“Sunny” Shines in Tampa Before Leaving with Injury – Blues Beat Lightning 4-3

Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL

Mathieu Joseph #7 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against goalie Jordan Binnington #50 and Carl Gunnarsson #4 of the St. Louis Blues during the first period. (Photo by Scott Audette /NHLI via Getty Images)

St. Louis, 14-5-6, 1st place in Central Division @ Tampa Bay, 12-7-2, 4th place in Atlantic Division

The defending champs head to Tampa, trying to right the ship after dropping two straight to the Predators. After falling behind 2-0 early Monday night, the Blues clawed back and forced overtime in Nashville, but lost in the shootout.

Tampa has won 3 straight and is heating up, steadily climbing in the Atlantic Division after a slow start. The Lightning’s last loss came at St. Louis last Thursday, and overall, Tampa has won 6 of 8. They’ll be without the services of their captain, Steven Stamkos, due to a lower-body injury.

Although the Blues find themselves in the midst of a scoring slump, through a combination of great defense and goaltending, they’ve thus far managed to stay atop the Central Division. But if the Blues look over their shoulder, they’ll see the hard-charging Dallas Stars just 2 points back. Coach Berube has not been happy with the Blues’ recent slow starts, something the Blues hope to remedy tonight.

1st period

Although the Blues didn’t quite get off to the fast start Chief was looking for, they kicked it into gear about halfway through the period. At one time, the Lightning was outshooting the Blues to the tune of 7-2, but by the end of the period, the Blues had outshot Tampa 13-10 and had the better of the scoring chances.

Jordan Binnington was influential in the period, especially early, until the Blues could gain their footing. A minute and a half in, Binnington made his best save of the period when he flashed his glove and robbed Ondrej Palat on a rebound right out front.

As for the Blues, there first good chance came when Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy misplayed the puck behind his net. David Perron ended up with the puck and tried to bank it in off of Vasilevskiy, but he may have been better served to pass to 1 of 2 Blues that were open out front.

The next two great scoring chances for the Blues came about a minute apart late in the period. Jaden Schwartz had a golden opportunity near the crease on a feed from Brayden Schenn, but he didn’t get all of it, and the puck clanged off the post. A minute later, Troy Brouwer nearly had his first goal upon his return to St. Louis.  Jacob de la Rose found him breaking down the middle of the ice and sent a perfect pass to Brouwer, but Vasilevskiy was right there to thwart the tip-in attempt.

Although the Blues took a little while to get going, they didn’t give up the first-period goal (or 2) that plagued them against Nashville, and they had good energy and jump. The two teams headed to the locker room and the 1st intermission scoreless,

2nd period

St. Louis is one of the better faceoff teams in the NHL, but they struggled in that area Monday night against Nashville. They continued to fight in the 1st period and early in the 2nd against Tampa. It cost them when Brayden Point won an offensive faceoff and slid the puck back to Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov made a quick move to the center and beat Binnington blocker side.

Immediately after the Kucherov goal, the Blues were in danger of going down 2-0 when Zach Sanford went to the box for slashing. The Blues’ penalty kill was up to the task though, giving the Lightning no room and no time with the puck. After Tampa dumped the puck into the Blues’ zone, Ivan Barbashev chipped it out toward the blue line and found Oskar Sundqvist ahead of the pack. Sunny broke in alone and beat Vasilevskiy with a quick snapshot high over the glove at 5:31. The shorthanded goal was the Blues’ first, non-empty net short-handed goal of the season.

Just over 3 minutes later, Sunny struck again. The Blues lifted the puck high out of their zone and ended up with it at the red line near the right boards. Tyler Bozak flipped the puck to Barbashev along the boards who found Sundqvist at the top of the right circle. Sundqvist’s hard slapper beat Vasilevskiy 5-hole, and it was 2-1 St. Louis.

The injuries mount as Oskar Sundqvist goes out

During Sundqvist’s next shift, he made a move to avoid a check from Luke Schenn at the boards and landed awkwardly. He was seen having trouble putting any weight on his right leg as he made his way to the bench and back to the locker room. He would not return.

