Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tarasenko hat trick, Shattenkirk four-point game highlight 5-4 win over Lightning

Blues have won seven of eight, gained a 
point in 11 straight home games in wild affair

ST. LOUIS -- The lids were reigning down on the Scottrade Center ice, many of them Blues hats, and Vladimir Tarasenko was on the bench humbled.

But little did the Blues' right wing know that those souvenirs, some new, some now, belonged to him

"(Do) I get (them) after," Tarasenko said when asked what he would do with all those hats after his third regular-season hat trick and fourth of his career including playoffs following a 5-4 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko scored three times and finished with four points in a
5-4 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

"I don't know. I just want to say thanks to fans for support. It was really a good feeling."

Blues fans were chanting Tarasenko's name after a four-point night that helped the Blues (14-7-3) improve to 11-1-2 at home. 

Kevin Shattenkirk had two goals and two assists for the second four-point game of his career, Alexander Steen had three assists in his return after missing six games with an upper-body injury and Robby Fabbri had two assists for the Blues, who have scored a point in 11 straight games at Scottrade Center (9-0-2) for the first time since going 9-0-2 from Jan. 12-Feb. 19, 2012. 

Jake Allen made 22 saves to win his seventh straight; he's 9-0-2 at home.

But for the third straight game, the Blues found themselves in a pinch late, having to fend off the opposition on home ice. 

Against Minnesota last Saturday in a 4-3 shootout win, they allowed a goal with 1 minute, 8 seconds remaining before winning it. They did come from behind in that game, so it was a different set of circumstances.

But against Dallas on Monday, the Blues blew a 2-0 lead before winning 4-3 in overtime on a goal by -- who else -- Tarasenko, and on Thursday, the Blues led 3-1 after one period (the first time they've scored three in the first all season) and 4-1 early in the second and appeared to be on cruise control.

The problem is it was set in cruise control and the Lightning shifted into overdrive, twice pulling within one goal before the Blues held on late despite a little bit of drama after Paul Stastny was called for a faceoff violation with 2.2 seconds remaining.

I thought we played better today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The score wasn’t indicative of the play but the score was indicative at the end of the way we were paying. Just, I don’t know the right way to tell you, I just know where it’s going to take us in a week or so. It’s not going to be comfortable. But we just take the two points and probably move on, but it’s not going to be comfortable in a couple weeks.

"... It's a little deeper than technical. I said that to you before. We need to fix it. But I’m not sure right now. I think we’re just better off riding the horse and seeing when it needs a drink of water. So, I think that’s what we’re better off doing right now. There’s no point in … sometimes you just got to ride out these type of games and we’re doing a lot of great things from the red line in. We’re pressuring people, we’re doing a lot of really good things, but we’re struggling in our own zone. We’re struggling with communication. We’re struggling with tenacity. We’re struggling with the details that have been here for a long time. And we got away from them but we’re not paying the price yet. So now’s the time to just ride it as far as we can go and then let’s see how we do."

The Lightning (13-11-1), who lost their fourth in a row and fifth in six games, got two goals from Cedric Paquette. Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov also scored. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 12 saves before being pulled in the second after allowing four goals. Local boy Ben Bishop replaced him and made nine saves and took the loss because he gave up the fifth goal.

The Lightning was on the cusp twice after trailing 4-1.

"I thought we deserved points," Lightning coach and former St. Louis Bandits coach Jon Cooper said. "I'm not going to sit here and say that we deserved to win the game, but we definitely deserved points out of this game. But in the end, special teams was a factor in the game, but it's tough though. You're kind of battling a few things and ultimately they had ten minutes of power play time, we had ten seconds, so now you're sucking a lot of momentum because you're killing so many penalties and eventually that cost us." 

Tarasenko gave the Blues a 1-0 lead 1:39 into the game after a power move to the net past Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison. Colton Parayko had poke-checked the puck away from Alex Killorn to keep the puck in the zone and enable Tarasenko to beat Vasilevskiy.

"When he scored early, you knew that was going to be there," Hitchcock said. 

Then the Blues went to work on the power play, scoring three times in four tries and finished 3-for-7.

