Friday, February 28, 2020

Blues stick with plan, stay patient against resilient Islanders before pulling out 3-2 OT win

Falling behind 2-0 in lackluster first, St. Louis comes all way back, 
get late goal from Dunn, winner from Parayko to win sixth in a row

ST. LOUIS -- When you're the defending champs, when you're facing an opponent that is dead-set on locking a game down in a playoff-type setting, the notion is to just stick with it no matter how long it takes.

Sometimes patience is tough to hold onto in certain situations, but the Blues did just that against the New York Islanders on Thursday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brayden Schenn (10) celebrates with Colton Parayko, who scored in OT to
help the Blues defeat the New York Islanders on Thursday.

A first period that wasn't what the Blues were looking for, spotting the Islanders a two-goal lead, finding a way to win again was going to be tough sledding.

But the Blues got the big goal when needed from Vince Dunn late, then Colton Parayko wins it in overtime to help the Blues win their sixth in a row, 3-2 over the Islanders Thursday at Enterprise Center.

It was the kind of game one would see in the playoffs, but when it comes to the playoffs, who has been better than the Blues (38-17-10) in those situations?

The Blues won for the seventh time this season when trailing after two periods, and for the second straight game. They did it in run-and-gun style Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, 6-5. On Thursday, the Islanders (35-20-8) were more that willing and glad to just lock it down, make zone entries for the Blues as difficult as possible, then chips pucks out and force them to continuously go back and retrieve them.

It's a frustrating way to play, but it's an effective way at times for teams to be successful, and it meant the Blues just had to stay with the plan and not deviate from what worked so well after a lackluster first period.

"They’re stingy defensively, they try and keep you to the outside, they play tight so we kind of knew that coming into this game," said Blues forward Brayden Schenn, whose first-period goal gave the Blues some life. "I think it took a little bit for us to wake up in that game.

"It almost seems boring at times. You have to keep grinding and chipping away and getting chances and eventually hopefully one goes in and that’s what happened tonight."

It did happen when Dunn stepped into a howitzer of a shot on a broken play with 1:44 remaining to tie it 2-2.

The Blues finally were able to penetrate the Islanders' fortress they had built. It was turning into the textbook kind of road game in a tough place: get a lead and batten down the hatches.

"Yeah, they play really well defensively," Parayko said of the Islanders. "They've got good d-men back there. Their forwards play hard. Yeah, they play a really strong defensive game and it's just tough to get behind them, tough to get pucks to the net. We kept pressing. We did a good job. It's tough to get players to the net and pucks there. Just try to stick with it for a full 60.

"That's kind of the style, I feel like. They play that way and it's a hard way to play against obviously, especially if they have the lead. We just wanted to continue to press and try to get our chances."

They finally got their chances, a lot of them.

The Blues played carelessly with the puck in the opening period, prompting coach Craig Berube to say postgame, "They were more into it than us in the first. That's the bottom line."

The Blues were not sharp passing the puck, they made mistakes with it, particularly the second goal that led to Jordan Eberle giving the Islanders a 2-0 lead at 16:34.

"We knew what we did in the first definitely wasn’t enough, wasn’t going to get us the win," Dunn said.

No it wasn't.

But when Schenn scored with 55 seconds left in the first, off a fortuitous bounce when the Islanders were trying to wrap the puck into the Blues zone that turned back the other way, and Ryan O'Reilly feeding Schenn for a one-timer to make it 2-1, that gave them some life in a period that could have easily been 2-, 3-0.

A Jean-Gabriel Pageau power-play goal at 8:20 came as a result of a Jaden Schwartz delay of game penalty.

"That goal at the end was huge and then we got a power play," Berube said. "We got a little momentum from that for sure."

From the second period on, or specifically, the game's final 45:25, the Blues held the Islanders to five shots on goal, or one every nine minutes.

