Blues forwards David Perron (57) and Robert Thomas (18) celebrate a goal with defensemen Justin Falk (72) and Vince Dunn (29). (Photo courtesy: Scott Rovak, AP photo)
The Stage: Enterprise Center, St. Louis, MO
Chicago, 27-27-8, 7th in Central Division at St. Louis, 36-17-10, 1st in Central Division
St. Louis hosts Chicago in the midst of a 4-game winning streak, during which they have allowed only 2 goals. The Blues came out of the all-star break flat, at one point winning only 2 of 9 games, but they have turned things around and have recaptured the play that led them to the Stanley Cup last season.
7th place in the Central Division equals last place, and that’s where the Blackhawks reside. They have lost 8 of their last 10 games including a 2-1 loss at Dallas Sunday.
With little chance of making the playoffs, the Hawks sent goalie Robin Lehner to Las Vegas and defenseman Eric Gustafsson to Calgary at the trade deadline. Both Lehner and Gustafsson were set to become free agents at the end of the season.
Jordan Binnington, Marco Scandella and Jordan Kyrou have been a big part of the Blues’ recent surge. Binnington has allowed only 1 goal in his last 3 games, and Marco Scandella has been a steadying influence on the blue line helping overcome the loss of Jay Bouwmeester.
Furthermore, it appears that Craig Berube’s conversations with Jordan Kyrou about what it takes to elevate his game to the next level are paying off. Kyrou has flashed more of his potential with 3 points in his last 2 games while being noticeably stronger on the puck.
The hated Blackhawks are in town as the Blues look to extend their winning streak to 5.
The game got off to a great start for the Blues. From the opening faceoff, Alex Pietrangelo hit Oskar Sundqvist with a long pass on left wing. Connor Murphy tripped Sundqvist in an attempt to keep him from breaking free and the Blues were on the power play just 11 seconds in.
It didn’t take long for the Blues to capitalize. David Perron fed Jaden Schwartz from behind the net, and Schwartz sent a quick pass to the right side where Brayden Schenn one-timed it high glove side past Corey Crawford. Just 33 seconds into the period, the Blues had a 1-0 lead.
Crawford Keeps the Hawks Alive
If not for Corey Crawford and a post, it could have easily been 2 or 3-0 inside the first 10 minutes. As the Blues were cycling and pressuring, Matthew Highmore slashed Tyler Bozak at 3:25. After Jordan Binnington made a couple of good saves on Brandon Saad’s shorthanded chances, Bozak fired a shot off the right post. Zach Sanford was there for the rebound but Crawford made one of many quality saves in the period.
Those saves kept the Blackhawks in it, and at 10:51 Marco Scandella got his stick up on Patrick Kane giving the Hawks their first power play. Jonathan Toews won the faceoff back to Duncan Keith who wasted no time. Keith fired from the top of the left circle through a screen and beat Binnington under his glove.
The goal gave Chicago life and a couple minutes later Toews won another faceoff, this one back to Connor Murphy who shot through a screen from just inside the blue line. Binnington never saw it and it beat him stick side to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead.
The Blues dominated offensive zone time and and had more shots and chances in the period, but Crawford was stellar. The period ended with Jordan Kyrou getting sent to the box for high sticking with 30 seconds to play. St. Louis killed the first :30 before the period ended but would start the 2nd shorthanded for the first 1:30.
As the period started with the Chicago power play, the Blues missed a couple of chances to clear the zone. Patrick Kane took advantage by ringing one off the post and past Binnington through an Alex DeBrincat screen. 1:13 into the 2nd, it was 3-1 Blackhawks.
Thomas nets his 10th
With 13:10 left in the period, Binnington made a sprawling save to keep it 3-1. The Blues headed the other way and set up shop in the Chicago zone. After extended cycling and pressure, Perron sent a pass cross ice from the right boards to a wide open Robert Thomas. Thomas quickly settled the puck, whirled and fired a shot past Crawford from inside the left circle to make it 3-2 at 7:38.
