The Blues needed a jolt in the arm coming off of a 5-0 pasting in Nashville on Saturday. Alex Pietrangelo gave them that jolt by returning to the lineup after missing the last 9 games due to injury. Now his mere presence didn't solve the defensive problems that have plagued the Blues this year but there was a sense of stability when he was on the ice. Adding some offense to the game was just a bonus.
Another early puck drop, 2 pm CST, didn't seem to phase the Blues today, unlike yesterday, as they jumped out early on the Hurricanes. The fourth line of Kyle Brodziak, Scottie Upshall and Ty Rattie seemed to be all over the ice in the first few minutes and that tenacity led to the first goal of the game.
Perennial dog house sitter, Rattie, would benefit from a great forecheck from Brodziak and Upshall as he found a weak spot in Cam Ward's game, glove high.
It was the young winger's 4th goal this year for the Blues.
The Blues would get the chance to extend their lead when Kris Versteeg went off for a high stick. Without Alexander Steen, though, you can see how much he means to this team as they were only able to muster one shot on the power play. The failed advantage seemed to swing momentum to Carolina and a short time later they would strike back.
A defensive zone face-off with Paul Stastny taking it usually is a guaranteed win but not this time and Jeff Skinner took advantage. Ron Hainsy would gather the win and slide the puck to Skinner who seemed to have forever to line up his shot. Jake Allen fell off of his post as the shot was released and it somehow slipped between his body and arm tying the game up. Definitely one that Jake would want to have back.
But Carolina wasn't done just yet, as just over a minute later Hainsy would rifle a shot past the Blues net-minder. Skinner would win a battle along the boards and get the puck to Hainsy who didn't waste much time letting the shot go. A perfectly placed screen by Brad Malone did just enough to block Allen from seeing the puck and just like that the Canes were up 2-1.
But you have to give the Blues credit, they didn't hang their heads after losing the lead, and although they had another poor man advantage at the end of the period, they finished the first strong and out shot Carolina 12-10.
Being down a goal and going into a normally difficult period for the Blues this year didn't ease fans hearts but David Backes gave them something to cheer about early as he netted his 16th goal of the year just 20 seconds in. Another good forecheck by the Big Boy Line (Backes, Paarjavi and Jaskin) hemmed the Canes in their zone and someone forgot about Backes as the puck was behind the net. Magnus Paajarvi would dig the puck out and slide it to Backes as he filled the front of the net and chipped it by Ward.
That was the start of the first dominate second period we have seen from the Blues in a long long while. Goals didn't come flying out this period but the shot total and puck possession were some of the best we have seen this year. Even a Kevin Shattenkirk penalty couldn't stop this team.
The two best players today teamed up for a very opportunistic shorthanded attempt halfway through the kill. Scottie Upshall would out muscle Noah Hanifan after he couldn't settle the puck at the point. Upshall guided the puck around the linesman and found a streaking Brodziak who fired the puck over Ward's glove. It's only the Blues second shorthanded goal of the season but it sure was timely.
While no more goals were scored in the second the Blues continued to harass Carolina and would out shoot them 20-7 in the second. Of note, Carolina would go down two forwards in the second as both Kris Versteeg and Victor Rask would not be present on the bench the rest of the game.
The third period opened much like one would expect as Carolina would make their push and the Blues would pursue their usual turtle we have the lead play. Allen seemed to find his form in the second and it only got better in the third as he turned aside shot after shot from the depleted forward group. It would seem like the Blues were content to just try and hold on to the one goal lead but a seemingly innocent clearing attempt provided another spark.
Pietrangelo would flip a puck off of the glass and Robby Fabbri would catch the Canes a bit flat footed as he took the carom and raced into the zone. Fabbri would get Ward to bite on a forehand shot before sliding across the crease and tucking a backhander just past the outstretched arm of Ward. Hello Top Plays. Fabbri would join Backes, Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko with 15+ goals this year.
An assist just wasn't enough from Pietrangelo in his return though, so he scored a goal too. 30 seconds after the Fabbri goal the Blues would rush the zone yet again and after a few passes Petro had a wide open net. Being the consummate teammate he actually thought pass first but after gaining a clear look he fired the puck into the wide open net. Cam Ward would argue goalie interference but to no avail as he was outside of the crease and not really touched anyway.
The Blues would need to kill a late penalty to Jay Bouwmeester but the Carolina forwards were gassed and no real threat was posed the rest of the game.
The 5-2 victory was just what this team needed but there is still work to do. The defensive game still had some questionable moments and while we won without Tarasenko registering a point there is no way our fourth line can carry us.
The win allowed the Blues (81 pts) to keep pace with Dallas (82 pts) and Chicago (83 pts) though both teams have a game or two in hand. The Blues travel next to Ottawa for a Tuesday night matchup with the Senators. This will be the first game after the trade deadline on Monday and while no moves are imminent we could see a different lineup that night.
#3 - Kyle Brodziak: SHG and an assist. Fourth Line was a game changer tonight
#2 - Ty Rattie: Opening Goal. Get him out of the dog house Hitch
#1 - Alex Pietrangelo: Goal and an assist in his return and settled down a back line rather quickly