(Photo Credit: David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
BLUES APPORACH FRANCHISE HISTORY WITH 9TH STRAIGHT WIN OVER COLORADO AVALANCHE, 3-0
DENVER, CO. – A crucial two points in the Central division playoff race were up for grabs as the St. Louis Blues defeated the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center, 3-0. The Blues extended their winning streak to 9 games, one shy of tying a franchise record. “They have been on fire lately, a team that we are kind of fighting neck and neck with, fighting for a playoff spot with”, said Avalanche forward Matt Nieto.
Colorado, on the other hand, would fall below .500 after snapping a season-worst 8-game losing streak against the top Central Division team in the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Jake Allen stopped all 32 shots faced for his 2nd shutout of the season, and Vladimir Tarasenko extended his point streak to 11 consecutive games (10g-9a-19p).
The Blues had an early scare after a blocked shot sent Pietrangelo into the locker room. He would return shortly after. The top lines for Colorado and St. Louis set a red-hot pace in the first, with Nathan MacKinnon generating several chances for the home squad in the opening. The Blues would respond with fury of their own, answering the end-to-end action with exhausting offensive zone pressure (one shift lasting almost two entire minutes in Colorado’s zone).
Robert Bortuzzo and A.J. Greer took offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties at 2:16 for 4-on-4 hockey. Patrik Nemeth took a slashing minor late in the opening 20, but despite the controlled offensive structure the Blues couldn’t find the back of the net. The period closed scoreless, St. Louis outshooting Colorado 14-8.
The top lines would continue to shine in the second period for both clubs as Rantanen, Landeskog, O’Reilly and Tarasenko could continue to create chances on both ends of the ice. Robert Bortuzzo exerted his physical presence after an interference call on Brayden Schenn at 12:11 prompted offsetting slashing minors to Bortuzzo and Rantanen. He would later block 2 more heavy shots.
Jake Allen and Sergei Varlamov would stand tall in net, however, as they warded off every shot faced. Gabriel Landeskog would take a tripping penalty at 18:55 in the second, giving the Blues 55 seconds of powerplay time to open the third. Still no score, the Blues outshot the Avs again. Shots were 25-19 thus far.
While St. Louis failed to convert on the remainder of their power play, Tarasenko continued to knock on Varlamov’s door, after his seventh shot of the afternoon broke the ice. A wide-open wrist shot from the near faceoff dot would find twine at 4:01 for Tarasenko’s 25th goal of the season, extending his point streak to a career-best 11 games. O’Reilly (37) and Schenn (27) would both tally an assist. “Vladi had a lot of good looks tonight, but [O’Reilly, Schenn, and Tarasenko] work hard together… and Vladi’s a goal scorer.” said Blues’ coach Craig Berube after the game.
Colorado would have a giant response immediately after with Soderberg just missing a wide-open net, but 57 seconds after the first goal, Blues’ “Sanford and Sons” duo would find the back of the net off an odd-man rush for Zach Sanford’s seventh goal of the season. Oskar Sundqvist (11) and Pat Maroon (12) would both be awarded assists. Allen would stand on his head for the remaining 15 minutes of the game, denying incredible chances from Colorado’s biggest scorers.
Jaden Schwartz, who only had 4 goals heading into today, sealed the deal with an empty netter at 18:24. Tarasenko would have a multi-point day with an assist, and Tyler Bozak would earn his 14th assist as well. The Blues would finish outshooting Colorado by just one, 33-32.
Despite the hunger (and desperation) of a Colorado team looking to claw their way back into the Wild Card race, the Blues remained poised and in control almost the entirety of the game. “I think we’re confident right now, but the team understands the work that has to be put in game to game and the focus and urgency that’s needed all the time… We just gotta continue to do that.” Said Craig Berube after the game.
Colorado realized the lack of scoring contributed to both the confidence and the energy level of the game. “I think we played a good last couple of games, but maybe the confidence is not there to finish it off,” said Avs forward Carl Soderberg. “We played a really good team, and they’re used to winning right now; they found a way today and we didn’t.”
“It’s hard to win games when you give up those chances. It’s as simple as that.” Commented Avs defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
The Blues improve to 30-22-5 with today’s win, pulling 2 points ahead of the top wild card Dallas with a game in hand, while Colorado falls to 23-24-11, 3 points out of the second wild card position.
The Blues will try and tie a franchise record 10 straight victories in Minnesota tomorrow facing off against the Wild in another 3 pm ET afternoon contest (FSMW, FSN, KMOX, KFAN, NHL.TV). Colorado will look to rebound against the Vegas Golden Knights at home on Monday at 9 ET (ATRM, ALTI, KRLV, KKSE, NHL.TV).
Alexander Steen was absent for this road trip in anticipation of his firstborn daughter…Robby Fabbri entered the Blues lineup in Steen’s place for the first time in 10 games…Vladimir Tarasenko continues a career record 11-game consecutive point streak with his 25th goal of the season… The Avalanche have now lost six straight home games while having points in the last 4 road games… Blues now come within 1 win of a franchise record 10 straight wins… The Blues have not allowed a goal in over 127 minutes of play
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