues (38-20-9) needed a victory to stay within two points of both the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars for the Central Division race. The Blackhawks beat Detroit 4-1 Sunday, and Dallas won at Ottawa, 2-1, to remain two points ahead of the Blues (87-85).

Lehtera's first goal since Feb. 6 -- also against the Wild -- gave the Blues a 1-0 lead after he picked off rookie Mike Reilly's pass in the neutral zone, skated in with space and beat Dubnyk five-hole with a slapper at 7:44. It was Lehtera's first game back since taking a puck to the face Feb. 25 against the New York Rangers.

Lehtera was being hooked on the play by Charlie Coyle but was able to break away enough to get the slapper off.

Reaves' first goal in 16 games was his first as a father, whose son Kanen was born Thursday morning; it needed video review and a challenge from the Wild but the goal counted and gave the Blues a 2-0 lead.

Reaves had the chance to get the puck for his kid but, "I completely forgot," he said. "... I'm a little upset with myself. I have to keep the stick now.

"Apparently, he's my good little luck charm. The boys were joking I've got to pop one out every day, but I don't think I've got time for that." 

Jay Bouwmeester's outlet feed to Kyle Brodziak came to the Wild blue line, and Brodziak was in ahead of the play before the puck entered the zone. He fed Reaves coming down the right side and he beat Dubnyk short side at 9:37, but the Wild challenged the play.

Brodziak was ahead of the play but as the NHL Situation Room explained it from the rules, Brodziak had possession and control of the puck when the Blues entered the attacking zone, this making it a legal play.

"'Brodzie' had full possession," Reaves said. "Obviously it looks offsides when his feet are in like that, but he has full possession of the puck and that makes it a good play."

Berglund extended the lead to 3-0 and chased Dubnyk from goal after he got the puck up ice to David Backes; former teammate Chris Porter lost handle of the puck behind trying to get it back to the point. Backes drew three defenders to him shooting from inside the blue line. Dubnyk's juicy rebound to the slot with Berglund coming down the slot enabled him to get a shot off through Dubnyk at 10:21 of the second period.

"I think it was just one of those plays that they obviously looked a whole lot at 'DB,'" Berglund said. "It was a good shot, rebound and it popped straight out to my stick. Not a very good shot, but it went in."

Dubnyk allowed three goals on 16 shots and was replaced by Kuemper, who ended the second period with 10 saves.

Allen, who had his best game since returning from a left knee injury, preserved the three-goal lead after Bouwmeester lost a puck in the defensive zone, and Allen would make a terrific glove save on Jason Pominville's effort with 7:43 remaining in the second; he made several key saves in the third, too, including one on Pominville again with 19 seconds remaining using the paddle of his stick.

"It was fun for me; we let our foot off the gas for a litle bit," Allen said. "We knew they were going to come with a push. You've got to give them some credit, too. We got the win, big two points, especially after a long layoff. It's sort of tough to come back into those games, but we did a great job.

"... They're a tough team to play against. They throw a lot of passes when they can shoot. Then it makes for scrambles around the net. It's a crapshoot down there. It's tough to play against, but credit to them. They've changed their style since the new coach a little bit. We were ready for it."

The Wild scored twice in 3:38 of the third to make things interesting.

Ryan Suter got the Wild on the board with 8:58 remaining after he prevented Dmitrij Jaskin from clearing puck along the boards, Suter blocks attempt, puck gets to Zach Parise, who feeds Suter coming into the slot alone and he beats Allen with the backhand high glove side to make it 3-1.

Matt Dumba poked in a loose puck when Charlie Coyle slipped it into the crease with 5:20 remaining to make it 3-2.

The Wild pressed for the equalizer but Fabbri was score after getting into open ice once Kevin Shattenkirk threw a puck off the boards. Fabbri's 16th of the season and 11th point since the All-Star break gave the Blues a two-goal lead with 1:31 remaining. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) can't handle Patrik Berglund's shot in the
second period Sunday. Berglund's goal gave the Blues a 3-0 lead and
chased the Wild goalie.

"When it was 3-0, we had all those chances in the second, and then the (Fabbri) breakaway; it seems to be the M.O. of the last three games where we really could have buried teams and kind of let them hang around," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We made a couple mistakes on their first goal and we made a coverage mistake on their second goal and then all of the sudden, the track meet's on. 

"We're not making it easy on ourselves. We've playing some real good hockey and then we're making mistakes that are kind of what I call coaching-moments mistakes; we can correct those on Tuesday with video and then move forward."

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