Sunday, November 26, 2017

Blues get back on saddle, double up Wild 6-3

Special teams comes up with three power-play goals, a shorthanded tally; St. 
Louis wins 12th straight on second of back-to-backs after loss to Nashville

ST. LOUIS -- There's something about this Blues group that has a penchant for parking a loss.

And when it comes on the second of back-to-back games, whether they won or lost the previous night, count on it as money in the bank on the second night.

The Blues kept the trend alive, and they did it doing the things they failed to do Friday night against the Nashville Predators.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing Sammy Blais gets congratulated by teammates after he
scored his first NHL goal in a 6-3 win over the Minnesota Wild Saturday.

The Blues got to the dirty areas, they caused havoc around Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, they got their special teams to be effective and unlike Friday, the Blues came out with a purpose in the first period Saturday against the Wild in a 6-3 victory at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (17-6-1), who bounced back from a 2-0 loss to the Predators on Friday, scored multiple power-play goals for the first time since Oct. 25 against the Calgary Flames after going 3-for-8 on Saturday. They were 5-for-38 the previous 13 games.

It's also the first time the Blues have scored three power-play goals and a shorthanded goal in a game since Nov. 11, 2014 vs. the Buffalo Sabres.

"Some big goals," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "Timely goals for sure. That's nice."

"We had a lot of chances," said Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz, who scored twice. "A couple of them didn't go as planned, but I thought we did a better job of just executing. I thought coming through the neutral zone, we were better, faceoffs were better and just getting pucks to the net. Our goals weren't pretty, but little plays in tight and I think when you're moving the puck, you feel it. I think your confidence gets a little bit better and getting some goals today can hopefully carry over."

Sammy Blais scored his first NHL goal, and Paul Stastny, Dmitrij Jaskin and Kyle Brodziak scored for St. Louis (17-6-1), which lost to the Nashville Predators 2-0 on Friday.

Alexander Steen, Colton Parayko and Vladimir Tarasenko each had two assists for the Blues, and Jake Allen made 22 saves.

St. Louis has won 12 straight in the second of back-to-back games, including four this season.

"I didn't know that," Schwartz said. "Good off-season training maybe. Guys are in good shape. 

"I think with just the performance we had on Friday, when you don't play your best, you come back hungry. You obviously don't want to lose two in a row at home on the weekend."

Stastny gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 6:15 of the first period, tipping Vladimir Sobotka's pass. Jaskin made it 2-0 at 11:09 after a Kyle Quincey turnover caromed to the slot.

In an effort to halthe momentum, former Blue Chris Stewart and Chris Thorburn dropped the gloves after the faceoff in a spirited fight that lasted 1:12 from the time they dropped the gloves to the time the linesmen separated them.

"Yeah, yeah, me and 'Stewy' have had some fights in the past," Thorburn said. "He’s been super honest with me. He’s just a tough kid and it was a good fight, so kudos to him. He actually let me up there halfway through the fight, which is awesome. He’s done stuff like that in the past for me. I definitely remember stuff like that."

It didn't work on Minnesota's part because Schwartz made it 3-0 at 16:54 by deflecting  Vladimir Tarasenko's pass in front.

It was the perfect period, which included some 10-bell saves from Allen, whose most significant stops came on back-to-back stops on Tyler Ennis and Zack Mitchell right before the Jaskin goal.

"Yeah, I got a couple there, a little breakaway and then a rebound and then we went down and scored," Allen said. "I think if I didn’t make those saves, that goal wouldn’t have happened and it could have changed the game.

"... I thought we came out strong. I don't think we were too happy wth our start [Friday] night and I think we wanted to come back and take that out. Both teams are playing on a back-to-back, a little less juice, but obviously I thought we started strong in the first period."

The Blues' start was exactly what they were looking for and forced the Wild to chase a game.

"Right off the hop, we turned a few pucks over," Yeo said. "That's a team, they pressure hard, they've got speed and they've got good sticks. Aside from that, I thought when we had opportunities, we were sharp in our game and sharp in our execution and able to capitalize on them.

"We did a better job of hanging onto the puck and allowing us to get ourselves in better position. When you do that, when you have that kind of sustained zone time, that's when things start to open up and that's what we saw on a couple of those goals."

Blais' giveaway gave Charlie Coyle a shorthanded opportunity, and he beat Allen at 15:02 of the second period to make it 3-1.

It was a uh-oh hiccup by a young guy who could have sulked and seen his confidence level drop to the ice. And in many circumstances, a coach would remove such young player because of a costly mistake. But Yeo, who said Saturday morning that he wouldn't hide Blais if mistakes are made, didn't hide him. 

In fact, Yeo got him right back out the next shift.

"He made a mistake," Yeo said. "Everybody makes mistakes and that's a mistake where you're still learning the league and understanding how good players are here. Not just how good they are with the skill and the things they can do, how good their sticks are and how quickly they can get on you. It was a mistake that he made, but we kept him out there on that next shift, he had a great shift, and I'm really happy for him to get that goal. I thought he played a real strong game tonight, not just that goal, that mistake aside, I thought he was very effective."

Blais appreciated the vote of confidence from his coach.

"Mistakes are going to happen, this is not the first one," Blais said. "The coach told me to forget it and to just go play out there." 

Brodziak scored a shorthanded goal at 2:09 of the third period to make it 4-1, but Zack Mitchell scored on the power play at 3:31 to make it 4-2.

Eric Staal's power-play goal, Minnesota's 10th in the past 21 attempts, at 8:52 made it 4-3 got got the locals nervous, but Schwartz's second of the game made it 5-3 at 11:36 after Colton Parayko intercepted Matt Dumba's clearing attempt.

It was a goal each for Rick and Carol Schwartz, Jaden's parents, who are in town visiting their son.

"It's really nice having them here," Schwartz said of his parents. "They love visiting. They're here for a week, they made some good meals and I tried to reward them with a couple goals.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen and Kyle Brodziak (middle) congratulate with 
teammates after a 6-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday at home.

"Yeah, it was a really good pass by [Parayko]. Good forecheck by the forwards allowed Colton to stay in. He made a great play. I had quite a bit of time to make a move there. That doesn't happen without the other guys. Kind of just instinct. There was a battle going on in the corner. My first thought was shoot, but I didn't like where the puck was, so I just decided to grab it, hold onto it and try to outwait the goalie."

Finally, Blais scored St. Louis' third power-play goal at 14:12 to make it 6-3 off a feed from Steen that set up a one-timer from the left circle and helped forget about the error earlier in the game.

"It's nice to have my first goal in a win," Blais said. "... I played my game. I was good on the forecheck, I finished my hits and it's nice to have a goal at the end. I'm just going to try to keep going like that."

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