When the Blues jumped out to a 17-4 shots on goal advantage after one period in Toronto on Thursday, it would have been easy to assume the game would be a breeze from there.
Unfortunately, while that didn’t become reality, the Blues were able to withstand a push from the Maple Leafs thanks to strong goaltending by Jake Allen and in spite of losing Paul Stastny to an injury early in the second period.
Following the 2-1 overtime win, Allen was complimentary of his team’s commitment to doing the little things necessary to win.
“I think there’s more commitment, more discipline,” he said. “We lost ‘Stas’ there in the middle of the game and guys stepped up and played well. It’s a tough position to fill and I think guys are all just jumping on board, playing hard for each other, and doing the little things.”
Stastny’s injury should give the Blues pause for concern, as he didn’t return to the game after getting tangled up with Toronto’s Nazem Kadri only 20 seconds in to the second period. Stastny stayed on the bench in obvious pain for the next seven minutes of game time, and left for the locker room after a brief testing of his leg during a TV timeout.
While the Blues poured on the pressure early, Frederik Andersen stood strong in goal for the Maple Leafs. After a particularly dazzling save on Colton Parayko while laying on his side, Andersen seemed to seize the momentum.
That momentum turned fairly easily against the Blues, as the team was playing its third game in four nights and was operating with a short bench. As the third period dragged on, Allen noticed the small changes that were occurring in the defensive zone.
“They had a push there in the third, and I thought they took it to us for most of the third period,” Allen said. “Guys did a good job, flipped pucks out...It’s the same stuff all the time but it works if you do it. Especially with a shortened bench and getting a little tired there at the end, guys did a good job.”
Vladimir Tarasenko, perhaps possessed with a desire to cut the evening short, sliced through the Toronto defense on a play that will not end up in Nazem Kadri’s Selke trophy highlight reel. The overtime goal was Tarasenko’s seventh with the Blues, tying him with the late Pavol Demitra for the team’s career lead.
The Blues play in Montreal on Saturday night, and it remains unclear whether they’ll have a full compliment of forwards. If Stastny is unavailable, the team will have to stay strong in its execution in order to maintain its recent high level of play.
“I think execution’s a huge part,” said Allen. “We all knew we had it in this group, but we’re executing at a high level right now and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Keeping it going would allow the team to stretch into a four game winning streak, providing them with a much needed cushion as they drive toward the playoffs.