By Rob Rains
Several of the Blues admitted they didn’t know exactly what to expect on Thursday night as they came off the four-day Christmas break.
“Sometimes it’s tough to see what you are going to come out with,” said goalie Jake Allen. “Four days off, no practicing, and you’ve got a heavy belly on you probably. In years past this game was sort of a struggle for us a little bit so it was nice to see us come out with some jump and find a way to win.”
Allen stopped 30 of 31 shots and the Blues broke out of a scoreless game with three goals in the second period en route to a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres at Enterprise Center.
“You just have to be prepared for anything,” Allen said. “We had a 10-minute skate this morning so I think to be able to be zoned in right at the start … if they had scored a goal in the first period I think it might have changed momentum.”
Allen made 10 saves in the first period before his teammates went to work against former Blues goalie Carter Hutton. Robert Thomas poked in the first goal in a scramble in front of the net before Jay Bouwmeester and Patrick Maroon scored 54 seconds apart midway through the period.
After the Sabres cut the lead to 3-1 on a power play goal from Jack Eichel, the Blues stayed aggressive in the third period and Ryan O’Reilly capped the win with his team-leading 14th goal, and his first in his first game against his former team.
“It was a good game coming off the break, trying to get back in the hunt,” O’Reilly said. “It took us a little longer to get going. They had some key opportunities and Jake made some spectacular saves. It could have been messy in the first but he held on.
“You could just see the inconsistency, like the jump. Four days off, and you could see that. It’s going to be little messy and chippy at times but that’s expected, We kind of played through it and found our game and went from there.”
The win was the third in the last four games for the Blues and fifth in their last seven, but Allen was quick to point out the team is still under .500 and looking up at a playoff spot.
“We’ve built a little something but we still have a long way to go,” said Allen, who made his 10th consecutive start. “We’re trending the right way, no question. We just can’t take our foot off the gas. There’s really no time left. If we can keep this going we should get ourselves back in shooting distance anyway.”
The game was the opener of a five-game homestand for the Blues, who will host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night – offering another chance to reach three consecutive wins for the first time this season.
“It wasn’t a perfect game tonight but we found a way to get it done,” O’Reilly said. “We’re finding ways to do that more and more and that’s important. That’s the way we’re going to keep this thing moving forward.”