Saturday, December 4, 2021

Husso, Brown, Joshua shine for Blues in 4-3 shootout loss

Goalie makes career-best 48 saves; Brown scores, Joshua picks up 
assist helping fuel zone time against Panthers with six players out of lineup

In the end, it was a point, a hard-earned point in a 4-3 shootout loss for the Blues against the Florida Panthers on Saturday afternoon at FLA Live Arena, but taking everything into consideration with injuries and lack of players because of COVID-19 protocol, the Blues will take it.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Ville Husso (35) stood tall on Saturday against the Florida
Panthers in a 4-3 shootout loss, making a career-high 48 saves.

What the Blues (12-8-4) won't like is giving up another late third-period goal that helped determine the outcome of a game, but when they look at the situation and think of how well goalie Ville Husso played and how Logan Brown played in his third game as well as Dakota Joshua, the Blues will feel good about the depth guys they're using and helping them collect points in a time when they're missing David Perron, Tyler Bozak, Jordan Binnington, Justin Faulk, James Neal and Klim Kostin.

Defenseman Jake Walman also stepped in in a pinch to contribute his second NHL goal.

"I think it's a good opportunity for everybody to step in," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "We have a deep team where everyone can step in and up their game and do their part. It's good to see everybody stepping up there. Obviously tough not to get the two points, but we've just got to keep working and getting better. Good things will happen."

Husso started games in the NHL for the first time in a back to back situation. And he didn't disappoint. The Finn made a career-best 48 saves after facing 51 shots, several of the clutch variety and has stood tall in light of Binnington being out because of COVID.

"It's two games in a row I thought he played really well," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Held us in there today and gave us a chance to win."

Parayko added, "He played unbelievable. Obviously he made some big saves, gave us a chance to get two points. It was good to see obviously."

Husso and the Blues were on the verge of gaining a valuable two points but had one taken away when Maxim Mamin tied the game with 2:34 remaining off a quick zone draw win by Florida and quick shot by Mamim over Husso's glove hand.

"I would like to have that one back, even the first one too," Husso said. "I think I was there and just good shot goes in, but I would like to get that back."

They had a chance in the shootout as well all because of a penalty kill pulled off by Ryan O'Reilly, Oskar Sundqvist and Robert Bortuzzo, who played the final 1:16 without his stick after tossing it aside because it was broken. 

The Panthers, who had a 4-on-3 advantage, held the puck in the Blues' zone nearly the entire time until the waning seconds, but it was essentially a 4-on-2 with Bortuzzo playing with no stick, but the big Blues defenseman was throwing his body around trying to do anything he could to prevent a scoring chance. He went to the ice an astounding 13 times to block a shot, block a pass attempt, break up a play, anything in order to keep Florida from scoring.

"It's unreal," Berube said. "He finds a way to get it done. That's the bottom line, which he did. He does whatever he can."

"I wish we could have got a win for those three guys who were out there at the end for the PK," Husso said. "They battled so hard. Bobbo without the stick too. That just tells how we are a team and we play for each other. I wish we would have got the extra point.

"'Bobbo' played pretty well (without a stick) how he was on the ice position-wise. They made it easy for me. I think they didn't get a shot. 'O'Ry', 'Sunny' and 'Bobbo', they played it out. It was easy for me."

Amazingly, with Brayden Schenn in the box for tripping with 1:57 left in the OT, the Panthers did not register a shot on goal. The Blues in fact outshot the Panthers 1-0 when O'Reilly's dump-in from center ice in the final seconds of OT was the lone shot on goal on either end.

"It's a long minute or whatever it would have been with no stick there, but obviously 4-on-3 is tough itself," Parayko said. "I think we had one last overtime as well that we killed off. We were confident. Good players out there that can make good reads and getting in front of shots and making blocks. Obviously Husso made some saves. All in all, we were confident, never what you're obviously looking for in overtime, but we had the right guys out there who were there for the job and they got it done."

It came down to the skills competition, which the Blues lost 2-1, essentially giving the Panthers (17-4-3) the extra point, but the lone scorer for the Blues was non other than Logan Brown, playing in his third game in his hometown and doing it well.

Brown, who scored to get the Blues on the board 1-0 in the first period, his second goal in three games since he was called up from Springfield of the American Hockey League, finished with 10:23 ice time, three shots on goal and three blocks. He and Joshua, who played 8:43 and picked up his first NHL assist on Brown's goal, helped fuel the small amounts of drive time in the offensive zone the Blues had on a consistent basis.

"They were great," Berube said. "I thought that they probably had the best offensive zone shifts tonight because they were physical and heavy on pucks and really that's what it boiled down to. And really (Ivan) Barbashev too. I thought 'Barby' had a good game. I double-shifted 'Barby' with them most of the game and well-deserved."

Berube thought as much as to use Brown in the shootout, and he went in the second round to go forehand, backhand and roof a shot in over Sergei Bobrovsky.

"He had a great game," Berube said of Brown. "I thought he played really well. I've been told he's good in shootouts down there (in Springfield), he's got a good move, so I used him."

A disappointing result considering Husso, whose previous career-high in saves was 34 earlier this season in a 3-0 shutout of the Los Angeles Kings, deserved the win for his performance more than anything.

"It was a tight game. Kind of disappointing," Husso said. "We had the lead at the end and it was like two minutes left and they tie the game. We get one point and we need to look at the positive side.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Dakota Joshua (54) celebrates with Logan Brown (22) after Brown scored in
the first period of a 4-3 shootout loss against Florida on Saturday.

"... I didn't really think it was that many shots, but I was just focusing for the next puck. I felt fine there."

With Binnington likely to miss at least four more games, perhaps five, Husso will have his heaviest workload ever in the NHL. And so far, he hasn't disappointed.

"Unfortunately, 'Binner' is out now. Hopefully I'll get a lot of games and I need to step up and play at a good level every night," Husso said. "It's nice to get some back to back games. I haven't played those in a while. I think it's easier for me to get dialed in right away for games when you play back to back games."

"Obviously he's a very good goaltender," Parayko said. "I feel like he's a really sound goalie. I 
don't know a ton about goaltending, but he just always seems to be in the right position, makes it look easy. I feel like when you're doing that, it's when the pucks are always hitting you. He's just a good goalie overall. Glad to see him playing well."

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