Sunday, March 18, 2018

Berglund's OT winner gives Blues 5-4 win over Blackhawks

Come-from-behind win for second straight 
night nets four critical points in chase for playoffs 

CHICAGO -- It's the Blues. It's the Blackhawks. At United Center. What could possibly happen?

A lot? Absolutely, especially when these two teams get together.

And in a game the Blues once again absolutely needed to keep their playoff hopes alive and well, the alive and well portion was lit back up after the flame seemed to get doused.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues congregate around Patrik Berglund, who scored the game-winner
Sunday night in a 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. 

But a late third period goal by Alex Pietrangelo at the very least salvaged a point and Patrik Berglund's overtime winner at 3 minutes, 31 seconds secured the second crucial point in a 5-4 victory over the Blackhawks on Sunday night.

Berglund's goal came off a slap shot from the high slot through the wickets of Blackhawks goalie J-F Berube and gave the Blues (39-28-5) their second overtime win in as many nights (they beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Saturday) and gave the Blues 83 points at the end of the night, just one out of the wildcard in the Western Conference behind the Los Angeles Kings. The Dallas Stars are also one point ahead but have played one more game than the Blues after they lost their fifth in a row, 4-2 at Winnipeg on Sunday.

"A couple big come-from-behind wins," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "Tonight was another level playing back-to-back games. You look at what happened in the game, whether it was the disallowed goal, whether it's the goal with under two seconds left, to battle back and t hen to give up another one with just over (three) minutes left, for our guys to continue to fight the way they did, pretty impressive."

If the standings sounded crazy, this game packed a season's worth of wacky into 60-plus minutes.

But even before the drop of the puck, the Blues found out they'd be without leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko, who missed his first game since Dec. 31, 2015 (195 straight regular-season games) with an upper-body injury stemming from the hit he took the the mouth area Saturday against the Rangers. They had to overcome that.

As for the game, it started by the Blues falling behind 2-0 in the first period, then getting their game going in the second and tying it on goals by Alexander Steen and Vince Dunn on the power play no less -- their first multi-goal power-play game since Jan. 25, or 21 games.

Now comes the fun part. The Blues thought they took a 3-2 lead on Jaden Schwartz's weird shot at the net that seemed to dribble over and behind Berube. The puck turned on end a couple times before Jordan Oesterle swept it back out, but an official pointed at the goal and called goal on the ice with 1:57 remaining. But video review came back conclusive for Toronto and the goal was overturned and the game remained 2-2.

"I can't say that I am," Yeo said when asked if he was surprised by the overturn. "From the view that I had, it was a little bit hard to tell. I think that the TV view, the NBC view, that was a little bit more clear as far as what the NHL was looking at. It's hard to argue that. If it's inconclusive, I know what I would want called in that situation. As frustrating and as disappointing as coaches and as players, I think we knew that the puck was in the net, but if you're not going to get the call, you can't sit around and dwell on that."

The game seemed destined to remain 2-2 after two, but somehow, David Kampf was able to squeeze a puck past Jake Allen inside his left pad and the near post with 1.4 seconds left in the period for a 3-2 Chicago lead.

Deflating? Absolutely. But the Blues, who showed moxie in their win over the Rangers, moved past those bad sequences.

"We could have just easily folded it up honestly," Allen said. "I think a lot of teams probably just would have. It takes a lot of out you. It sucks, two or three seconds left, get a goal to go down a period. We know we're fighting for our lives right now. Every point's crucial. It was resilient comeback by everyone. It's a crazy game, a lot of weird bounces, a lot of crazy bounces, fun, back and forth, entertaining game. It was fun to be a part of and good to obviously be on our side.

"... I was disappointed with the goal at the end of the second. That can't go in at this time of the year. It doesn't matter how it went in. Other than that, I felt really good. I had some really good saves out there and just giving the boys a chance."

The Blues pressed in the third and got the tying goal from Vladimir Sobotka at 15:24 to make it 3-3. Now at least play for a point, right?

Well, Alex DeBrincat tried to spoil those plans when he registered the hat trick (he scored two first-period goals) to put Chicago up 4-3 with 3:13 remaining.

Season over, right?

Not a chance.

Pietrangelo, who along with Vince Dunn had a goal and three assists, blasted a one-timer from the blue line with 1:22 remaining and Allen pulled for an extra attacker to tie the game 4-4.

It was a career-high 15th goal this season for the Blues captain.

