Blues’ offense, All-Stars leading way during 4-game win streak
When defense deserted the St. Louis Blues, the goals kept coming in bunches.
After winning three straight by five or more goals for the first time in franchise history, they scored enough to handle a goalie change and keep everything rolling.
”I think really good teams can play always like 7-2 or 7-1,” All-Star forward Vladimir Tarasenko said after the Blues rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 in a shootout on Saturday. ”Sometimes we need to chase and show our team spirit and character to come back, so that’s what we did.
”I think that’s how championship teams build.”
Tarasenko and fellow first-time All-Star Kevin Shattenkirk are leading the way on a team that has totaled 25 goals during its four-game winning streak. Tarasenko was among the league leaders with 23 goals, including the game-tying tally in the third period Saturday, and Shattenkirk led NHL defensemen with 37 points.
Tarasenko already has a career-high 44 points in 42 games, after totaling 43 points in 64 games last year in his first full season. He had a career-best eight shots against Carolina.
”Major factor,” Hitchcock said. ”That’s the guy we’re looking for.”
Shattenkirk was the fifth player in the league to reach 30 assists, joining Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
”I’m pretty sure he’s one of the top Ds in the league,” Tarasenko said. ”I’m happy for him.”
St. Louis is in the middle of a seven-game homestand with a chance to climb in the Western Conference standings against a handful of opponents in the lower end of the standings.
The Blues might have underestimated the Hurricanes, tied for last in the Eastern Conference but who led 3-1 before Jake Allen replaced Brian Elliott in net.
The Blues face the Oilers on Tuesday night. Edmonton has the fewest points in the league.
”It’s human nature,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. ”You look at the standings, you think it’s going to be an easier night and you get schooled, and that’s what happened.”
Hitchcock said it’s a constant effort to keep players on top of their game, even though they’ve been near the top of the conference standings all season. Finding a way to win is a good sign because earlier in the season the coach wasn’t sure the team could mount that type of rally.
The Blues have the top power play in the NHL, with Shattenkirk first in assists (19) and points (23). But the real key has been end-to-end diligence and depth that wears down opponents.
The first line has been potent with Alexander Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie combining for 38 points the past eight games, and Oshie getting the lone goal in the shootout against Carolina. Steen has 12 points in a six-game streak, and Backes has multiple points in three straight games for just the second time in his career
Jaden Schwartz has 11 points in a seven-game streak – one shy of his career best. Patrik Berglund has a goal in consecutive games and Paul Stastny, getting up to speed after a slow start due to injury, has eight points in a season-best five-game streak.
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was plus-4 against Carolina, tying a career high, even though his apparent winner in overtime was waved off because of a goaltender interference call on Berglund.
All of that firepower found its stride in time against Carolina.
”It brings you back down to reality,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. ”We’ve had a lot of success the last couple games scoring goals, but we realized how hard it is to score those goals.”
The showing by the 24-year-old Allen reflected depth at goaltending, too. Before replacing Elliott with St. Louis down by two goals 12:42 into the first period Saturday he hadn’t played in six straight games, and didn’t dress in five of them, falling behind Elliott and 42-year-old Martin Brodeur.
”It was nice to get some action again,” Allen said. ”I definitely look forward to whenever I get my next start.”