Tarasenko made it 2-0 on the first of three power-play goals on a one-timer from the right circle at 9:37, ala fellow Russian and Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, after Steen's great fake shot and pass.

"Perry did a great job in front of the net on all our power play goals today," Steen said. "'Fabs' winning the draws obviously and Perry also winning the draws, but I don't think the goalie sees the puck to 'Tank,' which is why I think he has a little space to get that in. 

"We had a few opportunities where I think Parry just took his eyes. He's been playing really well for us, I think carrying a very heavy load. Tonight he was the reason we scored three on the power play."

Paquette got the Lightning within 2-1 at 10:39, but Shattenkirk made it 3-1 with a wrist shot off Paquette's skate at 13:17 from straightaway inside the blue line. 

Shattenkirk scored the Blues' third power-play goal on a slap shot from the high slot at 1:44 of the second period that chased Vasilevskiy. 

"Power-play had great rotation," Hitchcock said. "We almost were given too many power plays where we started getting cute, but the first four power plays were excellent. We really rotated the puck, moved it. We were crisp, hunted it down. Fabbri was great on face offs. Won a lot of face offs, David won face offs on it so we kept the puck there. First four power plays were just a clinic. They were really well organized and we shot the puck at the right time. People were in the right positionings, it was impressive."

"I think from my standpoint more of the same," Shattenkirk said of his game. "I think our power play looked like we were back at it again, having 'Steener' back out was huge. We simplified it but we were able to get a lot of chances off of that. It was one of those nights where things were kind of going our game. When you're playing with Vladi a lot, you just give him the puck on nights like this and you seem to get some points."

Johnson scored for Tampa Bay at 14:25 to make it 4-2, and Kucherov's power-play goal 1:41 into the third cut the Blues' lead to 4-3.

"I think we played well, some foolish things allowed them to get back in the game," Steen said. "But we were able to shut the door, so for the most part it was a good game. I'd say there was a few things we want to clean up."

Tarasenko's third goal and fourth point came at 8:11 of the third against Bishop to give the Blues a 5-3 lead. It was his most difficult one but most impressive. The way Tarasenko settled the puck to get a shot off after Fabbri's tough pass by kicking it to himself and quickly shooting it beat Bishop but hit the post. It did come back and carom off the Lightning goalie's skate and back in.

"Yeah, finally. Thanks for the guys," Tarasenko said of pucks going in Thursday. "They create a lot of good chances for me today. They helped me a lot before when puck doesn't go in so many times. It's a really important win for us. It's always nice to keep winning the homestand."

"He's the best player I've ever played with, hands down," Shattenkirk said of Tarasenko. "... For a player like him to get that first goal early, you could see it just kind of make him settle into the game right away and on the bench we were kind of licking our chops waiting to see what he was going to do with it because he still had 55 minutes to work with. It was just great and they were hard working goals. He had a few other chances where he was just hanging around the net and finding loose pucks. He's one of those guys where loose change seems to find him. He's able to capitalize on a lot of his chances."

Paquette's second of the game at 11:56 made it 5-4, but the Blues were able to win the third of a five-game homestand.

Perron and Jaden Schwartz each had their eight- and seven-game point streaks, respectively, but the Blues could care less at this point as long as the two points are in the bag. But they are living dangerously playing like this.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Robby Fabbri (left) fends off Lightning defenseman Andrej
Sustr on Thursday. Fabbri had two assists in a 5-4 win.

"I think so. I think the fact it's happened three games in a row, it's going to become a main focus of ours," Shattenkirk said. "But again, I think the only thing we need to work on is making plays when we have the puck, not just dumping pucks in. It's something we went through last year and we even went through in the playoffs and we just have to have the confidence to do that."

One thing that has been fixed is scoring goals. The Blues have now scored three or more goals in nine straight games after scoring 14 total the previous nine.

"It wasn't like this when season starts," said Tarasenko, who has nine goals and nine assists in 11 of the past 13 games. "We have tough time from you guys and it was so many bad words about our offense, but we just keep working and like I said, we just fight for each other every game and try to stay on our program, and most important thing, we believe in each other. We believe in our game."

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