Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blues win sixth straight, 4-3 over Canucks

Steen, Tarasenko provide third-period 
power-play goals; Shattenkirk has three assists

ST. LOUIS -- Nobody said every game was going to be perfect.

It certainly wasn't for the road-weary Blues on Thursday, who came home after a lengthy five-game trip a perfect 5-for-5, which established a franchise best.

But even in the test of time when things aren't always going to be picture-perfect, and one night after the power play didn't come through, it was beneficial in a big way against the Vancouver Canucks when Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen scored man-advantage goals in a 4-3 victory before 19,291 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Magnus Paajarvi (56) looks for the puck in front of Canucks
goalie Jacob Markstrom. Paajarvi scored in a 4-3 Blues victory.

The win extended the Blues' season best winning streak at six games and gives them an overall mark of 31-22-5, good for 67 points and move them five ahead of the Nashville Predators for third place in the Central Division.

In a game that saw the Canucks (25-27-6), who concluded a six-game trip 2-4-0, come out with much jump and zip to their game, the Blues had a game hanging in the balance in the third period and found a way, something that may have not happened last month.

"We came out in the game and we were a little sloppy to be honest in the first and second," said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who had three assists. "Once we got back in between the second and third, we really just told ourselves we needed to create momentum more than anything. That's important when you're starting a period on the power play.

"... (Blues coach Mike Yeo) makes sure that we're always in check. Even tonight, he comes in in between the second period and just says, 'It hasn't been our best, but we have an opportunity to win this game.' I think we all knew that if we won this one, it was going to be kind of the sweetest one we've had in the last few weeks because it wasn't pretty and it wasn't one that we were just handed; we had to work for it."

Magnus Paajarvi and Jori Lehtera also scored for the Blues (31-22-5). Jake Allen made 18 saves and St. Louis improved to 7-1-0 since Yeo took over for Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1.

"I think as coaches, we were a little bit nervous about this game coming back off a five-game road trip," Yeo said. "It's always a challenge in itself, but then you're faced with the fact that you played the night before with travel and you're playing against a team that's sitting here waiting for you.

"We were expecting a playoff game from them, a playoff mentality. They're fighting for their lives right now. We knew it was going to be a challenge with that. ... What really impressed me was our response in the third period."

The win moved the Blues five points ahead of the Nashville Predators for third place in the Central Division.

"We were tired. There's no question. A long road trip," said Allen, who has won four straight starts and is 5-1-0 in February after going 1-4-0 in January. "We've been battling hard, we've been finding ways to win games. Laid it all on the line. 

"We didn't have much juice to be honest in the third period, but we came out, we got two goals, they got a quick one back and we hung on there. It was really impressive. A great win streak we got going on here."

Bo Horvat, Henrik Sedin and Brandon Sutter scored for the Canucks (25-27-6), who ended a six-game road trip 2-4-0. Jacob Markstrom made 17 saves.

"The players on this team played an unreal road game and I was awful," Markstrom said. "Bad luck or good luck or whatever, it just can't happen. We can't afford that right now. We played a great game, scored three goals and coming into the third and then two quick goals like that, that can't happen. I was awful today."

Tarasenko's 27th of the season 58 seconds into the third period made it 3-2 after he whipped a shot from the right circle through Lehtera's screen.

"Good job by all guys," Tarasenko said. "Every goal is not totally the guy who scored. It's all five guys on ice. They create a good chance for me and good screen by Jori. Just put it in an almost empty net.

"... We have pretty tough schedule right now. It's almost like we play three games in not even four days. Next game is at noon. We know it's going to be a hard one today and it's really important win for us."

Steen scored at 5:00 to give the Blues a 4-2 lead when he looked off Canucks defenseman Nikita Tryamkin, got Markstrom to slightly cheat off his post and bank the puck in.

"I knew before I got the pass that 'Vladi' was coming in the back side and the d-man kind of laid down so it’s tough for me to get the pass over so just make it look like I was passing and maybe get him to cheat a little bit," Steen said. "I was extremely lucky to get it in the post.

