Saturday, October 25, 2014

Unsung heroes help Blues end mini skid, top Blackhawks 3-2

Jaskin nets game-winner, Reaves chips in 
with goal to help team regain some of its form

ST. LOUIS -- They were searching for their identity, searching for their game, and in essence when it comes to the game they love so much, searching for their souls.

The Blues were in dire need of a pick-me-up. 

Touted as one of the Western Conference's top teams heading into 2014-15, the Blues skidded out of the gates at 2-3-1, including a pair of lackluster losses to Anaheim and Vancouver.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Patrik Berglund (middle) celebrates Dmitrij Jaskin's goal late in
the second period of a 3-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Was the opposition catching up or were the Blues just out of whack? And trying to rid themselves of a wicked bacterial infection that's spread throughout the locker room compounded matters worse. 

But if there was one team that could bring out the Blues' best, it was the Chicago Blackhawks, and true to form, although the Blues weren't perfect, there was a semblance of their game.

Ryan Reaves and Dmitrij Jaskin scored 1:45 apart in the final two minutes of the second period to lead the Blues to a 3-2 victory against the Blackhawks on Saturday before 19,434 at Scottrade Center. 

"We took some steps today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We took some sound steps. We gave up really one obviously odd-man rush and I thought for the first two periods after we got through the 5-on-3, 5-on-4 [in the first minute of the game], we had probably 36-37 really good minutes. 

"We took some steps today that look a litte like our team, look like the way we can play. We've got something to build on now. We've got a foundation that we can draw information from that we can show the players. We've got some stuff that we can work with now."

Jaden Schwartz also scored a goal, Brian Elliott stopped 22 shots, and Alex Pietrangelo had two assists for the Blues, who improved to 3-3-1.

The Blues have hit a stretch of early-season games where opponents are formidable. But when it comes to the Blackhawks, nobody brings out more from the  Blues than their neighbors from the North.

"Right when you get up from your pre-game nap, you're raring to go and get in here," Elliott said.

Chicago (4-2-1), which got a goal and an assist from Patrick Sharp and a goal from Kris Versteeg, dropped its second straight game in regulation after earning points in five straight to open the season. Antti Raanta made 28 saves.

"The parity in our division is so close that it comes down to one or two plays a game," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "We all need to be better." 

With the game tied 1-1, Steve Ott picked the puck off the stick of Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival at the Chicago blue line and came back toward the Blackhawks net before feeding Maxim Lapierre in the slot. Raanta stopped Lapierre's shot, but Reaves somehow knocked in the rebound with 1:51 left in the second period. The goal was upheld by video review.

"I know they didn't play much, but I was happy with Lappy's line," Hitchcock said.

"I don't know what camera angle they had, but thanks to whoever put that camera there," Blues captain David Backes said.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville didn't agree.

"I disagreed with the interpretation of how they described what happened," Quenneville said of the officials. "We've given up some late goals in periods, couple turnovers in middle of ice that didn’t need to happen."

Raanta thought he was interfered with.

"I don’t now how the rules are, but I made a save and (Reaves) came and pushed me into the net and then the puck came over the line," Raanta said. "I think that was a little bit like goalie interference or something. You cant say anything but of course that was a little bit like a bad call by the refs. Its hard to say what they were seeing."

The Blues fed off the emotion of gaining the lead, and Jaskin, who was recalled from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League on Friday, corralled Pietrangelo's shot from the right boards and beat Raanta with a wrist shot from the slot with five seconds left in the period to make it 3-1.

Jaskin has two career goals -- both against Chicago.

"You've just got to feel it. It's all it is," Jaskin said. "I told you it's just a game, I love it. Just love the game. 

"I was there probably two seconds on the ice. It was a good job by the other guys and Schwartzy had a good change. I just tried to watch Petro shooting it and I go to the net."

The two goals came down to what makes the Blues best in their execution.

"We funneled the puck seven times at the net and got it back seven times," Hitchcock said of Jaskin's goal. "That's the fight for identity. That's how we create offense and we scored two goals because of that. We put it on the net, found it again, put it on the net, found it again and scored two goals because of it. That's what needs to happen with this team. That's the way you score in the National Hockey league, and we needed to find that way rather than make the next play or play sideways. That's the fight for the identity that the team has to win."

The Blues got off to another inauspicious start. Jay Bouwmeester (hooking) and Barret Jackman (roughing) were in the penalty box less than a minute into the game, giving Chicago 1:22 with a 5-on-3 advantage. 

The Blackhawks needed were only eight seconds, though. Sharp one-timed from close range off a snappy Patrick Kane pass from the right half-wall to the far post 1:02 into the game to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. 

It was the third straight game the Blues surrendered a goal within the first two minutes. They fell behind 1-0 to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday 1:37 into that game, and on Thursday, the Vancouver Canucks scored 41 seconds in to grab a 1-0 lead.

"Tough start, but we talked about overcoming adversity here the last couple days," Pietrangelo said. "When you're down 1-0 in the first five minutes, that's adversity and I thought we did a fantastic job of overcoming that and kept our heads on straight and played great from that point on."

Added Elliott: "Even though we went down early, guys showed amazing response to kind of calm things down. The first five minutes were a little bit of a whirlwind. Everybody kind of calmed things down and we got our game going. That's the way we need to play. Just that even-keeled mentality in a high intensity game against a good opponent like that. We responded from our last couple games."

Schwartz scored his team-leading fifth goal after the Blues were able to keep an errant clear in the zone. Schwartz skated into the slot and fired a shot through Raanta's five-hole as David Backes was screening the Blackhawks goalie. The goal at 12:15 of the first period tied it 1-1. 

It was the Blues' first even-strength goal in the past 151:20 and their first goal scored with Elliott in net in the past 170:05. 

Versteeg got the Blackhawks back in the game early in the third, taking a feed from Sharp and beating Elliott from the slot 2:37 into the period to cut the Blues lead to 3-2. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Maxim Lapierre (40) gets a shot off on Chicago goalie Antti Raanta (left) as
Michal Rozsival hooks Lapierre right before a goal by Ryan Reaves in the
Blues' 3-2 victory Saturday night. 

The Blackhawks lost Daniel Carcillo with what appeared to be a right-knee injury after a hip check from T.J. Oshie with 13:54 left in the game. Carcillo appeared to hyperextend his knee after reaching for a puck.

It was that kind of game, as Oshie once again was involved in some physical activity when he rocked Keith with a hit as the two were pursuing a puck in the third period.

It's the Blues. It's the Blackhawks. What else could be expected?

"There's enough pent-up energy, spite and feelings ... if you can't get up for the Blackhawks in your home building on a Saturday night when you really need a win, then you're in the wrong business," Backes said.

And that's saying enough, as the Blues have won four straight regular season games against the Blackhawks for the first time since March 3, 1998-Jan. 7, 1999.

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