Colton Parayko skates away from Brady Tkachuk Thursday night in Ottawa. (USA Today Sports photo)
Canadian Tire Centre- Ottawa, Ontario
St. Louis – 5 points and 1st place in the Central Division @ Ottawa- 0 points and last place in the Atlantic Division
It was a study in contrasts as the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues traveled to the capital of Canada to take on the Senators, who finished dead last in the league last year. While the Blues feel primed and ready to make another run at the Cup, the Senators are rebuilding.
St. Louis has totaled 5 points in their first three games of the season thus far against teams that are expected to make the playoffs, while Ottawa has dropped their first 2. It was going to be interesting to see how the Blues responded to an opponent that- on paper anyway- was not expected to be as big of a test compared to teams like Washington, Dallas, and Toronto. Jake Allen would get the start in goal, his first since April 3rd in Chicago.
Through the first 5 minutes of the game, there was not much action, as evidenced by the 1-0 lead in shots on goal by the Senators. But a little over 8 minutes in, Jake Allen attempted to play the puck behind his net when it hopped over his stick and ended up on the stick of Ottawa’s Scott Sabourin. Sabourin found Vitaly Abramov wide open in front of the net for his 1st career goal.
Shortly afterward, the Blues had their first power play of the game when Bobby Ryan was called for tripping, but the power play was ineffective. The Blues did not get set up in the offensive zone until 45 seconds were left in the penalty, and even then, the zone time was short-lived. The lone shot on goal came from Pietrangelo on the left wing with no screen in front of Anders Nilsson, who made the easy save.
At about the 14-minute mark, the Blues started to get a little pressure and were able to sustain some offensive zone time, but it did not lead to any real scoring chances.
With 2:10 left in the period, Oskar Sundqvist checked Jean-Gabriel Pageau hard into the boards, causing a glass pane to crack. Rather than wait out the repairs, the refs called an early intermission to the period, which led to the very unusual situation of the players coming back out of the locker room after the first intermission to finish the last 2 minutes of the period.
Once the period continued, the Blues continued to apply some pressure, including Jaden Schwartz hitting the post with 90 seconds left.
It was 2-0 Ottawa after 1 with the shots even at 8-8.
Having already had the 1st intermission, the teams switched sides and started the 2nd period after they played the final 2 minutes of the first.
Through the first 6 minutes, the Blues had some good chances. Robby Fabbri sent a hard shot on Nilsson after a turnover, and O’Reilly and Dunn both had opportunities, but Nilsson denied them.
It was very nearly 3-0 Ottawa a couple of times when the Sens had a 3-on-1, than a 2-on-0 breakaway, but Jake Allen made some phenomenal saves, the most spectacular being a point-blank glove save on Tyler Ennis. Those were huge, momentum-changing stops, and the Blues soon took advantage when they received their 2nd power play at 8:37 of the period.
Moments later, David Perron skated in from the right side with a great toe-drag move and sent a wicked wrister past Nilsson to make it 2-1. It was Perron’s 200th career goal with assists from O’Reilly and Pietrangelo.
The pace of the game had picked up, and it continued to be hectic as the Blues and Sens each sent a puck off the post within a minute of each other.
The Blues tied the score at 2 when Sundqvist beat Nilsson glove side right off an offensive zone faceoff. It seemed like St. Louis had everything going for them at that point, but they gave up their 2nd shorthanded goal of the season when Chris Tierney picked up a loose puck and bullied his way to the net with Pietrangelo on his back. The unassisted, shorthanded goal came at 17:49, and Ottawa would take that 3-2 lead into the 3rd period.
The shots at the end of the 2nd were 22-20 Blues.
In the 3rd, this game turned into a shootout. Although the Senators had the worst record in the league last year, you wouldn’t know it by the way they battled.
Allen had to make a great save on Brady Tkachuk about a minute into the 3rd to keep it from becoming a 4-2 game. Still, about 30 seconds later, Jay Bouwmeester sent a long shot past Nilsson to tie the score at 3, assisted by Parayko and O’Reilly.
The Senators killed a Blues power play halfway through the period, but a minute later, Brayden Schenn made it 4-3 St. Louis when he picked off an errant pass from Tkachuk and skated in to beat Nilsson high blocker side.
Ottawa did not fold, though: a minute and a half later, the Sens were applying some pressure when the Blues got caught with four players in the corner to Jake Allen’s left. Anthony Duclair was found all alone in front, and he whipped the puck past Allen to make it 4-4.
But after a lackluster 1st period, the Blues were the better team, and they continued to make plays. Just 42 seconds after Duclair tied the game David Perron whistled a shot off the post and behind Nilsson to make it 5-4 with 6 minutes left in the 3rd. It was Perron’s 2nd goal of the night, with assists from O’Reilly and Bozak. It was O’Reilly’s 3rd assist of the night, and he went on to tally a 4-point game when he secured the Blues victory with an empty netter.
The Blues may have played down to their competition a bit in the first period, but Ottawa was game, and they made the Blues earn it. It wasn’t the sharpest the Blues have looked, but they did overcome 2-0 and 3-2 deficits for the win and grabbed 2 points while giving Jordan Binnington a night off.
The tour of Canada will continue on Saturday when the Blues travel to Montreal to take on the Canadiens.