Monday, April 4, 2016

Five unanswered goals help Blues pull into tie for first in division

Brodziak scores twice, four-goal third-period 
outburst provided 5-2 win against Coyotes

ST. LOUIS -- With a game in hand and a chance to jump back into first place, through all the adversity being ravaged by injuries, the Blues have two regular seasons remaining and have the opportunity to win a second straight division title.

It's quite remarkable when one thinks about it, but the Blues have put themselves in that position.

The Blues pulled into a tie for first place when they overcame a two-goal deficit by scoring five unanswered goals and defeated the Arizona Coyotes 5-2 at Scottrade Center on Monday before 19,465. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Kyle Brodziak (28) deflects a shot in front of Arizona goalie
Mike Smith on Monday. Brodziak scored twice in a 5-2 victory.

The Blues (48-23-9) tied the Dallas Stars with 105 points and two games remaining for each. St. Louis leads the Chicago Blackhawks by six points for second place.

The Blues earlier in the day shut down captain David Backes (lower-body injury) and goalie Jake Allen (lower body) for the rest of the regular season after they were injured Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche. They will be re-evaluated after the season ends.

It's more unexpected adversity to deal with and a change in the system.

"You don't expect it; you don't want it to happen," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "Now that you look back, I didn't go to bed until 2:30 (a.m.). A long day, you sleep in, you get to the rink and it's ready to go. It's a quick turnaround for us. You always want to try and not allow that, but once we got our game back, we responded really well."

Despite all the adversity, the Blues continue to find ways to  win.

"It's depth, it's character," said Pietrangelo, who had two assists. "'Army' (Blues general manager Doug Armstrong) put this thing together. You see the acquisitions, it all happens for a reason. I don't think we've played a full game yet with our full lineup. It just goes to show what we're capable of when we have everybody back."

Kyle Brodziak scored twice, Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and assist in the third period, Troy Brouwer, and Patrik Berglund scored for St. Louis, which got 25 saves from Brian Elliott, who won his 10th straight decision.

The win was the Blues' eighth straight against the Coyotes; they're 11-0-1 against Arizona the past 12.

"It's a credit to everybody," said Brodziak, who has four goals in six games. "Just everybody the whole year has had a really good focus of not getting caught up in any negative emotions or anything that can turn into a negative. As a group, we've stuck together and found a way to battle through things. It's a testament to everyone in the room."

Antoine Vermette and Anthony Duclair scored first-period goals, and Mike Smith made 21 saves for the Coyotes (35-37-7), who play at Chicago on Tuesday and end their season with a four-game trip.

Trailing 2-1 in the third period, the Blues scored four unanswered goals. 

Brodziak scored his sixth goal and third shorthanded after picking up Alex Pietrangelo's clearing attempt. The puck hit the arm of Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Brodziak raced past him and beat Smith top-shelf with a wrist shot 1:28 into the third to tie the game 2-2.

It was the goal that supplied life for the Blues, or was it?

"No, I think really the whole second period, we really started to find our game," Brodziak said. "We got a fortunate bounce on the penalty kill and turned out to be a goal, but it really started earlier than that. We really started turning our game around in the second period.

"We weren't as sharp as we needed to be (in the first period). Sometimes that happens. You come home late last night, second game of back-to-back, but the energy in the room after the first was really good. Guys just got ourselves refocused and I thought as a group did a really good job in the second period finding our game back."

Tarasenko tied his career-high with his 37th goal set last season when he went three-quarters length of the ice and beat Smith with a wrist shot from the far right circle at 10:42, then set up Berglund for a slap shot from the right circle on the power play with seven minutes to play to double the Blues' lead at 4-2.

What was the thought when Tarasenko had the puck?

"That he's going to score," Pietrangelo said. "Just give him his space; he'll do what he has to do. Just don't get in his way."

Tarasenko has a six-game point streak and 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) the past 15 games. 

Brodziak beat Smith short side with a slap shot from the right circle with 50.7 seconds remaining to make it 5-2. 

"I'm not going to say anything. He's been hot since he had the baby," Pietrangelo joked of Brodziak, who recently along with his wife had a third son born. "Maybe he needs to have another one. His wife might say differently."

"As a group, we came in here and said, 'Let's get to our game, let's not get frustrated,'" Brodziak said. "We found a way to do that."

Brouwer scored and picked up his sixth point in four games and 14th in 13 games to cut the Arizona lead to 2-1 on the power play when he was able to deflect Pietrangelo's wrist shot from the right circle at 7:36 of the second period. 

The Blues, who outshot the Coyotes 11-4 in the second, had their best chance to tie with 2:08 remaining but Smith was able to get his right pad across. 

Arizona took advantage of a tired, weary and shorthanded Blues team with goals by Vermette and Duclair in the first period. 

Vermette made it 1-0 when he backhanded a rebound of a Connor Murphy shot over Elliott, who couldn't handle Murphy's knuckling shot, at 3:28, and Duclair, who has seven points in seven games, beat Elliott with another backhand after the Blues lost the puck in the neutral zone that created an odd-man rush at 13:08. Alex Tanguay assisted on both goals. 

"Didn't start so well; I don't even know how to describe it," said Elliott, who didn't accompany the team to Colorado on Sunday in order to rest for the start Monday. "We managed to kind of catch ourselves and the guys really pulled it through. They had a tough game (Sunday) night and back-to-back is not easy playing the three periods the way we did. We got stronger as the game went on. We let in the first two, but five unanswered, we'll take that."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Brian Elliott (left) is in position to make a save with Arizona
right wing Shane Doan providing traffic.

"We believe in each other," Pietrangelo said. "When we're on the bench, we have a feeling that we're going to win the hockey game. It's 2-0, but we go into that second period knowing we have an opportunity."

Elliott was afforded the time to stay back from the trip to Denver and rest up for the start. After allowing two goals on nine first-period shots, he settled in and stopped the final 18 shots he faced. 

When asked if it helped, Elliott joked: "We had 79 degrees and I was sitting on the patio right before the game. It feels a little weird because I've never done it in my career. It's whatever you can do to rest up at this time of year. When Jake went down, Anders (Nilsson) came in and played a helluva game. It's kind of next man in and he was there at that time for it."

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