Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Blues rally for fourth straight win, 4-2 over Bruins

Three-goal second period enables Blues to best 
Boston, Backes; Allen makes 39 saves, Lehtera scores twice

BOSTON -- Early in the game Tuesday, it resembled like the Blues that had looked hapless at times, especially on the road.

The Blues were turning pucks over, playing sideways and the Boston Bruins and old friend David Backes were hunting like a pack of ... well ... Bruins.

But the Blues quickly turned back the page to what made them refocus and get back on the right side of things at home last week, found that game and picked up a huge road win, scoring three second-period goals and Jori Lehtera added his second of the game in the third after Jake Allen made a season-high 39 saves in a 4-2 win against the Bruins before 17,565 at TD Garden.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Paul Stastny reacts after scoring what would be the game-winning
goal in a 4-2 victory Tuesday over the Boston Bruins.

Paul Stastny scored the 35th game-winning goal of his career and 11th with the Blues, and Robert Bortuzzo tallied his first goal and point of the season as the Blues (11-6-3) head to Washington for a date with the Capitals on Wednesday night carrying a season-high four-game winning streak with them.

"We were so sideways in the first period trying to make plays that weren't there and they just turned it back on us," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Blues' 1-0 deficit. "Once our attack went direct, I thought out second period was the best we've played on the road, and then we needed the goalie in the third and he came through big time. But I thought the second period, we had a lot of participants. We're still no there yet, but the second period was a marked improvement from what we've been playing on the road before. 

"It was direct contrast to the first period. I thought we had a soft start in the first period and then we dialed it up and played really well in the second."

It was reunion night again for the Blues, and this time it was with their captain of the past five seasons in Backes, who spent the past 10 seasons with the Blues before signing as a free agent with Boston this past summer.

And of course, it was Backes scoring the first goal of the game, parked in front of the net as he did so many hundreds of games with the Blues.

It was a poor sequence of events for the Blues, who failed to clear three pucks (Kevin Shattenkirk twice and Colton Parayko once) that led to a Nail Yakupov holding the stick penalty.

And then David Perron had a chance to clear a puck along the left boards, took too long before getting poke-checked by Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci fed Torey Krug, whose slapper from the point was tipped by Backes, saved by Allen but Backes -- as usual in front -- stayed with the play and punched the puck past Allen at 7:44 of the first period.

The Blues took a look at the play because Backes came out of the pile with a broken stick, but it appeared to have broken when he whacked the puck in before it broke on Allen. 

Backes now has scored against all 30 NHL teams, and the goal was the 20,000th in Bruins history.

But it didn't matter, as Allen and the Blues faced a season-high 41 shots, he didn't mind allowing one to one of his friends as long as the Blues won.

"It's why he gets paid millions and millions of dollars," Allen said of Backes. "That's why he's tipping pucks on me and bashing the net. That's his forte right there."

The Blues, who mismanaged the puck quite a bit throughout the first, had one golden opportunity but Jaden Schwartz was denied by a Tuukka Rask glove save coming in off the right on a breakaway with 5:19 remaining in the period.

The Blues began to get traffic in front of Rask in the second, managed the puck much better and scored three times to grab a 3-2 lead.

Lehtera's redirection of Colton Parayko's point shot at 3:23 tied the game. The Bruins challenged goalie interference but the call on the ice stood.

A Lehtera turnover on the power play led to Dominic Moore's shorthanded goal at 8:59 put the Bruins ahead. Inside the Boston blue line, Lehtera tried to flip a puck through two Bruins skaters that got deflected and Moore took off, beating Allen high to the far side upstairs.

"We gave up too many scoring chances trying to stand still and make plays," Hitchcock said. "We didn't move our feet and against Boston, they're such a good team, if you don't move your feet, you're going to get caught. They've got so much speed up front, they're on the forecheck and they stay on the forecheck. Those first two lines, they do so much damage against you."

But the Blues got energized again and scored twice in 2:12.

Bortuzzo's first of the season came after Rask saved Patrik Berglund's shot from the point, and Rask knocked the rebound to the corner without seeing Bortuzzo, who backhanded a shot in from a sharp angle at 13:59.

