Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Top line leads Blues' come-from-behind win against Lightning

Steen, Backes, Oshie combine for six points, help Miller win in home debut

ST. LOUIS -- When the Blues needed (as coach Ken Hitchcock calls them) their best players to step up, David Backes, Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie were front and center.

They gave a glimpse to their new goalie what life in St. Louis will be about.

And for Ryan Miller, he's seen this act with his new team already. Twice to be exact.

Miller won't mind taking a backseat to his new teammates. It means the Blues are winning and climbing in the standings.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' T.J. Oshie (74) scores a shorthanded goal as he gets past the
Lightning's Martin St. Louis. The goal tied the game 2-2 Tuesday night.

The Blues fell behind 2-0 for the second straight game, but Steen's team-leading 29th of the season gave them a come-from-behind 4-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scottrade Center on Tuesday night. 

St. Louis also fell behind 2-0 on Sunday, only to score four unanswered goals in a 4-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes. 

Oshie had a goal and an assist, Patrik Berglund scored and Miller stopped 15 shots for his second win in as many games in a Blues uniform after being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. Steen also had an assist, which was the 200th of his career.

The win pushed the Blues two points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks, who lost 4-2 at home to the surging Colorado Avalanche. Colorado is three points behind the Blues in a hotly-contested Central Division.  

Vladimir Tarasenko scored an empty-netter with 39 seconds remaining to secure the victory for the Blues. He also had an assist. David Backes and Jaden Schwartz had two assists each.

"We needed our best players to be our best players today, and that's exactly what happened," Hitchcock said of his top line, which had six points. "Oshie's goal was terrific, Steen's goal was terrific. Our best players, as the game wore on, were our best players. Our goalie was great in the third, made three big saves. Our top pair on defense [Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo] did a heck of a job. We needed that big line to step up."

Miller, whose 15 saves were the second-fewest in his career following a victory, was appreciative. He also heard the loud roars from the 18,602 in attendance when he was announced in the starting lineup. The 17 shots were the fewest allowed by the Blues this season.

"The boys bailed me out a few," Miller said. "Probably want to get a little bit better start there, but it's there in the end and it's a lot of fun to play in front of this crowd. They're excited, energetic and the boys put on a good (effort). You can tell they draw energy from it. It's really cool.

"Yeah, that (reception) was really special. I think it's a great sports town. Everybody's been telling me how great the fans are and how much they care about their sports teams and all the different sports. I think that's pretty cool. I'm excited to be here and I wanted to go out and show what I can do out there. ... Hopefully I can continue to give them something to cheer about with this group."

Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson scored for the Lightning, who dropped their seventh in 10 games and third in four as Tampa Bay wrapped up a four-game trip. Ben Bishop stopped 25 shots in his first game as an opponent in the city where he grew up.

"We're playing good first periods," Bishop said. "If we get back to play 60 minutes instead of 25 minutes, it's something we'll look at and after the deadline we'll regroup as a team.

"I would have liked to have done a little better. It's one of those things where it's nice to play in front of family and friends and it would have been nice to get the 'W.'" 

The line of Backes, Steen and Oshie worked the finishing touches on Steen's go-ahead goal, as Backes fed Steen in the left circle and the Blues' left wing was able to lift a backhand over Bishop's glove hand 3:47 into the final period.

"Yeah, the pass was a little hard, but I just caught it," Steen said. "When I caught it, I think [Bishop] kind of bit. I had the top half of the net."

The Blues entered the second period down 2-0, but were able to rally. 

Berglund's third in two games and 11th of the season brought the Blues within one at 2-1 3:32 into the second when he fired a wrister from a sharp angle in the left circle after Bishop made an initial save on Schwartz.

Hitchcock likes what he's getting from Berglund and linemates Tarasenko and Schwartz.

"This is now three games in a row when they've really played well," Hitchcock said. "Bergie's playing great. It's the best he's played all year."

The Blues' penalty killers had a chip on their shoulders after having to kill a late penalty when Backes was called for slashing on Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. But it was the Blues with the better chances and Oshie cashed in at 17:04 to tie the game 2-2.

"I got one maybe a little high in the jaw and seeing red a little bit," Backes said of his encounter with Hedman. "It was kind of a lull in the game anyway, so why not? He may have had me by about 30 pounds. I've had my nose fixed before, but at that point in the game, trying to get a little spark and try to get the guys going. I don't really want to take a two-minuet penalty there, but to get a shorthanded goal on that sort of penalty, makes you feel a little bit better. I owe 'Osh' dinner probably in Nashville."

Oshie's shorthanded goal was the Blues' third of the season after he took a drop pass from Steen and deked past Hedman and Martin St. Louis before beating Bishop with a backhander.

"My first thought was if I shoot it, then it gets blocked," Oshie said. "Then we've got two guys caught. So I just decided not to shoot the first one and then after that, I saw a forward back and thought maybe I could catch them and make another move. As far as the shot, I was just trying to get it on. I don't even know where it went on net."

The Lightning made the most of their six first-period shots, getting goals from Killorn and Johnson. 
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Ryan Miller (left) makes a save in front of Tampa Bay's Tom Pyatt. Miller
and the Blues were successful in the goalie's home debut, winning 4-2.

Killorn converted from the slot with a wrister at 7:08 after Teddy Purcell picked off Kevin Shattenkirk's pass. 

On Tampa Bay's initial power play, Johnson also scored from the slot on a tic-tac-toe passing play with Sami Salo and St. Louis at 14:49 with Brenden Morrow serving a minor penalty for high sticking.

The Blues may have been down but they didn't feel like they were necessarily out.

"We were playing well, but we we weren't managing the puck well at times in the neutral zone and that gave them some transition," Hitchcock said. "Once we started managing the puck in the neutral zone like we did in the second period, I thought we got better and better as the game went along."

"We doubled them up in shots and had quite a few chances," Backes said. "... We knew we just had to keep on our game and make sure we kept our nose to the grindstone, made all the little plays and we'd find one now and then. Law of averages says we were eventually going to get some."

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