Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Big third period helps Blues top Sabres 4-1

St. Louis rebounds after debacle in Columbus, moves to 6-1-2 on home ice

ST. LOUIS -- They got back to being physical. Yeah, it felt like old times.

The Blues, who talked of changing styles going into this season to play a more high, up-tempo style because of the change in personnel, have found wins tough to come by lately.

Four wins in the past 13 games made life tough. But the Blues got back to some old-fashioned, smash-mouth hockey, and they did it without running around looking for hits and got back in the winning graces by defeating the Buffalo Sabres, 4-1 on Tuesday before 16,884 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues' Robby Fabbri (left) scores as Sabres goalie Robin Lehner tries to
make a save Tuesday in a 4-1 St. Louis victory.

Robby Fabbri scored his third goal in two games and was an assist away from his first Gordie Howe Hat Trick, and the Blues (8-6-3) busted out with three third-period goals (Jaden Schwartz, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall) to win for only the fifth time in 14 games (5-6-3); they did improve to 6-1-2 at home this season.

Schwartz and Brodziak scored third-period goals 1:35 apart to break a 1-1 tie. 

Schwartz scored 44 seconds into the third period to give the Blues a 2-1 lead, following up a Dmitrij Jaskin power move to the net, and Brodziak scored at 2:19 by redirecting Ryan Reaves' forehand pass from the low slot. 

Jake Allen made 23 saves after getting pulled in his last start Saturday. 

The Blues got back to their blue-collar style of playing physical but doing so without running around and chasing hits. 

"Playing physical but playing patient," Reaves said. "We talked about not running around again. We got away from that two games ago. I think when we're physical, but we're in good position, it makes them run around and second-guess what they're doing back there. I think we did a good job of that."

They were out-hit 36-32, but the Blues felt like they were initiating the play and finally broke through in the third period.

"I think we needed to be better with the puck everywhere though, especially through the neutral zone, tighten up defensively a little bit and check for our chances a little bit more," Schwartz said. "I thought we did a good job of that. We created a lot of turnovers on the forecheck. That allowed us to get O-zone time. We wanted to get numbers to the net. We were giving up too many chances last game as well."

The Blues have won nine in a row against the Sabres and 19 of the past 21 times. 

"I thought as the game went along, our puck support got better and better," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We started to play the short game, the team game. It was more effective as it went along. I thought we played really good in the first period, then they gave us a big push in the second. They were on us hard, and then I thought as the second (went) along, we started to break to the puck, come to the puck a little bit quicker and our puck support got better and better as it went on. We had a great start to the third period, and played well in the third."

The Sabres (5-7-4), who got a goal from Sam Reinhart, lost for the third straight time on the road after starting 4-1-2. Robin Lehner made 27 saves.

Buffalo has now gone eight straight games scoring two goals or fewer; they've scored 10 total in that span.

Each team converted power-play opportunities in a 1-1 first period. 

Reinhart put the Sabres ahead 1-0 at 7:55 when he was able to knock in a rebound of a Matt Moulson shot from the left circle, a puck that appeared to carom off the stick of Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. It was the second power-play goal the Blues' top-ranked penalty kill allowed on home ice in 35 chances. 

Fabbri answered for the Blues at 10:58 after the Sabres were called for too many men. He followed up a rebound of a Vladimir Tarasenko shot from the left circle to make it 1-1. It was Fabbri's third goal in two games after being a healthy scratch for the first time in his career. 

"When you get bounces like that, it's pretty good," Fabbri said. "He had a nice glove save on me before that, so I just wanted to make sure I put this one in.

"Maybe just a little attention to more details. My game stayed the same. Just try to stick to that, stay positive and just keep going here. ... That's a big part of my game is hunting pucks. Whether I'm just getting better results, taking the puck away maybe, but it's just working hard. You never want to sit out again. There's that extra fire there."

Blues forward Alexander Steen was shaken up when he took a hit in the offensive zone corner, hit the back of his head after being checked by Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges.

Steen left the game, then came back, left again, presumably for equipment repairs and finished the period but did not return for the third.

"Obviously came back and played," Hitchcock said. "We pulled him out for precautionary reasons. We'll see tomorrow."

Someone needed to step up the physicality, and perhaps even challenge Gorges, and low and behold, of all the skaters, it was Fabbri who did so.

"I don't know what got into me there, but I just felt like I wanted to be that guy," Fabbri said. "I went out on that shift and asked him. The funny part was I went up to him again and he was like, 'Are you serious?' I'm like, 'Well yeah, kind of.'"

It definitely got Fabbri's teammates' attention and earned him high marks.

"It only motivates us when a guy like that, who doesn't fight," Reaves said. "He's a skilled player who goes up and sticks up for a teammate. You've got to give him that pat on the back and if that doesn't get you up, you might as well just sit down. It was a great to see, and he did a good job. That first one, if he would have caught him, it would have been night-night. 

"... It's tough for me to find a dance partner these days, but I'm kind of challenging the bench and making sure they know I'm coming every shift now. I think that's the way I've got to do it now. It's not always about fighting anymore. It's going to be every time you touch the puck, I'm going to be in your face. I think our whole line and team kind of did a good job of that."

Jaskin got a stretch pass from Kevin Shattenkirk, who along with Colton Patayko had two assists, and the Blues' power forward used his legs and gained an edge to the net. Lehner made the initial save, but Schwartz was on the mark and hammer the eventual game-winner home.

"That was just a great pass from 'Shatty,'" Jaskin said. "A little bit of a quick-up, I was fresh from the bench, a lot of speed so I was just trying to get to the net. Great follow-up by 'Schwartzy.' 

"You have to take it in there and something's going to happen every time. I think we've just got to keep doing it and that's were we get our chances from."

Schwartz said, "It was a great play by 'Jask.' He had a lot of speed and made a good power move. Just a fortunate bounce for me. Anyone could have put that one in."

Schwartz got a bit of a scare himself when he took a puck from teammate Alex Pietrangelo shooting with 1:17 remaining in the first. Schwartz needed help off the ice, but returned to play the rest of the game.

"Just got it in a bad spot," Schwartz said. "It was a good shot by him to get it through. Just one of those ones where it gets you in a weird spot. I've taken one in a similar spot before. I kind of knew what the feeling was like."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin (23) fights off Buffalo's Casey Nelson in
action Tuesday at Scottrade Center.

Reaves was at it with his offensive prowess again. His second assist of the season was reminiscent of the backhand feed to Upshall in a win against Colorado. This time, a zip pass to Brodziak streaking towards the goal was laid in there perfectly, and Brodziak's first of the season came by redirecting the puck over Lehner.

"I blacked out again ... 2-for-2," Reaves joked. "I know that if I put it on Brodziak's stick one time this year, he's going to put it in. Low and behold, here we go.

"The ref told him it was about time, so it's about time."

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