St. Louis Fans Celebrate Return of Big Rig and Blues Win

Tampa Bay, 9-6-2, 6th place in the Atlantic Division @ St. Louis, 12-4-5, 1st place in the Central Division

(Scott Rovak/NHL via Getty Images photos)

Preview – also see our Gameday story here

The hometown hero, Pat Maroon, returns to St. Louis tonight. Now a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, nonetheless, he’ll receive his championship ring and many cheers of appreciation from the crowd at Enterprise Center. Maroon’s goal in double overtime of Game 7 against Dallas last season will live on in Blues history forever.

More importantly, for the Blues, however, is reversing some recent history, as they try to snap their 3-game losing streak. The Blues do have 2 points during the streak, for two overtime losses, but their offense has been in a funk, causing Coach Craig Berube to juggle all four forward lines in an attempt to generate more scoring.

Maroon’s Ring Ceremony

Before the start of the 1st period, Blues GM Doug Armstrong was down on the ice to present Pat Maroon with his Stanley Cup Ring. The Blues’ captain, Alex Pietrangelo, was there as well, along with injured Blues Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen. The former teammates all exchanged hugs, and Maroon briefly slipped the ring onto his finger to test the fit. As predicted, the Blues fans gave the Big Rig a warm welcome.

1st period

Neither team was able to muster much offense within the first 3 minutes, but wouldn’t you know it. Maroon nearly broke the ice while doing his usual dirty work in front of the net. The Big Rig gathered up a rebound out front and would have given Tampa a 1-0 lead if not for the flashing left pad of Jordan Binnington. Maroon could be seen smiling as he headed to the bench.

St. Louis was playing with fire when they gave Tampa’s 2nd ranked power-play a chance to do some damage with 14:30  left in the period. Jay Bouwmeester went off for holding former Blue Kevin Shattenkirk. The St. Louis penalty kill was outstanding, however. The Lightning won the initial faceoff and applied some brief pressure, but after the Blues were able to clear the zone, they never gave Tampa any room or time to get set up.

The first 14 minutes were evenly played, although they didn’t have many great scoring chances, the Blues were skating well and keeping the high powered Tampa offense in check. That changed at 16:36 of the period when Alex Killorn found Anthony Cirelli in front of the Blues net to make it 1-0 Tampa Bay.

With 30 seconds left in the period, Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman interfered with Ryan O’Reilly in front of the Tampa net. Still, the Blues weren’t able to get anything going on the power play. They’d go to the locker room trailing 1-0 but have a minute and half of power-play time left to open the 2nd.

2nd period

When the Blues hit the ice in the 2nd, they were able to control and cycle the puck well on the power play, but never really threatened. Shortly after the power play ended, Kevin Shattenkirk nearly gave his former team a gift. He turned the puck over to Oskar Sundqvist at his blue line, but Andrei Vasilevskiy was there to pick up his teammate and make the save.

The Blues would have another power play when Luke Schenn (Brayden’s brother) went to the box for a cross-check. St. Louis was unable to generate any scoring chances, and if not for two brilliant saves by Binnington, would have given up a short-handed goal.

Later in the period, David Perron slashed Steven Stamkos as he drove toward Binnington. Still, the Tampa penalty was nullified a little over a minute later when Vasilevskiy played the puck outside the trapezoid. Colton Parayko nearly tied it up with a charge to the net, but the Blues were unable to get anything by Vasilevskiy, who was having a stellar game.

Vasilevskiy’s best save came when Ivan Barbashev found MacKenzie MacEachern down low. MacEachern had an opening on the right side and looked like he was about to tie it, but out of nowhere came Vasilevskiy’s glove to rob MacEachern and keep it 1-0 Tampa.

The Blues were controlling play in the period- outshooting the Lightning 18-4 – and were finally rewarded at 17:24. Parayko sent a backhand shot toward the net from the left boards, and David Perron was there to jam in the rebound and tie the game at 1. Ryan O’Reilly had the secondary assist on the play.

3rd period

The Blues continued the momentum gained in the 2nd period, and soon had their first lead of the night. Oskar Sundqvist and Robert Thomas played a little give and go. After Sundqvist sent the puck to Thomas, Thomas skated toward the back of the Tampa net, then sent a beautiful no-look pass back to Sundqvist who buried the puck past Vasilevskiy high stick side.

Alex Killorn nearly tied it up for Tampa just moments after the Blues took the lead. The puck shook loose from the right boards, and Killorn had a clear path to the net, but Jordan Binnington turned him away. Binnington wasn’t tested nearly as much as Andrei Vasilevskiy, but he was reliable and was there when the Blues needed him.

Sensing time running out, Tampa turned up the pressure. Pat Maroon had his 2nd great chance of the night with 8:45 to go, almost precisely the same opportunity he had in the 1st period, with a rebound in front of the net. But just like the first period, Binnington’s left pad left the Big Rig looking up at the rafters, wondering how he didn’t score.

Vasilevskiy kept the Lightning in it when he made another great glove save, this one on Sammy Blais with 6:30 left in the game. Tampa couldn’t breakthrough, though, and with 1:25 left, Vasilevskiy skated off for the extra attacker. The Blues survived a couple of flurries, and with 5 seconds left, Jaden Schwartz took a pass from Brayden Schenn and found the empty net to make it 3-1 and wrap it up.

Summary

It was an all-around great night for the Blues and their fans. Everyone got to celebrate the return of the Big Rig, but celebrate a victory as well, as the Blues were able to end their 3-game losing streak. It was a tremendous defensive effort against one of the better offensive teams in the league.

As for Coach Berube’s shake-up of the lines to try to gain more offense? Mixed results. The Blues only scored two goals before the empty netter, but they were very active on the puck, had a good jump, and generated numerous scoring chances. Without Andrei Vasilevskiy’s outstanding play in net, the Blues may have had 4 or 5 goals.

Colton Parayko was the best player on the ice for the Blues on this night, extremely active on the puck and shooting much more than usual.

Klim Kostin didn’t seem to have near the impact or presence he had in his first game, but some inconsistency is to be expected. He was only a factor on a shift or two, causing some trouble around the Tampa net and attempting to jam one past Vasilevskiy from in close.

It was a great bounceback win for the Blues as they come back from an early deficit, end their three-game skid, and maintain the best record in the Western Conference. Next up, the Blue Note will host the Calgary Flames on Thursday at eight eastern.

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