"We didn't give them anything after that," Berube said. "It wasn't a clean game. Puck is bouncing a lot. There wasn't lot of clean plays by us either, but we checked and did the right things and didn't give them anything."

In this six-game winning streak, the Islanders are the fourth team the Blues held to fewer than 20 shots. New York finished with 17.

"That's how we've just kind of been playing lately," Parayko said. "Obviously maybe we can take away that Chicago game, but those previous four before that, we've been playing well defensively. I think that that's a lot of credit to a lot of success with our forwards, forwards tracking, the D being tight and obviously 'Binner' [Jordan Binnington] an Jake [Allen] playing real well."

But New York, fighting for playoff position in the Eastern Conference, made it awfully difficult for the Blues to get to the interior and see many Grade A chances on Thomas Greiss. 

But when Robert Thomas slid a puck on a wide open net early in the third period that would have tied it 2-2, the rest of the time on the clock had all the earmarks of opportunities missed by the Blues, particularly in the second period when they outshot the Islanders 10-1.

But ... patience. They had it, and it paid off.

"That’s exactly it," Schenn said. "They’ve got a lot of skill over there, they play tight defensively, that’s their style of play, we knew that coming in. Especially when they got up 2-1, they may have sat back even more and try to lock it down and did a good job of it and then we were able to get one by them and get it to OT and anything can happen there."

Dunn supplied the late-game theatrics when he took advantage of a broken play, and moments before that, from a puck that stood still on the blue line and was inches away from being offsides. 

It's a game of breaks, and when you're winning, those breaks go your way. But Dunn was aggressive on a pinch, wired one glove side on Greiss using Zach Sanford as a screen.

"I honestly didn’t know it went in until I saw everyone celebrating," said Dunn, who minutes earlier was whistled for interference. "It’s great for me, but it’s also great for the team. 

"We had different guys scoring goals, different guys getting put in different situations. It took everyone to win that game tonight, it wasn’t just one guy. We had some big moments, some big penalty kills."

In the overtime, the Blues found things equally as tough with the Islanders holding the puck for much of the extra session.

"I just feel like that's how overtime is," Parayko said. "Sometimes a team has it for a long time and they score or else a team has it and one turnover, one bounce leads to a goal. Just feel like in overtime 3-on-3, a lot of space out there, a lot of opportunistic players. But yeah, whenever you get the chance, try to finish it."

And Parayko finished it. He was able to get an errant Islanders pass, move ahead with it, looking for Schenn before his pass was deflected by Anthony Beauvillier. Parayko collected the puck, moved down the right side, burst past Beauvillier around Greiss' left side before curling the puck off the Islanders goalie's pad and in at 3:23 to win it and cap off a collective huge two points.

"I don't really get that close the net all the time," Parayko said. "I saw the opportunity I guess and just tried to wrap it.

"I think we had a little 2-on-1 and I tried to chip it by. They got a skate on it and kind of went in the corner. It's kind of man-on-man in 3-on-3. Their d-man, I thought he was going to come at me so I kind of held that front so I just thought it would be a good opportunity to wrap it."

The two points push the Blues' lead in the Central Division to five points on the Colorado Avalanche, who have three games in hand, and six on the Dallas Stars.

These points, when they looked bleak against a worthy opponent, could be the difference in the end at winning a division and losing it.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Vince Dunn pumps his fists and celebrates his goal in the
third period that tied the game against the New York Islanders.

"Every win’s a big two points, no doubt about it," Schenn said. "Yes and no. I think we’ve got a lot of hockey left to be played. So we’ll see. There’s a lots of games throughout the year where you say that’s a huge two points and this could be one of them."

"It's one of the games for sure," Parayko said. "I don't know, it's tough to say pick one game in an 82-game season. There's so many different games where maybe we lost one in overtime where maybe we could have said we could have picked up that extra point. That's an extra point tonight. I just feel like there's so many games, so many dynamics, it's hard to pinpoint one point in the season winning and losing the Central Division."

No comments:

Post a Comment