Vladimir Tarasenko is a goddamn superhero (he'll just have to wait until Phase IV to have his movie made by Marvel).
The Blues came into this game looking to continue their winning ways after downing the Blackhawks on Saturday, despite dealing with the final stages of the bacteria infection which had plagued the squad. Just a day earlier in fact, it seemed as if the infection would keep Tarasenko and Ryan Reaves from even making the trip to Dallas.
Modern medicine is a wonder, ain't it?
The Blues started fast and strong, not allowing the Stars to get an unblocked shot off for the first 6 minutes, but did give up a few dangerous chances in their own end that came to nothing. But it would be Dallas who'd strike first Jamie Oleksiak would take advantage of Carl Gunnarsson - making his debut for the Note - getting tied up by Jamie Benn and falling backwards onto Brian Elliott. Ells was understandably pissed, but ultimately the non-call for interference was a correct one, and Oleksiak was credited with his first of the year for a 1-0 Stars lead.
That did not last long.
Tarasenko tried to make a pass at center ice that hit Vernon Fiddler, but fortunately bounced right back to him. Vova backhanded the pass to his old KHL buddy Jori Lehtera, who carried it in the zone before faking a shot then leaving a drop pass back to Tarasenko in the high slot. Frank killed it, and the Blues pulled even at 1-1 only 35 seconds after Olesiak's tally.
Before the first period ended however, David Backes would have to leave the game with a dreaded "upper body injury" after Trevor Daley laid into him. Nothing was wrong with the hit itself other than it being a blatantly missed interference penalty, but with The Inglorious One's history, it could be grow the Blues' troubling early season man games lost total.
The second period was all green and white, with the Stars controlling 65% fenwick in the middle 20. At 5:28 of the second, the Stars hyped line of Jamie Benn-Jason Spezza-Tyler Seguin started moving the puck around the offensive zone seemingly at will. Three straight drop passes led to a shot off the marks, which Seguin collected on the right and sent in behind the net. It went all the way to the opposite point, where Daley played it back around to Spezza in the right corner, who set up Seguin for the one-timer. Seguin was left all alone at the faceoff dot by the scrambling Blues and with the help of both Maxim Lapierre and Alex Pietrangelo screening Elliott, easily scored the 100th goal of his career and his 7th of the young season (not to mention his league leading 15th point), putting his team up 2-1.
Then the Blues got lazy, and only scored the tying goal 37 seconds later this time.
Alexander Steen picked Cody Eakin's pocket on the backcheck. Steener played it up the Tarasenko, who found a streaking Lehtera in behind his man. Jori backhanded it over Kari Lehtonen's far shoulder like it was nothing for his 2nd NHL goal to make it at tie game once again at 6:05 of the second.
God that's good.
Just over 2 minutes into the 3rd, Dmitrij Jaskin took a hooking penalty. On the ensuing kill, Elliott played the puck up the boards, but Steen couldn't handle it. Alex Goligoski could, made the d-to-d over to Trevor Daley, who snipped a wicked shot past Elliott at 3:27 to give the Stars their 3rd lead of the night - their first they would hold for 38 seconds or more.
In fact, this time the Blues tying goal would take a whopping 8 minutes and 10 seconds, but holy fuck nuts was it worth the wait!
Jori Lehtera intercepted a Jamie Benn drop pass in the defensive zone along the left boards. He then made a gorgeous tape-to-tape outlet pass to Tarasenko all the way to the Stars blueline on the right boards. Vladi made a bit of a juke move to circle around Ryan Garbutt, then made Lehtonen look like a Thrashers goalie to tie the game at 3-3.
The game went to over time, and after the #DryScrape, Seguin was called for high sticking Pietrangelo on the opening faceoff. On the 4-on-3 power play, this happened.
It's the first hat trick of The Tank's NHL career, and forgive me for being bold but I doubt it'll be his last.
It seems like Tarasenko's chest could stop bullets - but that won't stop these bullet points:
- If you see me arguing that Tarasenko should be playing with Paul Stastny ever again, I want you to use your expert computer hacking skills to find my location, then come and backhand me in the balls. As long as they both have four limbs and a head, Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko must be on the ice at the same time. To do otherwise would be an affront to The Hockey Gods.
- The first Dallas goal probably wouldn't have happened if Gunnarssaurus had kept his footing, but it definitely wouldn't have happened if Steve Ott hadn't lazily lost the puck at his own blueline to Jamie Benn. I can see why Stars fans still love him so much - he keeps helping their team, even when he's wearing different colors.
- That said, I guess it was a nice touch for them to give Otter a jumbotron special video. I guess this is how fans of other baseball teams feel when Cardinals fans give guys like Nick Punto standing ovations, huh?
- Before the game, I tweeted a joke apology for the Blues shutting down the Stars super fun offense and ruining every neutral fan's fun. I officially retract that joke, as this game was really fucking fun!
- Frank's getting the headlines, but Jori Lehtera was equally impressive tonight. It's almost not overstating to say the two of them won the game by themselves. Brad tweeted something to the effect that he didn't expect Lehtera's hyped up KHL chemistry with Vladi to automatically translate to NHL ice, at least not right away, which is exactly how I felt about him too. But I'd say I speak for both of us when I say...good goddamn it's good to be wrong.
- Seriously. That pass on the third goal. I nearly had a happy accident in my pants even before Vladi scored - which would've been pretty awkward, since the waitress was walking over with my check literally as that play happened.
- Do Jamie Benn, Seguin, & Co think that goals scored off of drop passes are worth more?
- Having watched that 3rd goal a dozen times already, I'm starting to think maybe Lehtera and Tarasenko are some of the ones Hitchcock is talking about when he talks about "buying in." Not that they aren't working hard - because of course they are - but one of the things Hitch is always preaching is "straight lines through the neutral zone." Aside from the amazing skill and execution of it, that cross ice pass looks like something someone like Hitch would normally advise against. If Garbutt is in a better position (might have been caught on a change, I'm not sure) and that pass is broken up by him or even sooner, that's trouble coming back the Blues way. I'm not saying Hitch didn't like that play - or that we'd see three of those every night with a more offensive-minded head coach - but it was a thought that crossed my mind.
- Ian Cole made two great recovery stick plays within a few seconds of game time, the first of which helped break up a golden opportunity for the Stars, and the second of which directly saved a goal as Elliott could not get over in time to stop a wrap around attempt. I bag on him for specific plays often enough, he gets fair credit when he deserves it. It's our tough love that makes him better.
- I'm glad the winning goal came on the power play, because I honestly thought I saw some good things from those units tonight. I also saw some really very bad things - specifically on the 5-on-3 - but they weren't 0/5 bad. And when you look at it, 1/5 isn't bad - if your power play fails to score 4 out of every 5 times all season, you're top-5 in the league.
Vladimir Tarasenko will return on Thursday in "A Game Against the Anaheim Ducks." Be sure to buy your St. Louis Game Time Thursday night, which will of course be renamed Vladimir Tarasenko Game Time.