Saturday, October 28, 2017

Offensive-minded fourth line, Allen catty Blues to 4-1 win over Blue Jackets

Upshall, Brodziak, Jaskin combine for seven points; Allen makes 36 
saves; St. Louis has won 11 straight in second of back-to-back games

ST. LOUIS -- Not often asked to supply offense, Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak and Dmitrij Jaskin, which makes up the Blues' fourth line, was front and center on Saturday night.

The trio is typically asked to be good forecheckers, play physical, manage the puck properly and supply much-needed energy when called upon.

So when their names pop up on the stat sheet in the offensive categories, the Blues are more than likely on the winning end of it, which they were Saturday after Upshall had his first three-point game in nearly three years with a goal and two assists, Kyle Brodziak had a goal and an assist and Jaskin had two assists in the Blues' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets before 17,834 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Scottie Upshall (second from left) celebrates his goal with teammates
Dmitrij Jaskin (left) and Joel Edmundson (right) on Saturday in a 4-1 win.

The scoring from that trio has been relatively scarce, that Upshall couldn't even remember when his last three-point game was, and understandably so.

"No, I don't, but I'm sure it was some time ago," Upshall said.

(For the record, it was Nov. 8, 2014 as a member of the Florida Panthers against the Calgary Flames when he scored two goals and added one assist).

"I don't even remember the past time I had a two-point game," Upshall joked. "... It was nice to chip in offensively. I like just the way our line's been used and just been relied on lately for added minutes and good offensive zone minutes. It helps our group when we can play like that."

"It's one of those nights," Brodziak said. "We're getting pucks to the net and they were finding their way in.

"... I think we've talked about it a lot the last little while, our top lines were doing all the scoring, they weren't getting any help. The third and fourth lines, we know we're capable of chipping in every once in a while, helping out more, felt the pressure, both lines have responded well the last little while."

And in a game where two teams were coming off back-to-back games and the expectation of a big, heavy game, the Blues established their forecheck early and often in the first period, and it seemed to play right into the hands of the fourth line.

"We needed them to fuel that type of game for us," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "The team that we were playing, they can really take you off your game and disrupt you and make things awfully frustrating for you. And I thought that everyone, and in particular those guys did a nice job of not letting them get to their game and we redid that by getting in on the forecheck by playing in the offensive zone.

"And obviously they can't get to that forecheck-heavy game where they wear on you in your own zone. And obviously I think we were able to do a pretty good job of that early."

Jake Allen made 36 saves for St. Louis (9-2-1), which is on a six-game point streak (5-0-1) and undefeated at home (4-0-0), the only unbeaten team on home ice after the Tampa Bay Lightning fell to the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Saturday.

Joel Edmundson had a goal and an assist and Vladimir Sobotka scored for the Blues, who have won 11 in a row in the second game of a back-to-back dating to last season. The Blues are 13-2 the past two seasons in this scenario and going back to the 2015-16 season, they've won 18 of 21 in the second of back-to-backs.

"I think we've been winning in different ways," Yeo said. "I think good teams do that. Some nights it might be defense. Some nights it might be goaltending. We've had special teams do it for us. We've had our defense score. Our bottom two lines score. Our top two lines obviously have gotten lots done for us. I think that's what good teams do. You have to find different ways to win hockey games. Every game is different in its own right, every team you play is different."

Matt Calvert scored for the Blue Jackets (7-4-0), who lost for the first time in three games. Joonas Korpisalo made 38 saves.

"Both teams came in a back-to-back," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "They played better early on and grabbed momentum right away and they get the lead. It's tough against a veteran team like that in your back end. It's tough to come back when your down by a couple. 

"I felt we put in some good minutes. I thought we didn't have a lot of puck luck where I thought we were getting closer. Allen made some key saves, some of them I don't even think he saw the puck, but the team that won tonight deserved to win."

The Blues outshot the Blue Jackets 14-8 in the first period, and Sobotka followed up Colton Parayko's slap shot from the slot and knocked in the rebound with 33.2 seconds remaining for a 1-0 lead.

Upshall gave the Blues a 2-0 lead at 6:31 of the second when Edmundson's shot from the left face-off circle caromed off Upshall's skate in the crease and got past Korpisalo.

Columbus made their push at the Blues after falling behind by two, but Allen was the brick in goal when called upon; his best save came off Cam Atkinson's effort at the side of the net going from left to right before Atkinson put the rebound off the post at 8:28 of the second.

"There was a guy wide open in front of the net, no one knew he was there," Allen said. "I didn't know he was there either. You do what you have to do.

"I think he probably wants that one (rebound) back."

Edmundson put the Blues ahead 3-0 off a 2-on-1 with Dmitrij Jaskin at 1:29 of the third period. Edmundson looked off Jaskin and beat Korpisalo short side.

"I was thinking pass most of the time," Edmundson said. "I thought the defenseman did a good job taking him away, but when I looked up, I saw there was lots of blocker side open, I just pretty much put my head down and shot."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen eyes down Columbus' Artemi Panarin before
making one of 36 saves in a 4-1 victory Saturday.

Calvert ended Allen's shutout when he scored from the right circle at 6:21 to make it 3-1.

Brodziak made it 4-1 at 13:23 by crashing the net following up his own rebound after Jaskin hit the post.

It was the perfect cap to a night where the fourth line imposed its will.

"I think that's a big part of our line's identity," Brodziak said. "We want to get in hard, make it difficult, find a way to create turnovers. We did a good job of that. I think we've been getting better game in, game out, getting on the same page, trusting each other. Tonight was good, created some turnovers, created some chances and were able to bury some." 

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