Sunday, December 18, 2011

Blues explode in third period, take wild 6-4 victory

Four-goal outburst overcomes in third period helps overcome one-goal deficit

ST. LOUIS -- Maybe the Blues can play a little run-and-gun.

They needed it after a couple of not-so-familiar periods against the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday night.

The Blues took the second intermission and transformed their game back to where they've established it since Ken Hitchcock took over as coach. It produced the highest-scoring period of the season in a 6-4 victory over the Jackets at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (19-9-4), who trailed 3-2 entering the third period, used a four-goal outburst -- from Alex Steen, Jason Arnott, Alex Pietrangelo and Patrik Berglund -- to win for only the second time (2-6-1) when trailing after two periods.

(Getty Images)
Blues defenseman Barret Jackman (5) is being pursued by
Jackets' Mark Letestu in Sunday's 6-4 St. Louis victory.

The Blues also got a goal and an assist from T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk and Patrik Berglund added goals. Jaroslav Halak stopped 28 shots, and the Blues improved to 5-0-1 in their last six games. David Backes, David Perron and Jamie Langenbrunner each had two assists.

Coming on as one of the stingiest teams as far as goals-against is concerned, the Blues broke out with their highest scoring period of the season and for only the second time all year, scored five or more goals in a game. It's the first time they've done that since the second game on Oct. 10 in a 5-2 win over Calgary.

For the Blues, it was nothing flashy. It had nothing to do with getting too creative on the ice. It was a simple case of getting back to basics and doing the things that they do best: forecheck, move the puck fluently out of the d-zone and play coach Ken Hitchcock's 200-foot game.

They got back to being physical and using their speed to gain the ice back after the Jackets played much of the period in the Blues' zone and won the majority of the puck battles. Getting good outlets by the d-men also was an important ingredient that helped steer the Blues' game back.

"We were going back in our own zone slow (in the second period), we weren't helping the D out getting out of our own zone, we were lackadaisical and they were just coming," said Arnott, whose goal 6:43 into the third period snapped a 3-all tie. "We were turning pucks and weren't getting out of our own zone. In the third period, we got back to what we originally started with, and that's moving the puck out of our zone quick and going on the offense and playing down in their zone. When that happens and we get pucks to the net, usually good things happen."

The Jackets (9-20-4), who fell to 7-4-1 with a lead heading into the third period, got goals from Derek MacKenzie, Derek Dorsett, Mark Letestu and Derick Brassard, while Mason stopped 28 shots. Fedor Tyutin had three assists.

"It's a game of momentum," said Mason, who fell to 4-14-1 on the season. "Unfortunately at the key times, we were on the wrong side of it."

The Blues, who dropped a 2-1 shootout game at Nashville on Saturday that snapped a four-game winning streak, lost a game they felt like they let get away.

"I thought we deserved to win (Saturday) night. We did a lot of good things," Pietrangelo said. "Sometimes you get on the wrong side of a one-goal game. We've been on the right side of a lot of this lately. ... One point is a point, but there were a lot of good things to build off of that."

Steen was able to take a good bounce, as a shot from Carlo Colaiacovo deflected off Oshie, and Steen roofed his shot past Mason 58 seconds into the third period to tie the game 3-3.

Arnott, who missed Saturday's game with the flu, took Perron's feed in the slot and beat Mason high 6:43 into the third for the go-ahead goal.

"A few days off was well worth it," Arnott said after picking up his 406th career goal.

Pietrangelo gave the Blues a 5-3 lead with a shot that beat Mason on the short side with 7:52 remaining.

Brassard's goal with 4:09 to play brought the Jackets to within one but they could get no closer. Berglund added an empty-net goal with 44.6 seconds to play.

Not only did the Blues get back to being physical and using their speed to gain the ice back after the Jackets played much of the period in the Blues' zone and won the majority of the puck battles, but they got good outlets by the d-men, which also was an important ingredient that helped steer the Blues' game back.

"That was something that the defensemen as a whole, we were pretty upset about ourselves the first two periods," Shattenkirk said. "Making soft plays, not making those quick plays that we do so well. Sometimes when those aren't working for you, you need to simplify it. We came out in the third and that's exactly what we did."

The Jackets took the initiative in the second and scored two goals to grab a lead heading in to the third.

Dorsett scored four minutes into the period to tie it 2-2. And with the Blues scrambling in their own end for much of the final stretch of the period, Letestu snapped a one-timer past Halak with 1.3 seconds remaining for a 3-2 Columbus lead.

"We felt pretty comfortable," Dorsett said. "We've got to be better in the third period. That's the bottom line.

"We're a fragile team right now. If one thing goes wrong, it seems like it just crumbles on us."
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Patrik Berglund (21) battles with Columbus' Rick Nash for
possession of the puck during Sunday's game.

Some teams would bend and fold after allowing such a tie-breaking goal late in a period like that. The Blues were able to shake things off and reload.

"It wasn't one of our bests, but we were still in the game," Blues forward Matt D'Agostini said. "We were confident going into the third period. It was just a great job by our team to recognize the situation and bear down there in the third."

The first period didn't produce much early, but in a span of 1:23, there were three goals, with MacKenzie giving Columbus a lead but Shattenkirk and Oshie answered back in a span of 55 seconds to give the Blues a 2-1 lead.

"It wasn't one of our best games, but the guys pulled it off tonight," Arnott said. "We were never-say-die and came out in the third with a big, quick goal and got back after it.

"We stuck to our system in the third. It's a big plus, but it's a learning experience for us as well."

The Blues improved to 12-1-1 in their last 14 meetings at home with Columbus, outscoring them 54-29 in that span.

NOTES: The Blues saw their stretch of not taking a penalty end at 139:34 as time expired in overtime Saturday night in Nashville. ... Jackets D Nikita Nikitin returned to St. Louis for the first time since being traded for D Kris Russell on Nov. 11. ... Steen has 10 points in last 10 games against the Blue Jackets.

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