Friday, February 3, 2017

Blues win for Yeo, Plager in 5-1 victory over Leafs

New coach successful in debut, No. 5 raised to the rafters in pregame ceremony; 
Stastny, Parayko each pick up three points; Allen strong in first win since Jan. 2

ST. LOUIS -- Five for No. 5.

It's only a fitting tribute from the Blues for the most popular of them all, original Blue Bob Plager.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues coach Mike Yeo (top) oversees his players during a successful
debut in a 5-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

On a night when the Blues honored Plager by retiring his jersey No. 5 to the rafters along with six others, including his late brother Barclay (No. 8) and debuted their new coach Mike Yeo, who replaced the fired Ken Hitchcock on Wednesday, the Blues put up one of their more inspiring efforts of the season in a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday before 19,258 at Scottrade Center.

A fitting tribute for one of the top ambassadors of the franchise, Plager's banner was raised to the rafters, but not before being met halfway by brother Barclay's, whose was lowered to meet Bobby, ans then the two went up together in a touching moment.

And then there's Yeo, the coach-in-waiting who was not supposed to take over until next season but was thrust into the role Wednesday after the underachieving Blues fired Hitchcock to spark something before their playoff hopes began to slip away.

But the Blues (25-21-5), 3-0-0 in their retro uniforms, got two goals and one assist from Paul Stastny, one goal and two assists from Colton Parayko and a goal and an assist from Alexander Steen. Vladimir Tarasenko scored and Jake Allen made 26 saves for his first win since defeating the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2017 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

But for Yeo, who won for the first time since Jan. 21, 2016 as coach of the Minnesota Wild, the focus was on his tie postgame after the players gave him the game puck.

"The guys criticized my tie," Yeo said. "I thought it was pretty good, but apparently it's not. According to them I shouldn't (wear it again)."

The Bues they scored three goals in the second period. They won for the second time in seven games and second time at Scottrade Center in the past eight games. 

"Obviously pretty happy, good start," Yeo said. "A lot to like about the game and obviously some areas where we were a little bit sketchy at the beginning of the game and Jake [Allen] held us in there and came out strong, allowed us to find our game and then I thought the second period really in a lot of ways the way our game should look."

But it was one of those situations where between the Plager ceremony and playing for a new coach, it was human nature for the Blues to play inspired hockey.

"We have a new coach and new kind of sense of urgency, kind of new life kind of kicked in us," Stastny said. "We wanted to just compete out there. If we would have lost, I think we just wanted to have a better attitude than in the past. So you wanted to get that win. We wanted to get that win for (Yeo) and it's jersey retirement night, those come around once maybe every 10 years if you're lucky. Somewhere in the back of your mind, if you get the win, you wanted to get five goals for something the Plager family will always remember."

What the Blues remembered most about Plager's speech was him talking about playing for the crest on the front, not the name on the back, and that was synonymous of the players in the era of the Blues then.

Parayko added: "Obviously we never want to be individuals, we want to become a team and play for the crest because at the end of the day that's all that we're wearing together."

The Maple Leafs (23-17-9) lost their third straight on a season-long six-game road trip. Mitchell Marner scored and Frederik Andersen made 26 saves.

With the score 1-1 in the second period, the Blues got goals from Stastny and Tarasenko 35 seconds apart. Stastny scored at 6:27 after David Perron checked former teammate Roman Polak off the puck, it got to Steen, who found Stastny in the slot and and Tarasenko scored at 7:02 after cutting past Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly into the right circle and whistling a wrister high short side past Andersen. 

Parayko's power-play goal, a wrist shot short side from the left circle, at 11:02 put St. Louis ahead 4-1, and Stastny's rebound goal at 12:28 of the third made it 5-1, his 200th NHL goal, to complete the five for No. 5 night and give Yeo his first win.

"When something like this happens, quite often it's a jolt to the team," Yeo said. "It gives everybody a chance to dig in and look at themselves and figure out what they can do better -- and we got that tonight." 

Marner put the Maple Leafs ahead 1-0 at 14:22 of the first, pouncing on a loose puck in the low slot. but that's all Allen would allow on the night, a night in which he looked as sharp as he has all season long.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) makes a save in front of teammate Jori Lehtera
and Toronto's Nazem Kadri (43) and James van Riemsdyk (25) Thursday.

"I felt good," Allen said. "It's another step for me. I've still got more to give. Tuesday was a step. Today was another step, tomorrow when I get back on the ice again, it's another step there." 

Allen stopped the final 22 shots he would face.

"I can't say why," Yeo said, "but I felt real confident that Jake was going to have a real strong game today. I kind of talked to him before the game and he just seemed real loose and ready to go. I thought he was outstanding. I really thought that he was outstanding."

Steen, who has 17 points the past 16 games (seven goals, 10 assists) tied the game 1-1 at 17:58 of the first on a slap shot through traffic of Stastny and Perron in front of Andersen. 

Now the task for the Blues, who have had efforts and results like this one game and see it go in the complete opposite direction the next game, is to follow up and gain some consistency in this capacity.

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