Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly (90) handles the puck in Vancouver. (Photo courtesy: Rich Lam, Getty Images)
VANCOUVER – The St. Louis Blues (30-12-8) got back in action against the Vancouver Canucks (28-18-4), but goaltender Thatcher Demko stole the game for the home squad in a 3-1 Canucks win. Zach Sanford got things rolling for the Blues early in the first period on a delayed penalty courtesy of a setup from David Perron.
The Blues and Canucks traded chances back and forth, but the puck possession greatly benefited St. Louis in the first period. Both goaltenders, Jake Allen and Thatcher Demko, were on top of their game after the All-Star break with great saves throughout the entirety of the game.
Despite a solid second period for the Blues, J.T. Miller and the Canucks capitalized on the small mistakes by St. Louis, as Miller scored two goals in the second period to put Vancouver up 2-1. Demko continued to make remarkable stops against the Blues, keeping his net empty in the second.
Jake Allen and Thatcher Demko entered a fierce duel in the third period in their cages, as both goalies made stupefying saves. Jaden Schwartz was robbed on the doorstep multiple times, and the Canucks rode the goaltending to the last second, as Bo Horvat buried an empty netter. The goal sealed the deal for the St. Louis Blues, as they dropped their third straight game by a 3-1 final. Demko stole the show for the Canucks, making 36 saves on 37 shots.
The Blues dropped their first game in regulation after scoring first and have dropped five in a row on the road (0-4-1). “We were a little too streaky tonight,” Zach Sanford commented after the loss. “We had some good stretches and some not-so-good stretches and that’s not going to work in this league.”
The Blues continue through western Canada tomorrow night, where they play the Flames at the Saddledome at 8pm CT. The Canucks look to build their Pacific Division lead in San Jose on Wednesday against the Sharks.
The Blues shook off any rust after the brief All-Star Break and got right to work in the first period. Both teams went back and forth through the neutral zone trading great scoring chances. The Blues used the strength of puck possession to their advantage to keep puck in the zone.
After representing the hometown at the All-Star Game, David Perron got right back to work early, three minutes in, he intercepted the puck in the O-zone from Elias Pettersson and fed Zach Sanford for a tap-in goal.
Sanford’s 5th of the year put the Blues up 1-0 early in the game on their third shot. The Blues kept putting the heat to Vancouver by capitalizing on their misplays in the zone, but 24-year-old Thatcher Demko made some wonderful saves to keep his team afloat. On the other side, Jake Allen also stopped phenomenal chances by Vancouver to remain perfect after the first period. The Blues skated off with a 1-0 lead after the first, as Vancouver outshot them 10-9.
Brayden Schenn started right back up for St. Louis with a couple of dangerous shots, but Demko managed to kick away both pucks. The goaltending fueled the Canucks back into the game, as Jake Virtanen fought off Vince Dunn on the near side, feeding J.T. Miller right in the slot for a perfect goal.
Both players continued to play effectively for the Canucks in the second. After Justin Faulk’s shot was blocked near the blue line, the Blues got caught in deep as the three Canucks forwards had a 3-on-1. Faulk overcommitted to the right side as J.T. Miller and co. produced a textbook passing sequence.
J.T. Miller’s 19th of the year and second of the evening gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead halfway through the period. The Blues, despite being down a goal, looked like the better team in the second period, registering 16 shots on Demko. St. Louis headed into the locker room down 2-1 after forty minutes, outshooting Vancouver 25-18.
The final period turned into a goaltending spectacle on both ends, as Jake Allen and Thatcher Demko made spectacular saves to start off the third. Allen’s saves early in the third gave the Blues the energy to outwork the Canucks.
The Blues put Vancouver on their heels for the entirety of the period and threw everything but the kitchen sink at Thatcher Demko. Despite all of St. Louis’ efforts, Demko stood on his head and played phenomenally, stopping pucks almost magically on everyone from Pietrangelo to Schwartz.
The Blues pulled their goaltender and took advantage of the poor icings by the Canucks, but Demko stole the show – and the game – for the home squad for all 60 minutes. Captain Bo Horvat put the empty-net goal in the final second of the third period to give the Canucks a 3-1 final.
The Blues are now winless in three straight games, but not for a lack of effort, as Demko and Allen were the best players on the ice. Demko stopped 36 of 37 St. Louis shots to give Vancouver their 9th straight home win.
The Blues continued to get better throughout the sixty minutes, but the effort fell short. “Our game built as the game went on,” Jake Allen said after the loss. “We spent a lot of time in their zone and had some chances, but it wasn’t our sharpest executing game.”
“We were a little too streaky tonight,” Zach Sanford said. “We had some good stretches and some not-so-good stretches and that’s not going to work in this league.”
The Blues quickly move on to Calgary to take on the Flames tomorrow at 9pm ET.
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