Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pietrangelo's second of game in OT good enough for 5-4 win

Blues squandered two-goal lead against two-time defending Cup 
champs; Schenn, Stastny, Schwartz, Sobotka all contribute two points

PITTSBURGH -- It would have been a tough way to squander a point.

The captain made sure the Blues didn't.

Alex Pietrangelo scored his second goal of the game in overtime to help the Blues spoil the Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins with a 5-4 victory in the season opener Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo (back) celebrates with teammates Jaden
Schwartz (left) and Brayden Schenn (front) after scoring the OT winner.

The Blues (1-0-0) squandered a 4-2 third-period lead when the Penguins (0-1-1) scored two goals in 54 seconds to tie, but Pietrangelo scored 1 minute, 45 seconds into the extra period to give the Blues a much-deserved two points when he was able to take a puck into the zone with Jaden Schwartz driving the net, pull into the slot and beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray short side.

"Pretty much the same thing. We had a guy driving the net, 'Schwartzy' and the first one, Paul (Stastny)," Pietrangelo said, describing both of his goals. "I'm looking for a shot lane and those guys driving the net draws all the attention and got the goalie sliding both times.

"(Murray) was leaning on both of them. I guess when you're a pass-first guy, they don't expect you to shoot."

The win helped the Blues overcome the pregame festivities of the Penguins celebrating their Cup victory and banner-raising after beating the Nashville Predators, who eliminated the Blues in the second round, in six games.

"We know what it is," Pietrangelo said. "You want to come in here and spoil the party. We didn't watch it obviously. We were in here. ... I thought we did a good job answering the bell after they had their push.

"It was obviously a tough night to come in here. Obviously we knew what happened prior to the game. They had a lot of energy. You could feel the buzz in the building. We knew they were going to have a couple big pushes. They did. Obviously we were scrambling there for a while. Jake played outstanding as always and kept us in there. I said it last year, and I'll say it all year this year, it's a resilient group. We'll stick together. It might not always be how we planned it out prior to the game, but we'll find a way."

The Blues went up 4-2 on Stastny's goal 3:38 into the third and looked like they would lock up a regulation victory in impressive fashion. But they got into some penalty trouble late. First, Robert Bortuzzo was called for tripping at 12:10 and then Brayden Schenn, making his Blues debut with a goal and assist, caught  puck midair in the high slot and instead of batting it out of the zone, he threw it baseball style down the ice for a delay of game 16 seconds after the Bortuzzo penalty giving the Penguins a two-man advantage for 1:44.

Sidney Crosby scored to make it 4-3 with 6:14 remaining, and Conor Sheary tied it on a one-timer from the right circle with 5:20 to play to tie the game 4-4 and give the defending champs all the momentum.

But the Blues regrouped, got at least a point and fought to get the second one back.

"Coming into this building and scoring five tonight, this is just the beginning," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "We've said it before, this is just the beginning of the process. I think it was a little bit of a poise issue and that for me is normal this time of year. It can get a little hectic and you don't react as well to it, you're not as familiar with it as you are later in the year. We'll be in some more of those situations and obviously, they've got a pretty talented group over there, too. It's not like we just completely backed off and didn't continue to play. They've got some guys that made some plays at a big time, but I liked the way that we regrouped and got the win."

Five different players had two points for the Blues, including Pietrangelo, Schenn, Stastny (one goal, one assist) and Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka each with two assists, and forward Tage Thompson and defenseman Vince Dunn made their NHL debuts. 

"It's early in the season," Stastny said. "There were a lot of good plays from a lot of our lines and there were a lot of sloppy plays by a lot of our guys and that's just the way it is. It happens on both ends of the ice. I think a few times we got in trouble playing that run-and-gun game. Especially when that ice was bad, we should have tried playing more that puck-possession game."

Justin Schultz put the Penguins on top 1-0 6:37 into the game, a shot that Jake Allen, who made 29 saves, never saw and sent the 18,652 in attendance into a larger frenzy from the pregame festivities.

The Blues quickly answered on Schenn's first of the season, scoring quickly at 8:31 to tie it 1-1 on a pass from Carl Gunnarsson into the slot off Schenn's skate and in. Review concluded the goal was good.

