ST. LOUIS — The top gear of the Blues’ explosive offense might be enough to make that elusive consistency mostly irrelevant.
Three goals in less than five minutes made up for any deficiencies and then some in a 5-1 rout of Boston on Friday night, sending the Bruins to their sixth straight loss. St. Louis scored on its first three shots of the second period to send rookie Malcolm Subban to the bench in his NHL debut.
"We can quick strike and we’re dangerous," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We’re really a momentum team. Once we feel and sniff out things, we really come at you."
The aftereffects of a 4-1 loss to Dallas three days ago and some unexpected tactics from Boston early kept St. Louis off balance before Petteri Lindbohm scored his first NHL goal less than a minute into the second period. Alex Pietrangelo and T.J. Oshie followed with two goals in 53 seconds to put the Blues in front 3-1, and they never looked back.
Despite just 15 shots, Hitchcock mostly liked what he saw from an offense that had failed to score more than a goal in back-to-back games for the first time since December. Most important, St. Louis kept getting stronger as the game went on and stayed aggressive on the forecheck in the final period.
While it wasn’t quite the 50- or 60-minute performance Hitchcock has said he wants to see, the Blues made some progress toward their goal of maintaining their high-energy style. They also showed no signs of a letdown in the third period, unlike in a 2-1 shootout win at Florida last week.
Chicago’s 4-1 loss at home to Colorado puts St. Louis five points ahead of the Blackhawks for second place in the Central Division, despite playing one less game. The Blues will likely need a special effort to catch Nashville, which remains in first place by four points.
Keep finding timely goals, though, and anything is possible.
TARASENKO HITS 30
St. Louis’ top scorer hit another milestone in the best season of his young careeer.
Vladimir Tarasenko reached 30 goals on a power play late in the second period and added another in the third to move into a tie for third in the NHL. The 23-year-old hadn’t scored in his past two games before unleashing his trademark quick wrist shot off a rebound from the right circle.
"It’s kind of hard when you’re stopped at 29 and you try to score every shift so hard," Tarasenko said. "I want to give thanks to my linemates and teammates."
Jori Lehtera forced a turnover and Jaden Schwartz gave Tarasenko the pass for his third-period goal, a one-timer on a two-on-one rush. Hitchcock said the line seems to be hitting its stride once again, showing why it’s one of the most dangerous in the league.
SLOW STARTS BECOMING A TREND
The Blues’ first-period woes continued in front of an anxious sellout crowd at Scottrade Center.
St. Louis didn’t do anything to ease the fears brought on by a disappointing 4-1 loss to Dallas last Tuesday, which featured three first-period goals by the Stars. Boston managed only one Friday night, but the Blues never really threatened with only three shots on goal in their third straight scoreless opening period.
They’ve failed to score in the first 20 minutes of five consecutive home games, and the crowd gave a Bronx cheer when Alex Pietrangelo finally got a shot on net after 13 minutes. Hitchcock said Boston’s fast, strong play was a big part of St. Louis’ slow start, but he added the Blues were trying to be a little too perfect.
"They were quick with their puck movement," Hitchcock said. "They caught us on overpursuit a couple times where we wanted to get in and the puck was already coming around the boards on us and they surprised us by some of their exits."
ALLEN MAKING CASE FOR BIGGER ROLE
An early mistake didn’t ruin another solid night for the Blues’ hottest goaltender in 2015.
Brad Marchand’s shot from near the left faceoff circle ricocheted off Allen’s glove and into the net to give the Bruins an early lead. But they wouldn’t be able to score again thanks to an impressive night from the young goalie, who made 26 saves to improve to 6-0 since a 4-3 loss to Dallas on Dec. 27.
But this one counted for a little bit more, since the first five came against teams in the bottom two of their respective divisions. Starter Brian Elliott has faced tougher competition and given up three goals in six of his past eight games, so Allen might deserve more chances after beating the eighth-best team in the Eastern Conference.
"We weren’t taking them lightly and they have a lot of firepower," Allen said. "The Bruins are a very historic team. My first time playing against them, I wanted to be prepared and guys got the job done."
The 24-year-old shut out Anaheim and beat Nashville early in the season, so there’s no doubt he can handle the pressure of facing elite teams. Elliott has shown he can excel in those situations, too, leaving Hitchcock with a good problem to have.