Sunny’s Stunning Return- Sundqvist, Blues Bounce Back Against Vegas

Enterprise Center- St. Louis, MO

Oskar Sundqvist battles with Shea Theodore in front of Marc Andre Fleury Thursday night. (Joe Puetz/NHL via Getty Images)

Las Vegas, 16-12-5, 4th in Pacific Division at St. Louis 18-8-6, 2nd in Central Division

For the first time in weeks, the Blues are unable to lay claim to the best record in the west. A 3 game losing streak has them a point behind surging Colorado in the Central Division. A lack of scoring has been the main issue, as the Blues have tallied just four goals during the losing streak.

Some good news on the injury front, as Oskar Sundqvist returns to the ice tonight after missing six games with a lower-body injury.

Vegas is coming off a 5-1 shellacking of Chicago at home Tuesday night, but they were shut out by the Rangers 5-0 on Sunday.

The Blues hope to return to their winning ways and get back on top of the west as they host the Golden Knights.

1st Period

It didn’t take long for Oskar Sundqvist to make his presence felt. The Blues winger sent a pass from the left boards to Jacob DeLaRose, who found MacKenzie MacEachern breaking to the net. MacEachern beat Marc Andre Fleury’s low blocker side, and it was 1-0 Blues at 4:52 of the first.

Before the Blues’ public address announcer could even finish letting the crowd know who had the assists, Max Pacioretty tied it up. Chandler Stevenson and Alex Pietrangelo got tangled up in the Vegas zone, but as he was falling, Stevenson lunged to poke the puck toward Mark Stone. Stone found Pacioretty streaking down the right boards on a partial break. Jordan Binnington made the first save, but when the rebound popped out front, Pacioretty sent the puck through the five-hole.

Vegas takes the lead

Six minutes later found the Knights applying heavy pressure, trapping the Blues in their zone. The pressure paid off when William Carrier scored on a rebound off a shot from Nate Schmidt. Tomas Nosek sent a pass from the right boards to Schmidt, whose hard shot hit traffic out front. When the loose puck ended up in the crease, Carrier was there to poke it home and make it 2-1 Vegas.

With 4:15 left in the period, Jordan Kyrou made a bid to tie it up. Kyrou found himself alone near the slot and sent a hard shot- and then another hard shot on his rebound- but each time Fleury turned him away with his right pad.

With a little over 3 minutes left, Vegas had their first power play when Carl Gunnarsson was called for tripping Reilly Smith. The penalty kill was up to the task, though, and Oskar Sundqvist had a great chance shorthanded, but Fleury turned him away.

At the end of the 1st, it was 2-1 Vegas with the Knights outshooting the Blues 13-8.

2nd Period

The Blues came out on fire in the 2nd. They completely dominated the period. Sundqvist had already been a difference-maker in the 1st, and he tied it up a minute and a half into the 2nd. Alex Pietrangelo sent a shot toward the goal from the right boards where Sunny was parked out front. Sundqvist deflected the high shot out of the air and over Fleury’s left pad to tie the game at 2.

The Sundqvist clinic continued 3 minutes later when he skated into the Vegas zone with Nate Schmidt all over him. Sunny went in and out/forehand backhand and left Schmidt in his wake, only to be turned aside by Fleury.

At 12:01, Pietrangelo inadvertently swatted the puck over the glass from inside his zone, giving the Knights their 2nd power play. Vegas had plenty of zone time and pressured- including a great chance by Shea Theodore- but the Blues survived it, giving up two shots.

Schwartz, Thomas give Blues the lead

Immediately after the penalty kill, the Blues went back to controlling the play. A minute after the Vegas power play, Justin Faulk did a great job keeping the puck in the offensive zone. Faulk then found Brayden Schenn breaking toward the net. Schenn fired a hard backhand at Fleury, who made the stop, but the rebound found Jaden Schwartz, who made no mistake stick side. Schwartz’s 9th goal of the season made it 3-2 Blues.

Just 39 seconds later, the Blues took a two-goal lead. Ryan O’Reilly sent a pass from the blue line toward Colton Parayko and Robert Thomas, who were both breaking toward the net. The pass glanced off Parayko and ended up on Thomas’s stick on the left side of the goal. Thomas took a second to look around, didn’t see anyone open, and shot from a sharp angle. Somehow the puck found a hole under Fleury’s arm to make it 4-2 Blues.

3rd period

Vegas nearly made it a one-goal game just 8 seconds into the 3rd. After a face-off win, a stretch pass found Alex Tuch all alone for his 2nd breakaway of the game. Just as he did in the 1st period, Jordan Binnington held his ground and robbed Tuch with a snap of the glove.

As much as the Blues controlled the 2nd period, such was not the case in the 3rd. The Golden Knights pressed hard to get back in the game, managing the first few minutes of the period. The Blues gained some traction and got back on their game about 6 minutes in, but Vegas still had the better of the play and the better scoring chances.

Binnington made a great save with 11 minutes and 45 seconds left to keep it 4-2. The puck was rolling out of the Blues zone when Tomas Nosek was just able to keep it in. He turned and found Valentin Zykov behind the Blues defense all alone in front, but Binnington shut him down right side.

Two and a half minutes later, Vegas had another great chance when Binnington misplayed the puck behind the net. Mark Stone picked his pocket and sent a pass out front to a wide-open Nick Holden, but Holden’s shot banged off the right post.

Although the Knights had the better of the play in the 3rd, they were frustrated by the great work of Jordan Binnington. Binnington thwarted several good Vegas chances. They would have another excellent opportunity to cut into the lead when Justin Faulk went off for hooking Max Pacioretty in front of the St. Louis net. The Blues, however, left Vegas no time or space and allowed no shots on goal, effectively ending the game.

Summary and Notes

It was a much-needed win for the Blues. After losing 3 in a row, they righted the ship and played a solid game against a tough Western Conference opponent. The win puts the Blues back on top in the west,  one point ahead of the Avalanche.

Oskar Sundqvist played like a man possessed. He was all over the ice, making plays on both offense and defense. Sunny had a goal, an assist and very easily could have scored 2 or 3 goals. The move he made to get around Nate Schmidt for a scoring chance in the 2nd was jaw-dropping.

Jordan Binnington had an excellent bounce-back game after being pulled vs. Toronto Saturday night. The Blues’ goalie stopped 27 of 29 shots, including a few breakaways, and outdueled Marc Andre Fleury.

The come from behind win was the Blues’ 11th of the year, tying them for 1st pace in that department.

Next up: St. Louis hosts Chicago Saturday night at Enterprise Center.




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