The Blues answered with a power-play goal at 17:45 of the first when Colton Parayko capitalized on a Matt Hunwick turnover trying to backhand a puck out of the corner with multiple players, including the Blues' Tage Thompson, Sobotka and Oskar Sundqvist battling for it. Parayko got the puck in the slot and whipped a wrister past Murray to make it 2-1.

The second period was a little more settled and the players didn't have as many open chances with free ice, but the Penguins tied it 2-2 on Mattaa's goal from the left point at 12:37 after the Blues' fourth line missed out on a couple chip plays getting the puck out of the zone moments before the goal.

But the Blues came back and grabbed the lead again on Pietrangelo's goal at 15:37, a shot from the slot after getting Sobotka's pass. Sobotka ran a little interference on Brian Dumoulin allowing Pietrangelo to get into the slot and beating Matt Murray high glove side. Sobotka also was patient on Stastny's goal, curling it around Crosby before feeding Stastny in the slot.

"He makes plays," Stastny said of Sobotka. "He's like 'Schwartzy' where he holds onto the puck and doesn't get rid of it. Tough to knock off the puck. That one I'm not even yelling. I'm kind of hoping he sees me because sometimes you don't want to yell to get the defenseman or the back-checker to kind of notice you. He makes a great play there, makes a great play on Petro's goal. I think for us, our line, it took a little bit. I was bad on draws, so that kind of puts us on a damper, but as the game went on, I think we started getting more comfortable where we could hold onto the puck more."

"I thought Sobe did a nice job with 'Stas' and 'Vladi,'" Yeo said. "He was real instrumental and obviously those guys getting on the scoresheet. I thought he did a lot of little things in his game and then we needed some more depth and some more balance scoring. Those guys showed us what they can do together. They've got good chemistry."

When Stastny scored, it sent a lot of the home crowd home, and the Blues had the chance to ice the game, but Murray squeezed the pads on Schwartz's breakaway bid.

Then, Schenn turned into a pitcher at an inopportune time.

"I think he was laughing about it as much as we were," Stastny said of Schenn. "When you get a win, no one cares about that penalty. It was kind of funny, but he played great.

"I don't know who was next to me, but I was speechless. On the bench, I was speechless. I was kind of laughing because we were up 4-2. It almost backfired on us, but it didn't. We're still in the game."

"They had some good momentum there. Obviously 5-on-3 against those guys is obviously always going to be tough," Pietrangelo said. "I felt we held it together, though. Gave up the two goals, but we held it together on the bench. We knew we had a chance, especially when it got to overtime, we did."

Schenn had a strong Blues debut, playing 16:46, was plus-1, had four of the Blues' 34 shots on goal (Pietrangelo led with eight), delivered four of the team's 36 hits and won eight of 15 draws, including five of nine against Crosby.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Paul Stastny (26) moves the puck against Pittsburgh's Olli
Maatta during the Blues' 5-4 overtime win on Wednesday night.

"He was good," Stastny said of Schenn. "I think he was good obviously offensively, but he was good where you really notice it is defensively coming out of the corners and not just throwing it up to the winger and kind of having poise with it. He made a lot of nice plays out there."

Playing with Schwartz made it a good combination.

"That's why we put them back together," Yeo said. "We want a little more depth in our lineup."

Next up for the Blues is Ken Hitchcock and the Dallas Stars in the home opener on Saturday.

* NOTES -- The Blues will honor the life and career of legendary defenseman Noel Picard with a no. 4 helmet decal throughout October, the team announced on Wednesday.

The decal will be worn by all of the players on the back-left of their helmets. The Blues will also recognize Picard's family prior to their home opener on Saturday against the Dallas Stars.

Prior to the national anthem, Blues PA announcer Tom Calhoun will read a brief biography of Picard's life. Following the address, the Blues will recognize Picard's daughter, Annie, son, Dan, and their mother, Viviane. The Picard family will then join the color guard for the singing of the star spangled banner.

Picard, who passed away on Sept. 6, is an original Blue who played in St. Louis until 1973, appearing in 278 regular season games. Picard also played in 47 playoff games with the Blues, including the club's first three appearances in the Stanley Cup Final from 1968-70.

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