Jake Allen (34) gets ready for his game in net. (Photo courtesy: Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports)
ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Blues (22-8-6) got into a forechecking war against the Edmonton Oilers (19-14-4) as the Blues swept their 4-game homestand, winning 2-1. The Blues laid on a barrage of shots to Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, but he made some phenomenal saves in the first to keep the pucks out.
Jake Allen was in net for a rare home start, and performed admirably against the unreal Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, as did the Blues defense. Penalties went both ways for the entirety of the game, but Brayden Schenn scored his 15th on an even-strength breakaway in the second period.
The Blues forechecking and neutral zone play smothered the Oilers from getting any dangerous chances as Allen continued to remain solid in net. MacKenzie MacEachern scored his 6th of the year on a perfect setup from Ryan O’Reilly.
However, James Neal scored in the final two minutes after the Blues lost a challenge for goaltender interference. After a few great saves and a lucky goalpost hit by Draisaitl, the Blues hung on to the edge of their seat to take down the Oilers 2-1.
The Blues went a perfect 4-0-0 at home, and kick off a California road trip to San Jose on Saturday to play the Sharks at 9pm CT. Edmonton heads home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.
The Blues came to work on time to start the game, and quickly outshot the Oilers 5-1 in the opening minutes. Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, however, was sharp as a tack not just in the first but during the whole game, making some remarkable saves on David Perron and co.
The forechecking battle was a brutal one both ways, something both St. Louis and Edmonton excel at this season. Depth forwards like Jacob de la Rose did their part to contribute to the defensive work in their own zone.
Defensemen Justin Faulk, after a slow start to the season with his new club, has begun to find his game in St. Louis, putting up 5 of the Blues’ 15 shots in the first period. However, neither team could find the net in the opening 20 and skated off scoreless.
Forward Oskar Sundqvist received a questionable hit after play was blown for a delayed penalty and no foul play was detected, drawing the ire of head coach Craig Berube. Edmonton was outshot 15-10.
The Blues and Oilers picked up right where they left off after the first, with heavy hitting and forechecking. St. Louis had 90 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play but failed to score, while the PK for the Blues also remained perfect.
With 12 minutes left in the second, Jaden Schwartz hounded the Oilers forward at the blue line and stripped the puck, handing it to Vince Dunn. Dunn quickly fed a streaking Brayden Schenn for a breakaway, and Schenn buried it past Koskinen top shelf.
Schenn snapped his 6-game goal drought with his 15th of the season to put the Blues on top 1-0 in the second. The Blues continued to play with urgency after the goal, and also held superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl at bay (the best they could).
Justin Faulk had a wide-open cage after Oskar Sundqvist’s shot rang off the post, but defenseman Adam Larson managed to rob him of the shot. The Blues fired four more shots on net in the final minute but skated off with a 1-0 lead. The Blues put a season-high 19 shots in one period, outshooting Edmonton 34-18 through 40.
The Blues continued to put on a forechecking clinic in all three zones, swarming the Oilers’ offense and keeping their breakouts to a minimum. Just over 6 minutes in, David Perron forced the puck in deep to Ryan O’Reilly. O’Reilly stopped on a dime behind the net and fed the streaking MacKenzie MacEachern perfectly for his 6th goal of the year.
“Mighty Mac’s” goal doubled the Blues lead, 2-0. The Blues only continued to put pressure on the Oilers and completely swamped any chances of attack from Edmonton. Finally, in the dying minutes of the game, Edmonton pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker and it paid off, controversially.
Head Coach Craig Berube challenged the play for goaltender interference on Jake Allen, but with Allen moving out of his crease no interference was called. James Neal’s goal would stand, with 1:50 to go in regulation and Edmonton being awarded a powerplay for the failed challenge.
Jake Allen made a couple of great saves in the 6-on-4 advantage late in the game, and Leon Draisaitl just missed a goal by hitting the post. After 60, however, the Blues held on to win, 2-1 over the Oilers and sweeping the homestand. Allen was superb in net after a rare home ice start, making 35 saves on 36 shots.
Jake Allen spoke with Darren Pang on the big win on home ice. “I knew once we got the second goal there, great goal by ‘Mac’ and ‘O’Ry’, they were gonna push. Those top two lines [for Edmonton] can fly out of the zone, and obviously they got two of the best players in the league, so we knew it was gonna be a challenge the last 5, 6 minutes there,” he commented. “I thought for the majority of the game [the Blues] played a hell of a hockey game, responsible, executed well. It was impressive.”
Allen continued on about the failed coach’s challenge late in the game. “It was a risk, you’re gonna win some, lose some… I think it’s easier to play 6-on-4 anyway, so I think our guys did a hell of a job 6-on-4. It almost gives the other team a little bit too much time to think and sort of makes it a little bit easier on us to not worry about icings and things like that.”
The Blues became just the 2nd team to reach 50 points in the league with a win over the Oilers. The Blues kick off their road trip to California after the 4-game home sweep, heading to San Jose at 10:30 ET on Saturday. Edmonton returns home to host the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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