Lightning Strike to Tie it at 2

The Lightning would tie it up when Nikita Kucherov sent a pass toward the Blues’ net from the right boards. Ryan McDonagh deflected the pass on the net, where Binnington made the stop. The rebound got loose, and Binnington and Colton Parayko both made a dive toward the puck to clear it away, but Anthony Cirelli beat them to it and poked it in to make it 2-2.

Binnington was top-notch between the pipes all night, and he bailed out Robert Thomas when he turned the puck over along the left boards. Tyler Johnson came up with the puck out front, but Binnington made another great glove save to keep it tied.

Tampa Bay would have another chance to take the lead when they put their high powered power play to work after Alex Pietrangelo went off for a slash. Once again, the Blues’ power play was outstanding. St. Louis would not give the Lightning any room and would not let them set up. The Blues killed it off and did not allow a single shot.

3rd period

Tampa Bay closed the 2nd period with a couple of good chances, and the Blues continued to tempt fate when David Perron went off for tripping just 20 seconds into the 3rd. The Lightning managed to muster their first two power-play shots of the night, but the Blues continued their masterful penalty killing, and Tampa never really threatened.

Ivan Barbashev assisted on the 2 Oskar Sundqvist goals, and also had a hand in the Blues taking the lead at 8:21 of the period. Barbashev controlled the puck just inside the blue line along the left boards and skated to the middle of the ice. His pass to Bozak bounced right back to him, and then he found Sanford in the middle of the right circle. Sanford one-timed the puck past Vasilevskiy to give the Blues a 3-2 lead.

With 11 minutes left in the game, Alex Killorn headed to the box for slashing Robert Thomas. Tampa compounded their problems by giving the Blues a five on 3 for a minute and 44 seconds when Yanni Gourde went off for tripping.

The Blues controlled the puck on the five on 3 for nearly the entire power play and had many good looks. David Perron had 3 of his own, but each time Vasilevskiy was there. It looked as though the five on three would come and go without the Blues taking advantage, but moments before it ended, Brayden Schenn buried a backhand pass from Ryan O’Reilly to make it 4-2.

Blues Survive Final Tampa Push

With just under 7 minutes left in the 3rd, Robert Thomas slashed Kucherov to give Tampa a power play and a chance to get back in the game. St. Louis nearly had their 2nd short-handed goal on the night when Tyler Bozak broke in alone on a pass from Barbashev, but Vasilevskiy made a great save on Bozak’s backhand attempt.

Moments after Bozak was denied, the Lightning had the puck down at the other end and finally broke through on the power play. Brayden Point snapped the puck past Binnington after a great touch pass from Kucherov to make it 4-3. The Lightning had life. Former Blue Kevin Shattenkirk had the secondary assist on the play.

As the game wound down, St. Louis continued to skate and play their game, making it difficult for Tampa to set up in the zone and pull Vasilevskiy for the extra attacker. Unfortunately, the Blues iced the puck with a minute and 49 left to go, and from there, it was all Tampa. The Lightning won the face-off, cycled the puck around, and took shot after shot on Binnington. The Blues could not change and could not clear the puck, but Binnington would not give up the equalizer, and St. Louis held on for the 4-3 win.

Summary and Notes

After underperforming in back to back games against Nashville, the Blues went on the road and beat one of the best teams in the NHL, sweeping the season series from Tampa for the 2nd year in a row. Oskar Sundqvist, Ivan Barbashev, and Jordan Binnington led the way. Sundqvist had two goals, Barbashev had three assists, and Binnington stopped 32 of 35 shots.

In the postgame press conference, Coach Berube did not have an update on Oskar Sundqvist’s injury, saying only that they would look at him tomorrow. Having already lost Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, and Sammy Blais for extended periods of time, the Blues can ill afford to lose Sundqvist for long. Sundqvist may be on the verge of a breakout season, as his career-high in goals was 14 last year. Only one third into the season, he’s already tallied 8.

The Blues will enjoy an off day for Thanksgiving and then travel to Dallas to take on the resurgent Stars at 8:30 eastern Friday. After a slow start, the Stars have been red hot lately and are nipping at the Blues’ heels in the Central Division.

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