Sanford, Bozak return to power Blues past Ducks 5-1
Both of these teams are looking forward to their upcoming nine-day breaks, but for very different reasons.
Zach Sanford and Tyler Bozak scored goals in their first games back from injured reserve, and the Blues headed into the All-Star break with a 5-1 victory over the stumbling Ducks on Wednesday night.
Vladimir Tarasenko, Oskar Sundqvist and Sammy Blais also scored for the Blues, who had lost three of four before splitting two games on a Southern California road trip. They couldn’t have played much better against the Ducks, largely dominating on both ends from start to finish in a win that left sixth-place St. Louis in the wild-card playoff conversation at 22-22-5.
“I think everyone played well throughout the lineup,” said Bozak, who had missed the past nine games with a concussion. “Hopefully we can keep working together and building this chemistry. Pucks are starting to go in for us.”
In both teams’ final game before the All-Star break and their subsequent bye weeks, rookie Jordan Binnington bounced back from his first career regulation loss with 12 saves in his fifth career victory.
“Yeah, it’s a great way to go into the break,” St. Louis coach Craig Berube said. “If we play hockey like that, we’re going to win our share of games.”
Daniel Sprong scored the game’s opening goal, but the injury-plagued Ducks were then buried in their 14th loss in 16 games.
“It was one of the worst games I’ve been a part of, and I’ll leave it at that,” Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler said. “It’s just been a tough month in the locker room. This whole month has been hard emotionally. We have a great group of guys. We have all the pieces we need. We just can’t seem to find our way right now. It wears on you. This is our livelihood, and right now it’s not going great.”
All-Star John Gibson stopped 26 shots before former Blues goalie Chad Johnson replaced him with 9:25 to play, sending fans to the exits early on Anaheim’s only home game between Jan. 11 and Feb. 13. The remaining Honda Center fans halfheartedly booed the team off the ice after it managed just 13 shots.
“It’s really frustrating how we can’t come out and compete hard,” captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “As a collective group, we’re not playing hard enough and competing hard enough. Obviously, this break couldn’t come at a better time.”
Sanford had his 10th goal of the season and an assist after missing the Blues’ previous three games with an upper-body injury. Bozak, who got credit for a third-period goal that ricocheted off Nick Ritchie’s skate, returned to the St. Louis lineup after missing nine games with a concussion.
Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly played in his 700th career game and had an assist to extend his scoring streak to six games.
St. Louis outshot Anaheim 8-0 in the opening 6 ½ minutes before Sprong took a pass from Getzlaf and hit the top corner for his eighth goal since joining the Ducks last month.
The Blues responded with a deluge.
After Tarasenko tied it with his 17th goal and Sanford scored early in the second, Sundqvist put the Blues up 3-1 off a pass from former Ducks forward Patrick Maroon, who has scored a point in eight consecutive games against Anaheim.
The Ducks added another major loss to their injury-plagued season Wednesday when Czech forward Ondrej Kase was ruled out for the season with a torn labrum. Kase also missed the first 18 games of the season with a concussion before scoring 20 points in 30 games.
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto made his Ducks debut after the club acquired him in a trade with Vancouver a week ago.
NOTES: AL Rookie of the Year Shohei Ohtani dropped the puck in the ceremonial opening faceoff on Angels Night. … Ducks F Jakob Silfverberg missed his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury. The team hopes Silfverberg will return to practice after the break along with F Corey Perry, who has missed the entire season with a knee injury, and G Ryan Miller, who has been out since Dec. 9 with a sprained knee ligament. … Ducks C Ryan Kesler missed his fourth straight game due to the latest problem with his troublesome hip. He is not skating, and the Ducks don’t know when he will return. … F Patrick Eaves will play two games with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in San Diego before he is re-evaluated. He hasn’t played for Anaheim since Nov. 9 after breaking his ribs. … Former Ducks F David Perron missed his third straight game for St. Louis with an upper-body injury. … Blues D Robert Bortuzzo was a healthy scratch. He had played in 25 consecutive games. Joel Edmundson took his spot in the lineup.
Blues: At Blue Jackets on Feb. 2 to open a three-game trip.
Ducks: At Jets on Feb. 2 to open a five-game trip.