Saturday, January 4, 2014

Blues start slow, finish strong in 6-2 win against Jackets

Berglund nets pair; Oshie, Backes, Sobotka, Pietrangelo Tarasenko, 
Shattenkirk all earn two points; St. Louis rallies from 2-0 first-period deficit

ST. LOUIS -- Patrik Berglund had a hard time scoring goals through the first 40 games this season. 

But Berglund's teammates and coach Ken Hitchcock were happy with the work the forward has put in away from the stat sheet. His confidence never wavered.

Berglund was rewarded Saturday by scoring twice, including one 14 seconds into the third period that helped the Blues pull away and eventually defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-2 in front of 19,611 fans at Scottrade Center. 
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' Vladimir Sobotka (17) gets off a shot past Jackets defenseman
Nikita Nikitin Saturday night at Scottrade Center.

The Blues rallied for their fifth straight win with a huge second period, getting goals from Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Maxim Lapierre that sparked a comeback victory against a Blue Jackets team that got the jump in the first period. 

Sobotka and Alex Pietrangelo each had a goal and an assist; Vladimir Tarasenko, David Backes and T.J. Oshie had two assists; and Kevin Shattenkirk had two assists to give him nine points in the past nine games (six assists). Brian Elliott won his sixth straight decision and 13th in a row at home; he stopped 22 shots. 

Jaden Schwartz scored to extend his point streak to a career-high eight games (seven goals, three assists).

All it took was a switch from center to left wing that helped spur on a bit of offense for Berglund.

"Just keep going," Berglund said. "I don't think I can think about it too much. Obviously it's been slow, but if I start thinking about it or changing the way I play, I think that would change me as a player too. 

"I've obviously been working even harder at practice shooting more pucks and trying to get it going that way. I pretty much had two lucky bounces."

Hitchcock moved Berglund to left wing for the second and third periods and slid Sobotka into the middle. It hasn't happened often -- only twice since Hitchcock's been at the helm -- but the Blues have found Berglund's move to the wing to be rewarding.

"I think there was a real positive effect," Hitchcock said. "I think he was able to use his size and I think he played faster. I think the biggest thing for me is he played faster. 

"'Sobe' is a guy that can buy time, he can create his own individual space and he did that. I thought 'Bergy' was able to play in straight lines more. I thought he was able to attack the net more. ... It was an experiment that looks like it has a real chance to work. I'm not saying we're going to do it all the time, but we're certainly going to try this right now because he looked way more effective playing left wing. He had more offensive success, more net drive, more penetration in the zone, was physical, created more turnovers playing left wing."

The Blues have a point in eight straight (7-0-1) and are 10-1-2 in their past 13 games. They have the most home wins (17) in the Western Conference, one more than the Anaheim Ducks. 

St Louis' 29-7-5 record through 41 games is its best start in franchise history.

"There have some really great teams in this franchise's history," Backes said. "It's something to hang your hat on a little bit, but we can't rest on it. It's a reality check too because it says you're only half way through the season. You haven't accomplished anything. We've got another half season to go and hopefully an extended playoffs." 

The Blue Jackets (18-20-4) got goals from Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu. Curtis McElhinney stopped 31 shots. Columbus was looking for its third win in the past 19 games at St. Louis, which is 16-2-1 in that stretch.

"We played a 20-minute game," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "They made a push and got their game to another level and we were unwilling to do that. They played a real simple game. We stopped skating. Our compete level wasn’t nearly good enough. Body language wasn’t good coming off the ice. Eventually there has to be a response. 

"I didn’t like the way we reacted to it. ... We started getting away from our game. As coaches, we can only say so much. Somebody has to respond to it. Our defenseman and our goaltender were under siege in the second period."

The Blues are accustomed to gearing their game up as the game moves along, and the second period was no exception.

Down 2-0, they took a 3-2 lead on goals by Berglund, and Sobotka and Lapierre, who scored 1:34 apart. 

Jackman's one-timer from the right point deflected off Berglund in the slot, off the left post and in at 7:03, cutting Columbus' lead to 2-1. 

Sobotka power drove the net with a backhand shot McElhinney stopped, but Sobotka followed his shot into the net after hitting Tarasenko's skate at 15:55. Lapierre ripped a slap shot from the top of the right circle past McElhinney with Fedor Tyutin screening at 17:29 to give the Blues the lead.

"I tried to shoot the puck," Lapierre said. "It was part of the game plan, shoot from everywhere. I tried to funnel the puck. I didn't even see it. I don't know where it went."

"I thought we were waiting for someone else to help us," Hitchcock said regarding the 2-0 deficit. "We didn't have the greatest body language in the first period. We were looking for maybe a call. We were hoping that Columbus wasn't going to keep playing the way they were. We needed to change our attitude a little bit. Once we started to really play through their competition, I thought we played well. I thought the second and third period, we really played well. We started to play through some of the way they were competing and I thought we created a lot of scoring chances for ourselves. We got a lot of pucks turned over and I thought the second period we really played well and took the game back."

Berglund's redirection of Tarasenko's centering feed from the right boards over McEhhinney's left shoulder 14 seconds into the third period gave the Blues a 4-2 lead. It was Berglund's fourth goal in seven games after he had two goals in 31.

"Good things happen when you go to the net," Berglund said. "The whole team really grabbed it in the second and third." 
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Vladimir Tarasenko (left) skates past Columbus' Fedor Tyutin in the Blues'
6-2 victory Saturday night. Tarasenko had two assists in the game.

Added Hitchcock: "His goal he scores to start the third period for me is a perfect example. If you're a center, you don't score that goal. That's not the route of a center."

Backes returned to the Blues lineup after missing four games with an upper-body injury, and he helped Schwartz score to make it 5-2 at 8:47 of the third. 

Pietrangelo's first goal in 29 games (his prior one was on Nov. 2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning) came on a wrist shot from the left circle at 14:13 and made it 6-2. 

It was all about adjustments for the Blues. They certainly turned the page after a lackluster first period.

"I don't think we were working hard enough in the first. It's simple, we figured it out," Lapierre said.

"(Hitchcock) kind of just came in and said, 'We kind of keep shooting ourselves in the foot against this team in the first period,'" Shattenkirk said. "We (knew) we could come back against them. Just get back on the right side of things. ... We saw what worked and we just got back to it."

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