The Blues came into tonight's game looking to avoid their first three game losing streak of the year and lucky for them it came against a Winnipeg team who lost 7-0 on Saturday night to Nashville. After a shaky defensive game against Chicago and a general lack of scoring recently, Coach Hitch shook up all lines and pairings for the game. Recent call up Jeremy Welsh also got right into the lineup replacing Ryan Reaves in a surprise move considering the physicality of the Jets.
The Jets also came out with a new top line to start the game and it almost paid dividends immediately as Blake Wheeler had not one but two solid scoring chances in the first minute, although neither resulted in an actual shot on goal. In fact, the Jets controlled the majority of the first five minutes of the game but it was the Blues with the only two shots of the game.
Magnus Paajarvi started the ball rolling as he zipped into the Jets zone and fed Kyle Brodziak who took a solid hit in order to get a shot on goal. Shortly after, the Blues ragged the puck along the boards before Backes slipped the puck to Colton Parayko who smartly dished the puck to Tarasenko who was angled towards the net. Before you could blink he whipped the puck past Michael Hutchinson, rang the post and gave the Blues the lead.
The momentum of the game started to finally turn towards the Blues as the period continued on. The penalty kill continued its strong play as it killed off a Gunnarsson roughing call 40 seconds after Tarasenko scored by allowing zero shots on goal. They also had to endure the multiple rough checks the Jets were throwing including Alex Pietrangelo getting leveled behind the Jets net. But they kept their discipline and were rewarded when Winnipeg took a delay of game penalty with under seven minutes to go.
This was the Blues fifth game in the last six that they have recorded a power play goal after going 0-22. Its no surprise that getting Kevin Shattenkirk back into the lineup has opened up the possibilities on the man advantage as teams can't just focus on Steen and Tarasenko, now they have three puck movers to worry about. The Blues would go right back the power play 20 seconds after the Backes goal but it was Jake Allen who had to be sharp this time. After a failed keep in attempt the Jets would get a two on one break with Drew Stafford being the latest player to be robbed by the Snake.
The period would end with the Blues leading 2-0, out-shooting the Jets 11-3, but not truly dominating the whole period as Winnipeg controlled the puck and the energy more overall.
After many near misses in the first and a likely ass chewing out by their coach at the intermission, the Jets finally broke their goal drought in pretty quick fashion. In the span of 36 seconds Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little would each put the puck past Allen and stun the crowd of Blues fans. Neither one was truly Allen's fault as Byfuglien's shot went off of Jay Bouwmeester's leg and in while a giveaway into the slot led to a point blank shot by Little.
But the tie game wouldn't last long thanks to the Captain. After a cross ice pass from Shattenkirk, Backes would drop the puck to Alex Steen who slid along the side boards until Backes freed up in the center of the zone. A quick forehand to backhand move allowed Backes to get the puck in the prime spot to lift it over Hutchinson's glove for a 3-2 lead.
At this point the game turned into Jake Allen's personal highlight reel as he would make save after save to secure the lead for his team. After Jeremy Welsh took a holding penalty after Backes scored the Jets would almost tie it back up if not for the aggressiveness of Allen. After two blocked shots at the point, Allen was shoved out of his net onto the ice leaving the net wide open. But the Jets couldn't get the puck to the front of the net and Allen was able to scramble back just in time to literally throw himself into a Byfuglien shot from the point and protecting the lead.
After a Troy Brouwer and Jacob Trouba fight the game started to settle down and even though both teams gained power plays near the end of the period not much came of them. The Blues allowed only 2 shots on 5 penalty kills and the Jets rarely got a good look at the net. The Blues would carry the 3-2 lead into the third period where they were 6-0 when leading after two periods.
For a physical, division game that was separated by one goal, this third period was pretty boring. The Blues were content with playing in their shell and while it did almost cost them a few times, none of the chances were high quality and with Allen in net even the basic chances were a given save. The Blues did receive two power plays in the period but nothing really came of it. Winnipeg once again controlled the period much like the first but failed to put many more pucks on net then they did in the first.
Alex Steen could have ended the drama as he slashed and dashed his way through three Jets players but a sliding block prevented an empty net goal and allowed the Jets one last chance. That chance was the best of the period as a shot from the point was deflected on the way in and Allen just got a glove on it. As the puck flew up off his glove a Jet stick whipped in to knock it out of mid air but whiffed and the puck was cleared and the win was sealed.
The Blues travel to Columbus tonight for a 6:00 Central puck drop against former division rival the Blue Jackets. While the Blues have struggle there recently, Columbus is having a rough season sitting at 6-12-0 but will be the more rested team so it should be a fun match-up.
#3 - Vladimir Tarasenko: 1 goal and 1 assist, 2 goals behind Patrick Kane for league lead
#2 - Jake Allen: 16 saves and yet another strong, aggressive outing
#1 - David Backes: Captain America with a 2 goal game giving him 5 goals in his last 8 games