Blues forward Nathan Walker (26) celebrates his first goal of the season with his teammates. (Photo courtesy: Jeff Roberson, AP Photo)
ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Blues (17-5-6) and Pittsburgh Penguins (14-9-4) both played in the second half of a back-to-back tonight, with the home squad coming out on top by a score of 5-2.
The Blues and Pens both skated with lower energy after playing less than 24 hours ago, but St. Louis got on the board courtesy of Justin Faulk’s first as a Blue. The goaltenders on both sides came ready to play; Matt Murray and Jordan Binnington each made some impressive saves early to keep it a close contest.
Sam Lafferty scored a highlight-reel goal in the second period for Pittsburgh to tie it, but another player would score his debut goal as a Blue: Nathan Walker buried a bouncing puck five-hole on Matt Murray to give his club the lead again.
The final period blew open for St. Louis, with Ivan Barbashev scoring his fourth of the year, and Mackenzie MacEachern scoring shortly after. Kris Letang scored to give the Penguins some life late in the game, but a powerplay goal from Jaden Schwartz quickly stomped out the opposition.
The Blues routed the Penguins in the second half of their back-to-back by a final of 5-2, with five different goal scorers and 12 different players earning points. The Blues are off to face their rival Chicago Blackhawks for the first time this season on Monday, while Pittsburgh waits to play St. Louis again on their turf next Wednesday.
The Blues and Penguins came ready to play, despite being rather lethargic after both teams played the night before. The two players that didn’t play last night were the most impressive: Jordan Binnington made some key saves early in the game for St. Louis, while Matt Murray was spectacular during the Blues first powerplay of the evening. In the first eight minutes of the game, the Blues held Pittsburgh to just two shots on net.
Shortly after that powerplay, it was none other than Justin Faulk breaking the ice. Ryan O’Reilly forced the puck away up high to keep it in the offensive zone and passed it to a returning Faulk. Faulk wristed one towards the net as Zach Sanford screened Matt Murray, and the puck deflected off his blocker and into the net.
Justin Faulk finally scored his first goal as a St. Louis Blue, and it put his team on top 1-0. The remaining 12 minutes of the period was cut down the middle in terms of chances, shots and hits, but the Blues skated off with the 1-0 advantage. St. Louis outshot Pittsburgh in the first, 9-7.
The Penguins top line of Evgeni Malkin, Dominik Simon and Jake Guentzel got to work early in the second period and tried to tie the game fast, but Binnington remained strong in net. The Blues failed on their second powerplay attempt and that gave the Pens some life early in the middle period. Sam Lafferty received an outlet pass in the neutral zone and suddenly took off, blowing past Derrick Pouliot and scoring a tuck-in goal on Binnington.
Lafferty’s 4th of the year tied the game 6:27 into the second period. The counter by Pittsburgh only continued to amplify, as they used their speed and forechecking to push St. Louis back. The Blues’ depth forwards reacted accordingly and shifted the game back when Nathan Walker grabbed his first goal as a St. Louis Blue: Jaden Schwartz sauced a bouncing puck to Walker, and he batted it perfectly through the five-hole of Matt Murray.
Walker’s first goal since October 7, 2017 put the Blues on top again, 2-1 with six minutes left in the second. Despite another late powerplay opportunity for the Penguins, the Blues skated off with a lead again. Pittsburgh laid 19 shots on Binnington in the second period, outshooting the Blues 26-17.
The Blues would not allow a resurgence from the Penguins early in the third and got right back to work. After scoring a goal last night, Ivan Barbashev kept his hot stick scoring after a perfect 2-on-1 pass from Robert Thomas to make it 3-1.
Barbashev’s 4th of the year put a stranglehold on the Pens with a 3-1 lead in the third. The Blues refused to let off the gas, holding Pittsburgh to just 1 shot in the opening half of the third and dominating the offensive zone time.
St. Louis’ depth continued to work hard in their zone and pinch on plays where they could. Troy Brouwer made a great stick check on the zone entry to maintain possession and flipped to it back to Jacob de la Rose, who fed the puck perfectly to Mackenzie MacEachern’s stick.
“Mighty Mac” scored his third of the season, putting St. Louis up 4-1. Despite the deficit, Pittsburgh’s top lines didn’t give up so easily. Kris Letang received the puck after some solid work by Dominik Simon to keep it in the zone and he banked a point blast off of Alex Pietrangelo.
Letang’s 7th of the year brought the Penguins back to within two, but it wouldn’t faze the Blues one bit. On the powerplay, Ryan O’Reilly fought off three aggressive penalty killers and fed David Perron, who sent a pass right to Jaden Schwartz’s tape, where he was all alone in front of Murray.
David Perron extended his point streak to seven games with an assist on Jaden Schwartz’s seventh goal of the year, making it a 5-2 blowout for St. Louis. Neither club overexerted themselves for the remainder of regulation, and the Blues skated off with a convincing 5-2 win.
After the dust settled on a riotous third period, it was an incredible night of firsts for the newcomers. Walker and Faulk scored their first goals in Blues jerseys, Jacob de la Rose scored his first point in a Blues jersey, and Troy Brouwer scored his first point since returning with the club earlier this month.
Jordan Binnington was barely challenged in the third period, as Pittsburgh only had four shots in the final frame. The Blues are back in action next Monday, facing their division rival Chicago Blackhawks for the first time this season. Pittsburgh heads back to Pennsylvania, waiting for St. Louis to return again.
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