Blues forward Brayden Schenn (10) handles the puck around sliding Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers (27). (Photo courtesy: Scott Kane, AP Photo)
ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Blues (32-15-8) celebrated Alex Steen’s 1000th game, but still couldn’t get the job done against the Winnipeg Jets (27-23-5). The Blues started off the period well, but a bad goal by Jordan Binnington gave the Jets a 1-0 lead. Winnipeg took advantage of the defensive confusion by the Blues early in the second, and Patrik Laine scored on a 3-on-1 rush.
St. Louis’ 4th line got some energy back in the building with over a full minute of zone time, forcing a penalty. Colton Parayko netted his second goal in as many games on the powerplay, and Carl Gunnarsson scored his second of the season to tie the game after 40 minutes.
The Blues started well in the third, but poor neutral zone play turned into another rush chance for the Jets, and Andrew Copp whacked in a rebound past Jordan Binnington. The Blues had pushback late in the game, but Nikolaj Ehlers buried the empty net goal to secure the Jets’ win, 4-2. Jordan Binnington made 22 saves to Hellebuyck’s 35 in the loss.
“There’s a lot of desperate teams in the league right now, a lot of them trying to fight their way into playoff spots,” Craig Berube said after the loss. “The hockey’s tight right now, it’s tough. We gotta dig in more and have a better mindset going into games, be harder to play against.”
The Blues wrap up the homestand on Saturday against the Dallas Stars, the first of their 3 matchups in February. The Jets head home to host the Senators.
After a bad loss to the Jets in Winnipeg less than a week ago, St. Louis opened up with some dominating shifts to start the game. However, as the Jets began to register chances on the rush, the Blues defense began to falter as they found themselves in poor transitions. Despite having a 4-on-3 and a 5-on-3, the Blues couldn’t capitalize on their first man-advantage chances of the game.
Winnipeg used the Blues sloppy defensive turnovers in the neutral zone to push in fast on the rush. As the Jets began to pour on the speed and offense, newest Jet Jansen Harkins threw a shot past Binnington short side, perfectly in the top corner to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead.
The Jets continued to put pressure and expose the Blues defense through the final minutes of the first. St. Louis put a couple of scoring chances on net, but Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck played incredibly well to keep St. Louis scoreless. After the first period, the Blues skated off down again, 1-0.
Winnipeg continued to stay frustrating in their own zone, collapsing back toward Hellebuyck and batting away every rebound chance. The Blues were still miscommunicating in their transition game, and it burned them on a line change that turned into a 3-on-1 for the Jets.
Patrik Laine cashed in on the odd-man rush to make it 2-0 for Winnipeg six minutes into the second. The Blues finally found some energy and cohesion after a terrific shift by the fourth forward line. Sammy Blais made a great deking play to force a penalty, putting the Blues back on the power play. Robert Thomas receive a pass from Vince Dunn and wired one off the goalpost, but the rebound came perfectly to Colton Parayko’s stick.
Parayko’s powerplay goal and second goal in as many games cut the lead back to one midway through the second. The Blues kept pushing the Jets back and forcing them in deep around Hellebuyck. After a faceoff win, Zach Sanford lifted Blake Wheeler’s stick just enough to deflect in a slapshot from Carl Gunnarsson.
Gunnarsson’s goal less than three minutes later tied the game, 2-2. The Blues hummed around the offensive zone and kept registering chances down low, but Connor Hellebuyck continued to stand tall in net for the Jets. Jordan Binnington also made some key saves in the period as the Blues tied the game after 40 minutes. St. Louis outshot Winnipeg again through two periods, 27-19.
The Blues wanted to get right back on the horse in the third period, but the Jets had their number this time around. After some early saves by Connor Hellebuyck, the Jets continued to push on the rush and punish the Blues in the neutral zone. After a slow line shift by the Blues, the Jets worked end to end and caught the Blues flat-footed, as Andrew Copp pounced on the partial rebound.
The goal deflated the energy of the Blues and Enterprise Center as they went down 3-2. St. Louis attempted to push back, but the passive neutral zone gap of the Jets kept them from any good entries into the zone or sustained pressure. As time began to wind down, the Blues finally got their legs moving in desperation mode, as Jaden Schwartz registered 8 shots on net in the game.
Connor Hellebuyck had the answer, however, for every single chance that came to him, and he slammed the door for the rest of the period. The Blues pulled Binnington again, but Ehlers buried the empty netter to seal the deal, 4-2.
The Blues dropped their first home game in regulation since mid-December and split the season series with Winnipeg 2-2-0. Jordan Binnington struggled in net making just 22 saves on 25 Jets shots. Connor Hellebuyck had another exceptional game against St. Louis, making a combined 73 saves against the Blues in two games.
The Blues finish the homestand with another big division game against the Dallas Stars on Saturday, while the Jets head home to host the Ottawa Senators.
The Blues’ start was a big part of their loss, as the Jets went up 2-0 after 25 minutes. “Tough start. We kinda sat back on our heels, gave them too much,” Carl Gunnarsson commented. “I think we stepped it up in the second and third, it was up for grabs, and then they get away with that 3-2 goal, and they just keep pushing to 4-2. Tough start, I think that that set the tone for the whole game, good pushback in the second, but not enough.”
“Yeah, the first period we didn’t play well,” head coach Craig Berube commented to the media. “We played solid after that, lots of chances, you know, we just haven’t solved Hellebuyck good enough yet after those 2 games… There’s a lot of desperate teams in the league right now, a lot of them trying to fight their way into playoff spots. The hockey’s tight right now, it’s tough. We gotta dig in more and have a better mindset going into games, be harder to play against.”
The Blues host the Stars on Saturday on Fox Sports Midwest and ESPN 101.1.
For local Blues stories, recaps, insights and more, visit bluesrants.com!