Jordan Kyrou continued to up his game. If not for Crawford, he would have had a great cross ice assist in the 1st. In the 2nd period he skated into the slot, faked a shot and sent a backhand pass to Parayko who blasted a laser at Crawford. The Blackhawks goalie flashed the leather to keep it tied.
Minutes later Ryan O’Reilly beat the Chicago D, got Crawford out of position and skated around the net for a wrap around. O’Reilly had a wide open net, but he didn’t get quite enough hook on the shot and the puck slid through the crease just in front of the red line.
With 2:55 left in the 2nd, Slater Koekkoek chipped the puck over the boards in his own zone giving the Blues a power play. Despite some o-zone time and pressure, the Blues were unable to take advantage and went into the locker room down 3-2 at the end of 2.
As was the case back in December, the Blues scored 4 goals in the 3rd to knock off the Blackhawks. But it wasn’t quite as simple as that. In a wild 3rd period that saw 6 goals and 3 lead changes, the Blues held on, despite Chicago having a man advantage for the last 2:50 – and a 6 on 4 for 30 seconds during that time.
Ryan O’Reilly got the scoring underway in the period on a brilliant play started by Jaden Schwartz. Schwartz stole the puck on a backcheck from Patrick Kane as he tried to enter the zone. Schwartz then fed Brayden Schenn near the right boards, who found O’Reilly streaking down the middle. ROR wristed the puck past Crawford stick side at 3:47 to even things up 3-3.
A mere 16 seconds later, Zach Sanford gave the Blues the lead back when Olli Maatta failed on a clearing attempt. Thomas kept the puck in the zone and found Sanford who used a nifty toe drag to beat Crawford stick side.
Back and Forth as Hawks Regain Momentum
After St. Louis stunned the Hawks with 2 goals in 16 seconds, Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton called a timeout to try to settle his team. This proved to be a wise move; the breather calmed things down and Chicago turned the tide. Matthew Highmore and Brandon Saad scored 3 minutes apart not long after the timeout to give the Blackhawks a 5-4 lead.
Highmark’s goal came on the rebound of a Duncan Keith shot at 5:16, shortly after the Chicago timeout. Brandon Saad’s goal came on the power play when Dylan Strome sent a pass from behind the Blues’ net where Saad was parked out front. Saad’s goal was the Blackhawks’ 3rd power play goal of the night.
Blues Fire Back
The high scoring affair the Blues were involved in was not their typical game, and it was starting to look like this one might get away from them. However, the Blues proved resilient and Justin Faulk tied the game with a one-timer that went past Crawford, just inside the right post. O’Reilly did an outstanding job maintaining control of the puck behind the net before finding Faulk out high.
With 8:23 left, Kirby Dach was called for hooking Robert Thomas and the Blues would have the man advantage. Just as it appeared the Hawks would kill it off – despite some grade-A chances by the Blues – Zach Sanford netted his 2nd goal of the night with just 2 seconds left in the power play. Sanford’s initial shot was stopped by Crawford, but the rebound was bouncing around in Robert Thomas’s skates and eventually came back to Sanford. Sanford got the rebound fading away from the net but wristed the puck past Crawford low stick side for the game winner. It was Sanford’s 15th goal of the season.
Summary and Notes
In a hard fought game against their biggest rival, the Blues will not give the 2 points back, but Coach Berube will likely not appreciate the freewheeling style of play.
Although he didn’t make the stat sheet, Jordan Kyrou had another solid game, with a couple of outstanding passes to set up scoring chances. One wonders how the Blues could look come playoff time if Kyrou finds the next level and Vladimir Tarasenko comes back.
Although Corey Crawford started the game on fire, the Blues found a weakness stick side as the game progressed.
The Dallas Stars knocked off Carolina 4-1 Tuesday evening, so they remain just 4 points back of the Blues. Colorado (5 points back) was idle. The Avalanche host Buffalo Wednesday night.
The New York Islanders come to town Thursday night at 8pm ET. The Isles currently hold the 2nd wild card spot in the east. The Islanders have lost 5 of their last 7 games including a 4-3 overtime loss against the Rangers Tuesday evening.