(photo credit Getty Images)
For the first time this season, the St. Louis Blues won back-to-back games by defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 5-3 at Enterprise Center. The win puts the Blues at 4-4-3 on the season and now 2-1-0 on the current 7-game homestand.
Oscar Sundqvist had 2 goals and earned the 1st star of the game along with the team’s traveling “trophy” of Bob Plager‘s gloves. He played on the 4th line with Robert Thomas and someone that hadn’t played an NHL game since Feb. 4, 2017, Robby Fabbri. The trio did not disappoint.
The 4th line climbed over the boards for their first shift about a minute and a half into the first period. Blues fans had barely finished cheering the return of Fabbri before he was on the scoresheet with his first assist in nearly 2 years.
Fabbri chased the puck into the corner in the offensive zone and punched it over to Thomas. The 19-year old centerman found Sundqvist in front of the net. The rest was just sheer determination on the part of Oscar. He had chipped the puck into the zone and was knocked down along the half boards. He hustled to get in front of the net in the first place. His first shot was stopped by Vegas goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury.
The rebound came right back to Sundqvist but he had a defenseman draped all over him and was knocked to one knee. Somehow, he managed to keep the puck on his stick and spin to his left and put the puck back on net. The second shot caught Fleury out of position and found the back of the net, giving the Blues a 1-0 lead at the 2:02 mark. Fabbri and Thomas got the assists.
All Blues Early
The period was all St. Louis early on as Jaden Schwartz, Pat Maroon, and Alex Steen all had scoring chances. Fleury stood his ground and stopped 6 or 7 shots before the Knights could get to the offensive attack.
At the 6:29 mark, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (why do these guys all have such long names?) scored from a very sharp angle. The goal tied the score at 1-1.
The period ended with the score knotted at 1 a piece and the shots were 9-9.
Every time our guys failed to clear the puck from our d-zone I found myself holding my breath. It’s been a big problem so far this year and when it happens I start to worry.
Brayden Schenn had the best scoring chance during the 4 on 4 play when Schwartz found him wide open on the backside. Schenn’s attempt to direct the puck into the net was slightly off and ended up under the pads of Fleury.
As has happened 62% of the time, Ryan O’Reilly started the possession by winning the face-off. How important is that? We certainly are finding out this season with one of the best face-off men on the planet playing for our team now.
Vladimir Tarasenko put the Blues ahead when he found a rebound off a Tyler Bozak shot, caught it with his skate blade and kicked it to his stick for his 6th goal of the season. Maroon and Bozak got the assists.
Blues Retake the Lead
The Blues answered back on Sundqvist’s second goal of the game at the 6:29 mark. This time, the play started with a backcheck by Robert Thomas at center ice. He corralled the puck, skated into the offensive zone, and left a drop pass for Sundqvist who beat Fleury over his left shoulder with a sniper of a wrist shot. The goal put the Blues back on top 3-2. A subtle move by Thomas also helped tie up the Vegas defense just long enough to allow his linemate to get off the shot. It showed the hockey sense that Thomas has.
Another goal made it 4-2 when Ryan O’Reilly found Colton Parayko in an open area across the ice. Parayko was locked and loaded long before the puck got to him. He had his stick in the air as he glided backward from the slot into the left circle. O’Reilly’s pass was perfect and the big defenseman did his best Alex Ovechkin impersonation as he one-timed the puck into the net. Fleury had no chance. It was the 10th goal this season by a Blues defenseman.
Play in the final period was sloppy. The Blues had a power-play opportunity early but lost the puck several times and had trouble getting the unit set up. They didn’t manage a shot on goal.
Vegas made it 4-3 at the 8:02 mark on a power play of their own after Schenn was called for boarding. This time it was Alex Tuch who scored for the Knights. Although they came into the game near the bottom of the league on the power play (13.6%) and the Blues near the top (29.8%), both teams were 1 for 3 on the night with the man advantage.
The Blues took back their 2 goal lead with a goal by Tyler Bozak at the 11:47 mark of the period. The goal was set up when Joel Edmundson kept the puck in at the blue line and found Bozak sliding into the left circle. Bozak did a nice job receiving the pass and his wrist shot found the net.
Fleury had a 2.50 GAA entering the game but surrendered twice that many against a Blues offense that has scored at least 4 goals in 5 straight games.
Vegas pulled their goalie with just over 3 minutes left but could not put the puck in the net. A shot off the crossbar by Colin Miller was as close as they would come.
- Carl Gunnarsson made his debut this season after having surgery to repair a torn ACL. He quietly had a good game with nearly 14 minutes of ice time.
- Ice time is getting spread a little bit more as Mike Yeo finds the combinations and players that he wants on the ice. No forward had even 20 minutes, with O’Reilly coming closest at 19:52.
- Jay Bouwmeester‘s playing time dropped some (19:35), as Alex Pietrangelo (25:10), Joel Edmundson (20:20), and Colton Parayko (23:20) saw more time than him.
- Jake Allen had a good game, especially considering he was questionable up until the day before the game. Those complaining about a 4-day gap between games should be thinking where we would be if we didn’t have that time off for him to recover. Allen stopped 31 shots for a .912 save percentage.
- The line of Schenn, Schwartz, and Tarasenko has been quieter than we expect but, they are getting chances. They’re too good to hold them down much longer. With other lines scoring for this team, thankfully it’s not all on their shoulders this year. They’ll come around and have a hot streak. I can’t wait. I love Schenn and Schwartz and love to see them do their thing.
- Robby Fabbri. WOW! It’s good to have him back.
- It’s been fun to see this team start to come together. 2 in a row is a start. Now we face a tough stretch. The next 7 games are against teams that have winning records. The Minnesota Wild come to town tomorrow having won 6 of their last 7 games.
- Sundqvist (1,2)
- Tarasenko (6)
- Parayko (3)
- Bozak (3)