By Rob Rains
Back when the Blues’ season of high hopes and expectations began in October, the odds that the stars of a game in January would be Jordan Binnington and Oskar Sundqvist likely would have been off the charts.
Yet there those two players were on Thursday night, leading the way to a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Enterprise Center.
Binnington, making his second NHL start after getting a shutout Monday night in Philadelphia, stopped 28 of 29 shots against the Canadiens, with the only goal he allowed coming off a shot that deflected off Alex Pietrangelo’s skate on a power play in the second period.
“Solid, again,”said interim coach Craig Berube. “He got unlucky on the one goal, goes off our guy, but he made big saves at big times and looked confident in net to me.”
“He’s played two games and he’s played well. We’ve played well in front of him.”
It would not be a surprise if Binnington gets the start in the Blues’ next game, Saturday night in Dallas.
“I’m feeling good,” Binnington said. “I’m happy, the team is competing hard. Hopefully we keep coming together and going in the right direction. It’s just two (games). It’s all about the next one.”
Sundqvist, who has proven to be a valuable fourth-line player for the Blues, scored a shorthanded goal at 16:24 of the first period on a 2-on-1 break with Ryan O’Reilly. The goal was his eighth of the season, a total exceeded by only four of his teammates.
“It works sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t,” Sundqvist said. “I was happy it worked tonight.
“When you score some goals you get some confidence. I think I’ve had a really good mindset from the start of the season.”
Sundqvist also got the primary assist on the Blues’ final goal of the game, from Sammy Blais, midway through the third period. He also was on the ice helping kill off a 5-on-3 advantage for the Canadiens in the same period.
“His improvement started in the summertime,” Berube said. “He came into camp and he looked like a faster player then and it’s just carried on and now he has a lot of confidence.”
Robert Thomas and Jay Bouwmeester scored the other goals for the Blues, with Thomas’ goal coming on an early power play, an area where the Blues have struggled for more than a month. They had been just 4-of-44 with a man advantage since Dec. 1 coming into the game.
“We had two goals in the first period which is great,” Binnington said. “The team feeds off that.”
The only bad news of the night for the Blues concerned Thomas, their promising rookie center, who was knocked out of the game in the first period because of an upper body injury. Berube said he should know more about Thomas’ status on Friday
“He’s been really good for a while now,” Berube said. “It’s unfortunate. We hope it’s not too bad and that he’s OK.”
Photo courtesy of St. Louis Blues
To listen to the post-game interviews, click on the audio player below:
Post-Game Audio- By Mike Reeves