"I think that was on our forwards. They took it in their own hands to play in that offensive zone and stand over pucks. We definitely came in waves for a couple shifts after that and it paid off.

"I knew we had them hemmed for a little while. We actually had three guys up at the top of the blue line. We kicked it high, so I figured it was a safe play to come down there. Fortunate bounce to come to me so I put it home. It was nice to get on the board. ... I guess I'm decent at geometry. I don't think it was the perfect angle, but we'll take it. We're happy to have it go home."

Stastny put the Blues ahead for the first time after more pressure and more traffic at Rask. Yakupov tried to flip a pass to Schwartz that got knocked away, but Stastny recovered, got the puck to Schwartz, whose shot was stopped by Rask, but Stastny was there for the rebound to snap it into an open side upstairs at 16:11 for a 3-2 St. Louis lead.

The Blues were more direct with the puck instead of trying to play pucks through the opposition, they played in the offensive zone and it led to the strong second.

"Sounds simple, but I think we just kind of stuck to our game plan," Stastny said. "We tried to it low, we tried to move it around and then make them play defense. Just like any good team in this league is you've got to wear out the other team and make them play in the D-zone for 10, 15, 20 seconds and that's when turnovers happen and that's what happened on 'Bobo's goal and on my goal."

The Blues knew the Bruins would come at them in the third down a goal, and all they had to do was manage the puck properly and Allen come up with the necessary saves when needed.

Lehtera scored his second of the game and third multi-goal of his Blues career with 1:16 remaining.

"Our first period was very average. Second period was phenomenal. Third period, we just sort of did our thing and shut down a little bit," said Allen, who hasn't allowed a third-period goal in his last seven starts. "Didn't try to go for the long ball or anything. Just made simple plays and it paid off.

"... We really played solid the last 40 minutes really solid, kept it simple. We didn't make any hope-for plays and just threw pucks at the net, not three pretty goals but greasy goals. They all count and we'll take that big win, especially and get some confidence back here on the road."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) makes one of a season-high 39 saves in front
of Boston's Patrice Bergeron (37) and teammate Kevin Shattenkirk (22).

Bortuzzo added: "We know what our best game looks like. Jaker weathered a lot in the first for us, gave us an opportunity to get to where we needed to be, which is kind of standing over pucks in the offensive zone. Can't say enough to the forwards and what they did in that second period and Jake was huge all night.

"... At that point, it's managing pucks and making plays. You don't want them to be hunting, steady. That's not our type of hockey. It's still having the composure to make plays and come through the neutral zone and spend some time in their end and I don't want to say chew the clock up, but make plays that are in your favor and maybe a less high-risk play at certain times of the game."

* NOTES -- Eight players spent the evening Monday at the Backes household.

Jay Bouwmeester, David Perron, Kyle Brodziak, Ryan Reaves, Parayko, Schwartz, Dmitrij Jaskin, Alex Pietrangelo and head athletic trainer Ray Barile all spent the evening reminiscing about old times and being former teammates with Backes, wife Kelly and daughter Stella.

"I tried to weigh them down with a bunch of steak and had my wife coming around with wine, trying to slow them down that way too," Backes said after the game. "But maybe we needed to keep them there a little bit longer. They had good transportation planned to leave at 9 so they could get a good night's rest. But I tried like crazy trying to slow them down and get that extra edge."

"You're happy for him; he gets his goal, but as the team, we're happy because we got our two points and now we look forward to tomorrow," Stastny said.

-- The Blues are 6-0-1 when leading after two, and the Bruins fell to 0-7-0 when trailing after two. ... The Blues had lost four in a row on the road, outscored 22-7, and the Bruins had won three in a row at home, outscoring opponents 13-3. ... The Blues have eight of the past nine trips to TD Garden dating to Jan. 21, 2002. ... Tarasenko has 11 points ( three goals and eight assists) in last nine games after picking up an assist Tuesday. ... Schwartz has five goals and three assists the past eight games.

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