Blue captain Alex Pietrangelo (27) celebrates his goal with his teammates. (Photo courtesy: Chris Carlson, AP Photo)
ANAHEIM – After lots of speculation and controversy leading up to tonight’s game, the St. Louis Blues (42-19-10) earned a big 4-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks (29-33-9). Following the game’s postponement last month, the Blues and Ducks opened the game tied 1-1. St. Louis was sluggish to start the game, but goaltender Jake Allen was fired up and ready to play in the opening minutes, making some fantastic saves. The Blues found their game later on with the help of two powerplays, one of which captain Alex Pietrangelo scored for his 15th goal of the season.
In the second period, the Ducks began to push the Blues back after they held them to no shots in nearly 20 minutes. Jani Hakanpaa scored his first NHL goal on a point shot that managed to sneak under Allen. However, late in the period the Ducks took a delayed penalty, and St. Louis managed to hold possession until Zach Sanford buried a rebound to get the lead back, 3-2.
The third period turned into a shooting gallery for both clubs, but the goaltenders Anthony Stolarz and Jake Allen continued to be the stars of the game. Former Blues captain David Backes laid a huge hit on Oskar Sundqvist into the boards, and he had to skate off to the dressing room moments later.
It was a tough game for the final 15 minutes, but the Blues managed to hold out as Alex Pietrangelo scored his second of the game on the empty net. St. Louis grabbed a huge win over the Ducks after the emotional end to the game back in February by a final of 4-2.
“Again, I’ve said it before, this is a skilled team we have offensively and defensively,” captain Alex Pietrangelo said. “There’s a reason why we’re scoring; we have a lot of skilled players.”
St. Louis begin a 2-game homestand by hosting the Sharks on Friday at 7pm CT while the Ducks head to L.A. to take own their state rival on Saturday. The NHL is planning an announcement Thursday morning on the future of the season, after the NBA decided to postpone the remainder of the regular season indefinitely.
St. Louis got off to a pretty slow start in the rescheduled game, as former captain David Backes got a great scoring chance less than 30 seconds in. While the solid chances and plays continued for Anaheim, goaltender Jake Allen was superb to start the game, saving every shot that came his way.
Allen’s play fueled the Blues to get back in business in the final 10 minutes. Their board-side play and extensive offensive zone pressure forced the Duck to make some mistakes. After allowing 7 shots early, they only allowed two the rest of the period, while earning two powerplays. On the second powerplay, captain Alex Pietrangelo blasted the puck from the top of the blue line and it cleanly beat Anthony Stolarz.
Pietrangelo’s 15th of the season put the Blues up 2-1 with just over four minutes to play in the new first period. Anaheim got life in the final minute of the opening 20, forcing turnovers in the St. Louis zone, but the defense managed to keep them from registering a shot. After 1, the Blues skated off with a 2-1 lead, outshooting the Ducks 16-9.
St. Louis carried their defensive momentum from the last period and carried it into the second, where they held Anaheim without a shot in nearly 20 combined minutes of play. The Blues landed a few great scoring chances, but they were either wide or saved by Anthony Stolarz. Anaheim quickly began to turn the game around and wire a few great shots of their own on Jake Allen, who remained poised and strong the entire evening.
Just past the midway point of the game, however, new Duck Jani Hakapaa wired a shot way out from the point. Jake Allen managed to get most of it, but the puck managed to trickle beneath his pad and sneak its way into the net.
Hakanpaa’s first NHL tied the game in Anaheim, 2-2. The push by the Ducks was soon thwarted again by the Blues, however, with great chances by Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev, and impressive two-way play by Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron. They forced a delayed penalty in the offensive zone, and while the Ducks nearly gained possession, no whistle was ever blown.
St. Louis jumped on the 6-on-5 opportunity and cycled the puck with smart passing in the zone, as Sammy Blais became the extra attacker and went down to the red line. Receiving a pass from Justin Faulk, he gave a one-touch pass to O’Reilly who fired it on net, and Zach Sanford was on the right side to clean up the wide-open rebound.
Much to the chagrin of irate Ducks fans, Zach Sanford gave the Blues a lead again with his 15th goal of the season. The game started to open up and get a little chippy after a relatively quiet start to the second, with captains Alex Pietrangelo and Ryan Getzlaf exchanging some shoves after the whistle. However, neither team could find the back of the net in the final three minutes of the period, and St. Louis skated off with a one-goal lead again. The Blues narrowly held the shot toal over the Ducks again, 25-19.
The final period opened into a shooting frenzy for both clubs, as the Blues and Ducks landed several blasts on net. The goaltenders, particularly Jake Allen, remained superb in their own nets, making some key saves late in the game.
It was a hard-fought battle in both directions as the squads tested their mettle to hold the lead or get back in the game. Former Blues captain David Backes laid a big check on Oskar Sundqvist that sent him into the boards, and Sundqvist had to exit the game early. Zach Sanford doubled up on the fourth line with Ivan Barbashev and Mackenzie MacEachern as the final minutes ticked away for Anaheim.
The Ducks pulled goaltender Stolarz with 90 seconds left in regulation. The extra skater wasn’t enough, as Alex Pietrangelo hoisted the puck from the faceoff dot all the way to the back of the net.
The 4-2 lead thanks to Pietrangelo’s 16th of the year was all she wrote in a big return win for the St. Louis Blues, closing the book on the rescheduled game. Jake Allen was the best player on the ice, making 26 saves on 27 shots (the Henrique goal does not count against him). Anthony Stolarz was also tremendous in net for the Ducks, making 34 saves.
Alex Pietrangelo’s 15th and 16th goals of the year put the Blues on top for most goals scored by defensemen this season with 45. “I’ve been trying to shoot more, so maybe the more you shoot, the more you score” Pietrangelo said afterwards. “Again, I’ve said it before, this is a skilled team we have offensively and defensively… there’s a reason why we’re scoring; we have a lot of skilled players.”
With an overtime win for the Avalanche, the Blues margin of victory remained at two points down the final stretch. “We know Colorado’s on our heels, we know they’re playing really well too,” Pietrangelo continued. “We’re just trying to build our game – we know from last year that if you trust the way you’re playing and you trust the process and continue to get better in the playoffs, when you’re playing your best hockey… the way you’re playing can kind of take you to the next step.”
St. Louis hopes to keep their Western Conference lead on Friday when they host the San Jose Sharks back at Enterprise Center at 7pm CT.
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