Blues keep division title hopes alive with 7-3 victory over Flyers
ST. LOUIS — Alex Pietrangelo isn’t quite sure how the St. Louis Blues turned their season around.
But the veteran defenseman couldn’t help but grin Thursday night after his team used five first-period goals on the way to a 7-3 rout of the Philadelphia Flyers.
On Jan. 3, the Blues had an NHL-low 34 points. On Saturday, they will host Vancouver in the regular-season finale with a chance at winning the Central Division title.
A major about-face in just 89 days.
“It’s a testament to how hard we’ve worked to turn this thing around,” said Pietrangelo, who fueled the early blitz with three assists.
Alexander Steen finished with two goals and 13 players recorded at least one point as the Blues improved to 8-1-2 since March 16.
“We’ve stuck to the process,” Steen said. “Our mojo has been solid the last couple months. I’m a lot more happy with the feeling inside our locker room, the way we’ve handled everything. Our attitude is good.”
The Blues scored five times in the first 9 minutes, 41 seconds to set a franchise record for the quickest five-goal start to a game, eclipsing the previous mark of five in the opening 13:45 set on Jan. 3, 1970, in a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh.
Ivan Barbashev, Ryan O’Reilly, Steen, Pat Maroon and David Perron all scored during the early outburst as the Blues scored five times on their initial eight shots on goal.
St. Louis is one point behind first-place Nashville, which has 98 points after beating Vancouver 3-2 on Thursday night. The Blues are tied with Winnipeg for second with 97 points. The Jets lost in overtime to Colorado on Thursday, so the Central title will be decided Saturday as all three teams close the regular season.
Claude Giroux, Oskar Lindblom and James Van Riemsdyk scored for the Flyers, who were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to Carolina on March 30. Philadelphia has lost four in a row and has surrendered 31 goals in its last seven games.
Jordan Binnington made 26 saves and set a team record for wins by a rookie with his 23rd, topping the mark of 22 set by current backup Jake Allen in 2014-15. Binnington, 23-5-1, has won his last six games at home. He shut out Philadelphia 3-0 on Jan. 7 in his first NHL start.
Barbashev got the blitz started at 2:49 by slapping a rebound out of the air and past Brian Elliott, who gave up four goals on five shots before being replaced by Carter Hart. O’Reilly scored a power-play goal 39 seconds later off a pass from Perron. O’Reilly’s goal was his 28th, tying a career high.
Steen pushed the lead to 3-0 with a short-handed goal off a pass from Oskar Sundqvist.
Maroon and Perron ended the record-setting run by scoring 2:43 apart for a 5-2 lead.
Brayden Schenn scored in the second period, and Steen finished the scoring for the Blues in the third with his second goal of the night.
“We came out with some good jump and got on them right away,” O’Reilly said. “We got some good bounces and it gave us some good spark.”
The wild contest featured eight first-period goals.
“Like pond hockey,” Pietrangelo said.
The Flyers fell behind 4-1 as the Blues scored on four of their first five shots.
“You don’t want to get embarrassed,” Van Riemsdyk said. “But everybody looks bad on our team when we lose like that and give up seven goals.”
Elliott was pulled after just 4:39.
“When you’re not fighting for something like the playoffs, it’s a lot tougher to get up for it,” Elliott said. “But it’s still our job to win hockey games. That’s why it’s disappointing the way things unfolded tonight.”
Steen credits young players like Sundqvist and Barbashev for adding more balance to the #stlblues‘ scoring attack: “They’ve been playing great all year long. It’s just contributed to us just being able to push forward and keep getting better as the season’s gone on.” pic.twitter.com/aoXZMf1gqR
— FOX Sports Midwest (@FSMidwest) April 5, 2019
NOTES: St. Louis D Joel Edmundson returned to the lineup after missing the previous 11 games with a lower-body injury. … The Blues have won six of their last eight at home against the Flyers. … Philadelphia went 22-10-2 from Jan. 10 to March 27 to climb out of last place. … Giroux has 22 goals and 61 assists through 81 games and will finish as a point-per-game player for the second year in a row.
Flyers: Will finish the season by hosting Carolina on Saturday.
Blues: Hosts Vancouver in season finale Saturday.