Sometimes you lose games you dominate in, other times you win games for which you should be made to do bag skates. Tonight was the latter for the Blues, as the Minnesota Wild looked easily the better team for nearly all 65 minutes. But thanks to stellar play by Jake Allen and a goal and a shootout winner by Vladimir Tarasenko, the Note pulled out the two points - and the Conference III Title Belt - to jump into back into the co-Central division lead with the Predators...not to mention a 6-way tie at the top of the league standings at 34 points.
The first period didn't see much in the way of offense, especially from the Blues, who could only muster 1 shot on goal just over 10 minutes in. Neither team could put the biscuit in the basket in the first 20 minutes, but it certainly wasn't short on controversy, as Marco Scandella decided he didn't even want to let the ink dry on his spanking new 5-year extension before launching himself shoulder-first into T.J. Oshie's face. Osh was forced to head to the locker room as a result and missed the rest of the period, although he did return in the 2nd. Scandella meanwhile got off with merely a two-minute minor penalty for "Illegal Check to the Head," which is apparently a thing. The Department of Player Safety will surely be taking a close look at this travesty:
The first 15 minutes of the 2nd period was like the 1st period looking in a funhouse mirror. The Wild were responsible for 79.2% of the combined Fenwick events over that period of time, with the Blues only meekly offering up 5 unblocked shot attempts. One of those 5, however, was fortunate enough to be on the magic stick of Tarasenko. Vladi stole the puck in the offensive zone from both Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker. Then he cut in from the wing and skated around both Keith Ballard and Nate Prosser on defense, and somehow had the patience to make Niklas Backstrom blink first to put the Blues ahead 1-0 at 10:20 of the 2nd period, his 14th of the season. It was only the Blues 10th shot on net to that point.
A few minutes later, Maxim Lapierre lost a defensive zone faceoff. The puck came up down the boards to the corner, where Lappy tried to grind it out. Instead, he fell on his ass. Originally on Twitter, I blamed this play on Lappy slipping, leaving Koivu alone in prime real estate. However, taking a closer look at it, Barret Jackman saw Lappy fall, and made the decision to try and take his place to win the puck, which was ultimately what left Koivu open. No matter who you place the fault on though, Zucker made a great pass and Koivu put a hell of a shot on Allen to beat him over his near shoulder. At 14:26 the game was tied at 1-1. Have a look and judge for yourself:
Controversy was not done with this game, however. Less than 90 seconds after Minnesota tied the game, Kevin Shattenkirk extended his arms in the worst possible location on the ice, shoving Ryan Carter into the boards face first. Shatty was rewarded with a 5 minute major and a game misconduct. While I agree with those saying there was no intent behind it, it was a stupid fucking decision and I have no problem the 5 & 10 judgement. I wouldn't be surprised to hear him get a game or two of supplemental discipline either, though he might be able to get away with a fine.
The ensuing power play for the Wild saw them build their 2nd period shot total to 17 and giving them a crooked 32:7 corsi ratio for the middle 20. But most importantly, they took the lead on a Zach Parise power play goal at 19:01 when the 2-time US Olympian caught Jaden Schwartz cheating too far to his left. Minnesota had the 2-1 lead going into the 3rd period, all the momentum you could ask for, and even some left over man advantage time to boot.
Despite being on the 2nd half of a back-to-back, the Blues were able to press the issue in the third period. Then Oshie got a rush going, carrying the puck into the zone...sort of. The puck got away from him*, but Ryan Suter's clearing attempt tipped off of David Backes' stick, ricocheting directly to Patrik Berglund, who was in the right space at the right time to juuuust barely keep it from coming to center ice. IceBerg played it to Cap, who was in all alone at the faceoff dot, and Backes roofed it glove side past Backstrom to knot the affair at 2-2 with about 5 and a half minutes in regulation.
*Sidebar: with that whole Minnesota being "The State of HockeyTM" thing, you'd think they'd be better at maintaining their ice surfaces. Or do the Golden Gophers get priority on all the good Zambonies in the state?
Although the Blues would threaten more often in the overtime period, neither team could pot a winner, so the hockey game was decided by a game of not-hockey. Luckily for the Blues, Jake Allen and Vladimir Tarasenko are both good at that too.
And like that, the Blues hold the Conference III Title Belt for the first time this year. You can try and pry it out of our cold, dead hands on Wednesday night, Jonathan Toews!
I'm thinking things, so I will say them:
- Jake Allen played his 2nd game in as many nights, and not only held his own against both fatigue and the Wild attack, he was really the biggest reason for the win tonight. Perhaps there's no need for a panic move on the backup goaltender front just yet after all?
- Even on nights when he doesn't have his best stuff, Vladimir Tarasenko always looks dangerous with the puck on his stick. [Is promoted to the rank of "Captain Obvious."]
- The blueline had a pretty big burden to carry tonight. First they had to deal without Jay Bouwmeester again (who was placed on the IR retroactively earlier in the day), then Shatty gets himself thrown out on a dumbass play, and the Blues were forced to play almost half the game with 5 defensemen, missing two of their three biggest workhorses. On tail end of a back-to-back, to boot. While I'd have a hard time calling a performance that sees us being out shot by that wide a margin particularly "good," but all things considered they certainly deserve a tip of the cap. I was especially impressed with Carl Gunnarsson and [*gulp*] Ian Cole.
- Speaking of which, Shatty's mistake and Bouw's injury means there's a very real chance the Blues could be forced to play Those Fuckers Up North without 2 of their 3 best d-men. Sooo...start bracing yourselves now.
- Between his injuries, his offensive production, and his personal family issues, Oshie just cannot catch a break this year. Not that he hasn't gotten his fair share of good fortune in his career, but when it rains it pours.
- Berglund was fortunate enough to be in the right space to help set up Backes' tying goal, but 90% of the rest of the time the guy looked confused on the ice - I mean, more so than usual. There were at least three different instances in the first period alone where he seemed genuinely surprised when the play came towards him - it's almost as if not even he himself can believe we're still giving him important minutes.
- Looking at the box score, I was legitimately surprised to hear that Joakim Lindstrom played in this game. Apparently for 7:36. I would've bet anything that he was a healthy scratch, and I'm not even hyperbolizing.