Blues Win 9th Straight at Home

Justin Faulk defends in front of the net with goaltender Jake Allen against Anaheim’s Max Jones. (Jeff Le/NHL via Getty Images)

CONDENSED REPORT

While most of the country was watching a football game, the Blues were busy holding onto first place in the NHL with a win at home over the Anaheim Ducks. St. Louis defeated the struggling Ducks by a final score of 4-1 and still sits atop the NHL with 67 total points. Washington kept pace with St. Louis winning 2-0 over the Hurricanes, while the Bruins dropped a spot with a shootout loss to Philly.

The first period was a tale of two halves as the Blues dominated the first ten minutes, while Anaheim found some life in the latter ten. Alexander Steen netted his third goal of the season early in the period. But, a game-tying goal by Max Comtois in the closing minutes was indicative of an evenly-played opening twenty minutes.

St. Louis went on to score two in the second period on goals by Tyler Bozak and Jaden Schwartz. The Blues turned up the heat and dominated play in the middle frame, outshooting Anaheim 22-10.

Ivan Barbashev stole the puck from Ducks goaltender John Gibson in the third period and capped the scoring with his seventh goal of the season.

Jake Allen got the start in net and stopped 20 of 21 shots for the win.

St. Louis hasn’t lost on home ice since December 7th and tied a franchise record with their 9th consecutive home win. A win over Philadelphia Wednesday night would set a new club mark. Gametime is 7:00 PM Central time on NBC Sports.

FIRST PERIOD

Picking up where he left off last game, Robert Bortuzzo seems to have found some more offense in his game. His blast from the top of the right circle left a big juicy rebound for Alexander Steen, who was all alone on the left side. Goalie John Gibson wasn’t sure where the puck had gone for a moment and failed to shift to his right quickly enough. Gibson got a piece of it, but there was too much open net for Steen, and he took advantage.

Some sloppy play led to a defensive zone turnover later in the first, and Max Comtois got a shot off that Jake Allen never saw. You could tell by his ‘non-reaction’ that all of the traffic blinded him in front of him. Nonetheless, the unassisted goal tied the score at 1-1, with both teams putting five shots on goal in the period.

SECOND PERIOD

The go-ahead goal and eventual game-winner was a result of the relentless pursuit of the puck by Robert Thomas. At times, it looks like there must be a magnet in the puck that is attracted to his stick blade. As this play unfolds, you’ll see him sneak in and steal the puck, drop it off to Mackenzie MacEachern, who then drops it off to Tyler Bozak for the finish. This sequence was preceded by a menacing shift where Anaheim thought they had the puck, but Thomas kept poking and checking until he got it back. The next thing the Ducks knew, it was in their net.

Later in the period, with David Perron and Josh Manson (no relation to Charlie), in the penalty box for not playing nice with each other, and the teams playing four on four, Max Jones decided to hook Ryan O’Reilly, and the Blues had 15 seconds of four-on-three hockey.

Well, they only needed 7 of the 15 seconds to play a quick game of tic-tac-toe — Alex Pietrangelo to Brayden Schenn to a streaking Jaden Schwartz on the backdoor for a 3-1 lead. Ryan Getzlaf for the Ducks felt like he was interfered with after the faceoff in the Anaheim zone by Schwartz, but there was no whistle, and Schwartz scored his 16th of the season on the play.

THIRD PERIOD

The rookie defenseman, Niko Mikkola, has played well in his NHL call-up. On the third pairing with Bortuzzo, his ice time has increased, averaging nearly 16 minutes per game. Late in this game, he made a smart play in the goal crease to help keep the puck out of the net. Here’s the highlight from the Ducks’ Twitter.

And here’s the overhead angle.

It was noted on the broadcast that veteran defenseman Carl Gunnarsson is healthy again and ready to go. But, young Mikkola has earned a spot for now, and Craig Berube doesn’t like to change things up when they’re winning. So for now, welcome to the show, Niko.

The Ducks had their chances early in the third period. David Perron spent four minutes in the penalty box on back-to-back hooking and tripping minors just 26 seconds apart. However, the Blues PK did their job and killed them off without much fanfare.

The last goal was the result of a mixup on the part of the Ducks goalie and defenseman Hampus Lindholm. As Gibson played the puck behind his net, Lindholm zigged when he should have zagged, and the two collided. Ivan Barbashev, always hustling, was there to pick up the crumbs and promptly stuffed the puck into the open net for the final goal giving the Blues a 4-1 win.

WRAPUP

As noted earlier, this was the Blues 9th consecutive win on home ice. They have one more home game with Philadelphia on Wednesday, where they could break that mark. They will wrap up the first half of the season with a road game in Colorado on Saturday afternoon before the week-long break for the NHL All-Star Game.

Many players will be headed home to see family, or to the beach for a much-needed rest for a few days. But, four Blues will be staying home to participate in the All-Star game. Ryan O’Reilly, Alex Pietrangelo, Jordan Binnington, and David Perron will represent the home team in this year’s showcase event.

From the training room, as noted, Carl Gunnarsson is healthy and ready to go. Colton Parayko is still out with an upper-body injury but is close to returning. Sammy Blais is skating but is said to be a couple of weeks away from a return, and Vladimir Tarasenko (remember him?) was most recently vacationing on a beach in a warm climate somewhere, hoping to be back in the lineup before this season is over.

 

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