Thursday, December 5, 2013

Power play steps up for Blues in 5-1 victory

Islanders are NHL's worst penalty kill, surrender three power play goals

ST. LOUIS -- Part of the Blues' problem in dropping back-to-back regulation losses for the first time this season at San Jose and Los Angeles was not getting any fuel from their power play.

The Blues were 1-for-10 in the losses to the Sharks and Kings. They needed a spark to get back on track.

Going into Thursday night's game against the New York Islanders, the Blues' third-ranked power play got the necessary tonic: the NHL's worst penalty kill.
The numbers don't lie on paper, and they certainly didn't this night.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Magnus Paajarvi (56) scored his second goal of the season Thursday
night in a 5-1 victory against the New York Islanders.
The Blues power play won handily, scoring three times on its first four opportunities, including goals by Derek Roy and David Backes on back-to-back shots in the second period of a 5-1 victory at Scottrade Center.

After back-to-back losses to the Sharks (6-3) and Kings (3-2), the Blues were looking to get back to familiar ground in the win column. They turned to a power play that's been a huge weapon in the first quarter of the season.

"We were very effective on the power play," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We moved the puck, found shooting lanes. I thought all three goals, there was no chance for the goalie on any of the goals."

Jay Bouwmeester and Roy each scored a power-play goal and had an assist, Kevin Shattenkirk had two assists (giving him four points in two games), and T.J. Oshie had two assists for the Blues (19-5-3), who snapped a modest two-game losing streak. St. Louis tied the Boston Bruins with the most home victories; the Blues are 12-1-2 on home ice.

"The thing I'm happiest about is for 30 minutes, we finally saw our game back again," Hitchcock said. "We saw our pursuit game, we got the puck stopped in the offensive zone, created turnovers, we created second and third turnovers, which is our game.

"I thought for 30 minutes, we started to see what we're capable again. It was nice to see."

The loss was the Islanders' eighth in a row on the road; they are winless overall in eight straight (0-6-2).

The Islanders (8-16-5) had the better of the play to open the second period and got a game-tying power-play goal from Andrew MacDonald, who beat a screened Jaroslav Halak. But Roy and Backes scored 2:31 apart to give the Blues the lead.

"Our main goal when we go out there as a power play is to gain momentum for the team, goal or not," Shattenkirk said. "Hitch said it before the game, when we play poorly and we don't execute, that filters over into our 5-on-5 game, and when we're doing it right, guys feed off of that and they start to get their energy going and we saw it tonight."

Roy, who had the Blues' first shot on goal in the second period at 6:59, deflected Shattenkirk's shot from the right point, stayed with the puck and roofed the go-ahead goal past Anders Nilsson at 7:02.

Roy was determined, since it was his penalty that led to the Islanders' tying goal.

"I was pretty mad about the penalty and they end up scoring on it," Roy said. "I wanted to get on the power play, I wanted to obviously redeem myself and I had a chance to.

"Net presence was important. We work on it every day in practice and we're just trying to implement that on the power play as well, keep it simple and get guys towards the net. When (the opposition) breaks down, we can make plays towards the net."

Backes scored his 13th of the season on a wrister from the top of the right circle, with Oshie screening the Islanders goalie at 9:33 to make it 3-1.

"Backes' shot, you could see it from the bench. (Nilsson) had no chance," Hitchcock said. "He couldn't see it. It was a perfect shot. Nothing he could do on Roy's shot either. Bouw's shot was deflected and stuff like that."

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' Vladimir Sobotka (17) battles for netfront position with the
Islanders' Matt Carkner Thursday night at Scottrade Center.
Magnus Paajarvi scored the first even-strength goal at 14:59 of the second period, taking a Patrik Berglund pass and sweeping it past Nilsson from tight quarters to make it 4-1.

"I think my d-man fell down or something," Paajarvi said. "Two guys went on Bergy and I yelled really hard. He heard me and it wasa great pass."

Bouwmeester provided the lone goal of the first period, a power-play goal on a shot from the point past a screened Nilsson, who couldn't see around Jaden Schwartz at 11:47.

The Blues' 3-for-6 efficiency rating Thursday was a byproduct of doing the simple things.

"We got back to what we do best: shooting pucks and getting bodies to the front of the net and that's usually the battles that we win," Shattenkirk said. "We played against two teams (the Sharks and Kings) that pressured the puck a lot there. We kind of overcomplicated things.

"Tonight, we just got back to simple, point shots, getting pucks to the net and winning those 1-on-1 battles."

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