Blues forward Alex Steen (20) launches a slapshot. (Photo courtesy: Keith Gillett, Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS – The Force was strong with the St. Louis Blues (28-10-7) as they defeated the Buffalo Sabres (19-18-7) on Star Wars Night, 5-1. Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas continued to stay red hot after scoring a pair for the Blues in the first period to make it 2-0 St. Louis. However, Sabres captain Jack Eichel also continued his electric play and cut the lead 2-1 at the beginning of the second period.
David Perron blasted a powerplay goal in the second period to make it 3-1 as the Blues continued to drive the play in their offensive end. Jaden Schwartz buried another, but Jordan Kyrou was ruled offside for the second time in as many games. The Blues began to double the Sabres’ shots on net, as the third line for St. Louis continued to dominate.
Alex Steen scored his 1st goal of the season in the third period to make it 4-1. The Sabres had one powerplay late in the game, but the Blues penalty kill came up strong as Jordan Binnington took care of the rest. Steen would score again on an empty net as the Blues took a decisive 5-1 win in St. Louis. Jordan Binnington made 18 saves in his 21st win of the season.
The third line of Robert Thomas, Tyler Bozak and Alex Steen all registered 3 points in the win, as well as four of the Blues five goals. “I’m having a great time playing with those two. We all kind of bring different elements to the game and I think that kind of meshes well together. We were definitely happy to see ‘Steener’ get on the board,” Bozak said after the game.
It was the Blues 7th win in a row on home ice, as they take the second game of this five-game homestand. St. Louis continues the homestand on Saturday against New York at 7pm CT, while Buffalo heads home to play Vancouver.
After a getting back in the win column against San Jose, the Blues got back to work and continued to play their style against Buffalo. The Blues played smart in all three zones, keeping the Sabres to minimal dangerous chances while registering some of their own.
The “third” line for St. Louis was the most dominant combination on the ice in this game. Less than five minutes into the first, Robert Thomas received the puck above the faceoff circle and pulled a curl-drag shot similarly to David Perron, and he sniped the shot past Linus Ullmark.
All three linemates of Alex Steen, Robert Thomas and Tyler Bozak scored on the goal that put the Blues up 1-0. The third line only continued to buzz around the Sabres net, as they continued to cycle down low. Thomas found Bozak perfectly from behind the net for an easy tap-in goal.
New defenseman Niko Mikkola scored his first NHL point with an assist on the play as the Blues doubled their lead, 2-0. The Blues shutdown worked for the remainder of the first period, as they skated off the ice with a 2-goal lead. St. Louis outshot the Sabres through the opening 20, 11-7.
Amidst the Blues dominance, one player was still all over the ice for Buffalo. Captain Jack Eichelregistered solid chances for his club the entire evening, as he used his deceptive puck handling to run circles around some of the Blues defenders. Under 5 minutes into the second, Eichel carried the puck in himself from the back of the net to the slot and scored to cut the lead in half.
Eichel cut the lead back to one, but St. Louis only poured on the defensive pressure, keeping the Sabres from registering a single shot for almost ten full minutes. The Blues were granted the first powerplay of the night, and David Perron continued his bid for “Last Man In” for the 2020 All-Star Game.
Perron’s 19th goal of the season gave him 45 points in 45 games, as the powerplay goal put the Blues up 3-1. The top line of Schwartz, Schenn and Kyrou scored another goal on the rush, but for the second straight game it was successfully challenged for being offside.
With the overturned goal, Buffalo found some life late in the second, and they started shooting some dangerous chances. Jordan Binnington, who wasn’t tested much in the game, made some timely saves to keep the lead for the Blues. St. Louis doubled up the shot count on the Sabres, 23-16.
With the third line playing dominant and Jordan Binnington standing tall in net, the Blues refused to let the Sabres claw back in the game. The Blues hounded the net around Ullmark as Steen ripped a shot on Linus Ullmark. Tyler Bozak nearly scored on the wide-open net only to be blocked by the Sabres’ defenseman. They didn’t give up on the play – Robert Thomas found Steen for a rebound chance on another empty cage and Steen buried his first goal of the season.
Another goal scored near the 5-minute mark gave St. Louis a 4-1 lead in the third period. The Sabres began to lose any momentum gained from the end of the second period and eventually pulled their goaltender with over three minutes in regulation. The Blues quickly punished the Sabres, despite having the extra attacker, and Alex Steen scored his second of the night on an empty net.
Steen’s first and second goals of the year sealed the deal, as the Blues beat the Sabres by a 5-1 final. The third line was phenomenal, as Steen, Bozak and Thomas registered 9 points, four of the five goals, and a combined +10 rating. Jordan Binnington would earn his 21st win of the year, making 18 saves on 19 Buffalo shots.
With all three linemates scoring three points, Tyler Bozak noted the growing chemistry amongst the trio. “We’re building as a line. I think it’s been going well lately, it’s kinda nice to play with the same guys for extended period of time and build that chemistry,” Bozak said to Darren Pang after the game. “I’m having a great time playing with those two. We all kind of bring different elements to the game and I think that kind of meshes well together. We were definitely happy to see ‘Steener’ get on the board.”
The Blues took their 7th straight win on home ice, improving their Central division lead to 9 points. St. Louis can continue that lead on Saturday when they host the New York Rangers at 8pm ET. To follow Saturday’s game tune in to Fox Sports Midwest and ESPN 101.1.
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