"Make it look like you’re going on the back side and hopefully he bites a little bit and gives you a little room."

The Blues' power play was 2-for-4 tonight after being held scoreless in four tries Wednesday at Detroit. And the penalty kill continues to be perfect since Yeo took over, killing off two more Thursday to remain perfect at 21-for-21 in eight games under Yeo.

Sutter got the Canucks within one when he redirected Alexander Edler's point shot from the slot at 6:49 of the third to make it 4-3.

But it was moments before that when Allen had to play without his mask and actually made a save without it on because of an equipment failure, a play the referees said they didn't see.

"I did it in the minors a couple times," Allen said. "It's a weird rule. There's some times where some refs call it and some refs don't. Sometimes it's dangerous. I made a couple saves before without a mask on. The buckle completely snapped off there, so I couldn't see out of my right eye. I just sort of pulled it off and I don't think they saw it.

"... It was a weird game on both sides. Lots of weird, bouncy pucks, bounces everywhere, the ice was tough tonight. We just found ways to grind it out."

The Blues took the lead 1-0, scoring the first goal of the game for the sixth straight time on Paajarvi's third goal in eight games at 4:30 of the first period when he backhanded Shattenkirk's shot off the back wall. The puck caromed off Markstrom's right leg and in.

"They’re playing great," Steen said. "They’re battling, working hard. Their attention to detail, they’re playing a very mature game and its absolutely helped us. They’ve played fantastic, every single one."

Horvat tied it 1-1 after intercepting a pass by Jay Bouwmeester at 10:15 of the first, but the Blues went back up 2-1 at 17:17 on Lehtera's goal. The Canucks challenged for offside but the goal was upheld after video review.

Henrik Sedin scored at 8:27 of the second period off a feed from Daniel Sedin in the slot to tie it 2-2, and it came seconds after the Blues thought they went ahead 3-1 when officials blew a play dead when Shattenkirk's shot from the point along the boards was squeezed by Markstrom but trickled into the net late.

"That puck, he swallows it up and I mean it's a good second or two when (referee Dan O'Halloran) blows the whistle," Shattenkirk said. "I think any ref would have blown that whistle there. That was just a crazy trickle that goes in. Even if it's trickling and he doesn't blow the whistle, Markstrom probably finds that before it goes in the net."

The Blues have two more games before their bye week, Saturday afternoon at Buffalo and Monday at home against Florida, but in finding different ways to win, it's a good feeling around the locker room now.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (left) checks Canucks left wing Loui
Eriksson Thursday during the Blues' 4-3 victory.

"We're playing a lot of different styles of opponents," Shattenkirk said. "We've been able to find ways to win on back-to-backs, find ways to win in tough environments. The deal now is we have to make sure we're ready for this game on Saturday. That's a team that can really hurt us and then obviously on Monday, so we can't really look past those two teams. Coach Yeo does a good job of making sure that we have our focus on the right areas."

"It's a tired feeling right now, actually yeah, you're right, it's always nice when team wins," Tarasenko said. "It's always nice mood in the locker room and we try to keep it rolling."

Steen said: "I like our attitude, our vibe. I think today obviously it was back and forth. They played hard, they’ve been sitting here in St. Louis waiting for us. They were prepared and played hard, played well. 'Jakey' made some big saves for us and the power play came through for us in the third period and that was the difference."

* NOTES -- Yeo said before the game that center Paul Stastny, who's missed three games with a lower-body injury, was hopeful of skating on Friday before the team departed for Buffalo, and if all goes well, Stastny could be back in the lineup.

"He's doing well," Yeo said. "Hoping he's going to skate tomorrow and we'll see how it goes from there. If the skate goes well, then that's something that we would try and shoot for. We're not going to put him in a bad position, but obviously, we're anxious to get him back in the lineup and if there's no risk and he feels good, we definitely have a spot for him.

"He's been working out. We by design have tried to keep him off the ice. He could skate right now, but we wanted to keep him off the ice to try and give him time to heal and hopefully after tomorrow, we'll be in a place where we feel comfortable and he feels comfortable that we can put him in the lineup."

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