"We believe that we've got a chance to score and I think we had a lot of pressure throughout this game," Pietrangelo said.

Pietrangelo, who became the second Blues defenseman to ever register three or more points in consecutive games since Rob Ramage did it in the 1987-88 season, used Steen as a screen.

"Steener should get an extra assist on all the goals," Pietrangelo said. "If you look at what he does, it's not easy to go in front like that and stand your ground, but he deserves a lot of credit. I don't think any of those goals go in without him standing his ground there."

So a point was secured, then comes Berglund, who had been scrutinized, especially lately, and was benched for a game on Feb. 28, coming through in the most opportune time.

"Got the puck from 'Steener' and I just teed it up and shot it. Luckily it went in five-hole I think," Berglund said. "... The guy [Jonathan Toews] gave me some space and I figured I'd just tee it up and shoot it. Luckily, it went in.

"I think we've been talking about (shooting the puck) lately, to get pucks to the net, to get bodies there. That's how you score goals. We've been getting much more pucks through to the net, too, because we have guys around there. That's how you create offense and build momentum. In the last couple games, it's been pretty good."

DeBrincat put the Blues in a big bind in the first period with two goals, one on the power play and a potential back-breaking of a goal with 51.6 remaining in the period.

DeBrincat scored his first in 13 games with a quick snap shot from the right circle through traffic past Allen at 13:07 to make it 1-0, then converted a fluky type of goal after Colton Parayko lost an offensive zone puck that resulted in a 2-on-1. Alex Pietrangelo originally broke the play up, but the puck was flipped back towards the side of the net, and DeBrincat squirted it through and over Allen before rolling over the goal line for a 2-0 lead lead for Chicago (30-34-9).

The Blues generated little offense after an initial push on Berube, managing only eight shots on goal in the period.

But Steen deflected Dunn's shot from the point at 2:02 of the second period to make it a 2-1 game, and Dunn's one-timer from the right circle tied the game 2-2 at 5:14.

"I think at the end of the day, we have to love that we can get past a little bit of adversity in games and I think we saw that yesterday, too," Dunn said. "Tonight, we did a good job following it right to the end."

Getting past those unfortunate events at the end of the second period could have sealed this team's fate this season.

They chose to make a stand, as they've done numerous times lately.

"In both games too, we bounced back in the third period," Berglund said. "We got a couple big goals at the end of the period and we battled through in overtime. It's been a couple of really good days for us.

"We need every single point. We're a very desperate team. I think as of late, we've been playing much better hockey. Now we see some results. ... It was pretty tough to come back in the third, but we knew we had to do it. We can't let that goal get us down. We had 20 minutes to still win a hockey game. We obviously talked about it real quick, then forgot about it and went out and went to work."

Dunn, whose four points were a career-high in his first regular-season game in this building, agreed.

"It's hard emotionally and I think like yesterday, we stuck with it to the end," he said. "We found a way to pick each other up and didn't give up on each other. When times are tough, we can't go quiet on each other. I think it's just sticking together and making sure everyone's on the same page, coming together as a team and just making sure you're taking care of your own job."

Yeo said it was all about accountability.

"The way we approached it quite simply, it can't happen," Yeo said. "Every single play that you're out there for doesn't matter what it is, has to match our situation as far as your desperation. You let your guard down for a minute and those plays will cost us. But thankfully, we responded and found a way to bounce back."

"Obviously you want to win every game in regulation, but right now, we just need points, especially two," Pietrangelo said. "It's fun to watch. This group's resilient. That's a tough one to give up there (late in the third), but at the same time, hopefully we don't put ourselves in that situation too many times moving forward, but these last two games, if you want to get in, you've got to win games like that."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Alex Pietrangelo (right) gives five to teammate Patrik Berglund after scoring
the game-winner in overtime of a 5-4 win at Chicago on Sunday.

And Allen was able to bounce back again, after allowing a couple dribblers to get past him.

"I could care less if it's a 9-8 game now or a 1-0 game, as long as we're getting wins. That's the mentality we have right now," Allen said. "Right now, it's not about how they go in, it's how you respond. If it's a tic-tac-toe backdoor goal or a shot from the other end of the ice I let in, it's the way I respond and the way I regroup and how I play for this team. It's not about me, it's about getting points right now.

"I think every game against the Hawks is crazy like that. It's fun, you never know what you're going to get. It's a roller coaster of emotions, especially for us. We're fighting for our lives. It was awesome to see that last one go in from everyone's perspective."

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