Thursday, January 4, 2018

Blues get best of red-hot Golden Knights with 2-1 victory

Vegas came in on eight-game winning streak, points in 13 straight 
(12-0-1); Stastny third-period goal difference; Hutton plays razor sharp again

ST. LOUIS -- Everyone was making a big deal out of the Vegas Golden Knights' eight-game winning streak and 13-game point streak, and rightfully so.

Everybody but the Blues.

The expansion Golden Knights reached unprecedented waters with their winning streak and point streak. It's the best of an NHL team playing in its inaugural season, so Vegas deserved the attention.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Carter Hutton made 32 saves in helping the Blues snap the
Vegas Golden Knights' winning streak at eight with a 2-1 victory Thursday.

It was a cold January night in St. Louis, but the Blues and Golden Knights played like it was playoff hockey in April, and the Blues put an end to both streaks with a thrilling 2-1 victory on Thursday before 18,976 at Scottrade Center.

Paul Stastny broke a tie early in the third period and Carter Hutton made 32 saves to help the Blues (26-15-2) go 3-0-0 on a homestand with Hutton in goal for all three.

"I don't think we focus as much on the opposition or that type of statistic with the opposition," said Blues left wing Alexander Steen, who scored to give the Blues a 1-0 lead in the first period. "I think it's been about us, especially this homestand. It's been a big focus on our game and what we want to accomplish. There were some good times. I think we limited their bad times within the game. Six points in the bank on this homestand's big for us."

With the hype involving the game, and the Blues being the next opponent trying to derail Vegas, it was evident the Blues were fully engaged and bought in from the drop of the opening puck. 

The Blues had to match, if not be better than Vegas in the small details of the game, including winning the puck battles, the wall battles, the space in front of the net, making detailed plays defensively to try and disrupt Vegas' speed and transition game, to which they did effectively most of the game.

Other than a little lull in the second period when Erik Haula scored for the Golden Knights in the second period, the Blues perfected a game plan accordingly.

"I think that we understood what we were up against," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "You have to expect that you're playing against a team that's in first place that you're going to be ready to go, ready to compete. It would be one thing if it was a month into the season, but we're halfway through the season and I think even tonight, they showed why they're there. They're a good hockey team. That was one of the more entertaining 2-1 hockey games you're going to watch. It was fast hockey, it was competitive. I thought both teams played well."

Stastny's eighth goal of the season and first since Dec. 10 gave the Blues the lead at 5:59 of the third period. Stastny found a loose puck to the right of Marc-Andre Fleury and poked in a backhand attempt.

Colton Parayko took the initial shot that Fleury made a save on, and the rebound caromed into the slot, Stastny took a shot on goal and after a mad scramble in front of Fleury, he was able to locate it and score.

"Honestly, 'Pary's shot came out so hard, I didn't see it come on my stick and I kind of shot it," Stastny said. "When I shot it, I didn't even know where it went because it was just more of a reaction. When I turned, I was like, 'Oh my goodness.' Sometimes you get all the good chances and it's ones like that that go in.

"It's a big one for us. We're finding ways to win, especially after the tough skid we had. We're finding different ways to do it and different guys are stepping up. That's a big two points, especially on this homestand."

The Blues moved into first place in the Central Division, by one point over the Winnipeg Jets and two over the Nashville Predators, who lost 3-2 in overtime to the Arizona Coyotes.

And the Blues were the first team to beat the Golden Knights (27-10-2) in regulation since Dec. 1 when the Jets did it at home, 7-4.

"Yeah, they're a good team. They're a really good team," Hutton said of Vegas. "I thought Fleury played really, really good too. I thought early on we were better than them. And then I thought they tilted the ice. In the second, they really made a push.

"... It's fun. It's good to play. You play once every two weeks or three games in a row it doesn't matter to me. I just try to compete. No matter who's in net, we're gonna pull the weight around here."

Fleury made 37 saves for the Golden Knights (27-10-2), who were 12-0-1 the past 13 games. 

Steen's fifth goal of the season gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead at 9:35 of the first period when he scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right face-off circle. 

The goal was Steen's first other than an empty-net goal dating to Dec. 16 at the Edmonton Oilers.

"Right now, we're trying to get points," Steen said. "I thought probably the last five, six games, we've been playing with the work ethic that we've needed to. I think the execution has been of at times, but this homestand here has been a big three games for us. That's six points in the bank. We're happy with that."

Steen tied Keith Tkachuk for seventh on the Blues' all-time points among forwards with 427. Steen and Tkachuk played together here in St. Louis for two seasons (2008-09 and 2009-10)

"Obviously he's a hero of mine growing up and being able to play with him," Steen said of Tkachuk, who played with Steen's father Thomas for four season (1991-95). "Like I've said so many times before, it's because of guys like him and the other guys that came before us that we're in this position that we're in right now."

Haula's one-timer from the slot made it 1-1 at 9:23 of the second period. It was his 15th goal of the season.

The Blues had to withstand a big push from the Golden Knights and got the game into the third period on level ground.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (41) checks a Vegas player off the puck
on Thursday during the Blues' 2-1 victory at Scottrade Center.

"They got that goal and then they kind of pushed," Hutton said. "And then we get that one in the third and then they really pressed it on. It was an exciting hockey game. ... I can't even talk right now. They were everything we thought. They made their push. I thought a big penalty kill for us there (in the third). And then they push 6-on-5 and we're able to hold 'em off and hang on for a win."

But other than that stretch in the second period, the Blues played as well defensively and in goal as one could against the hottest team going.

"It's a fun challenge," Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. "I think it almost raises the intensity of the game. They're a very deep team, they play fast, they're making a lot of crisp, sharp cross-ice passes. It's definitely a challenge that you get excited for, and I think we were able to match it tonight with a lot of our efforts up front and on the back end."

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