By Lou Korac
The winning streak ended for the Blues on Thursday, so it was time to get back on the horse and see how this team would respond for the first time in a month to how they’d react following a loss.
Not the best opponent to try and doing that against with the Boston Bruins, winners of seven in a row themselves, and playing as well as the Blues have of late. It was Boston’s fifth of a five-game trip.
The Blues had their moments where they looked good, and then there were moments when the Bruins had them pinned in and hemmed in their zone. But in the end, it was an unsung hero to help secure the two points.
Sammy Blais scored in the sixth round of the shootout in a 2-1 Blues victory on Saturday afternoon at Enterprise Center, their sixth win in a row at home.
The Blues (33-23-5), were riding high with a franchise record 11-game winning streak before it came crashing down in a 5-2 loss at Dallas on Thursday. Now they had to get back on the saddle, and although it wasn’t perfect at times, it was good enough to get the job done and half the Bruins’ seven-game winning streak.
“It was a tough game, end to end,” said Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who improved to 14-2-1 by winning his first NHL shootout. “Both goalies got some work in. Teams were battling and trying to create chances. Ice was a little slow. but we competed right to the end and got that extra point.
“It’s nice to get back in the win column, yeah, and just continue to do what we’ve been doing, take it one game at a time and keep focusing.”
The Blues, who traveled to play at Minnesota Sunday, had to go with a bit of a makeshift lineup Saturday with an array of guys dealing with sickness. Robert Bortuzzo was a late scratch and after initially being left out of pregame line rushes, Zach Sanford was able to go, making Robby Fabbri a scratch. Chris Butler took Bortuzzo’s spot.
“We had to wait until warmup and pick it and choose who was going to go and who was feeling good enough to go,” Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. “That guys that played that are not feeling good, the credit goes to them. That’s tough. That’s not an easy thing to do but they battled through it. It’s a lot of character there by those guys.”
That character included Blais, who was told to be prepared to play but wasn’t aware until he got to the rink on Saturday.
“There was going to be some chance I was going to get in the lineup, so I prepared myself,” Blais said. “When I got to the rink, I was in the lineup. That’s when I found out I was going to be in.”
And he made the most of it. Blais was the Blues’ sixth shooter and was patient enough to out-wait Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask before roofing a wrist shot high into the net.
Blais was not expecting to be called upon but was ready.
“Not really,” he said. “I thought they were going to choose someone else, but it worked out, so I’m pretty happy about that.
“I’ve always used that move before and this time it worked. I was pretty happy.”
Blais said he hasn’t scored a shootout in competitive action since he played for the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League and that Berube saw his last shootout goal, and maybe that was why he was chosen. Blais wanted the media contingency to ask Berube if he remembered it.
“Uhh … no. I’m old now though,” Berube said with a laugh. “So that’s a long time ago. I mean, he’s got good hands. He can score. That’s what he is.”
Binnington, who made 31 saves and improved to 6-0-0 at Enterprise Center, was able to withstand Boston’s final shooter, Danton Heinen, who fired wide.
“It was fun,” Binnington said. ‘Obviously they’re a good team. We’re battling every game. It was a big game for us, so we’re happy for that extra point.”
Binnington’s success at home?
“It’s got to be the Cheshire Hotel,” Binnington said of The Cheshire.
Steen’s first goal since Nov. 30 (27 games) gave the Blues a 1-0 lead at 7:15 of the first period. It came after Oskar Sundqvist intercepted Peter Cehlarik’s neutral zone pass and turned it back for a 3-on-2. Steen’s wrister from the left circle beat Rask high short side.
“Not really,” Steen said when asked if the goalless drought weighed on him. “We’ve been playing well. The group’s been buzzing. Just trying to keep the mojo here.”
Wagner tied it 1-1 for the Bruins at 5:12 of the second period, but Binnington was able to withstand the Bruins’ attack, including making a terrific game-saving stop on former Blue David Backes midway through the second period.
“Was that the glove save? I don’t know, you tell me,” Binnington said when asked if that was his best save in the NHL. “… I don’t think I played it properly so I kind of had to battle it there and make a desperation save. Thankfully, I got a piece.”
The Blues had multiple scoring chances in OT, including one by Vladimir Tarasenko alone in front of Rask but was denied.
Tyler Bozak, who is 2-for-2 in shootouts this season, got the Blues going by scoring in the first round, but newly acquired center Charlie Coyle, who the Blues know from his days with the Minnesota Wild before the Wild traded him to Boston on Wednesday, kept the shootout going by scoring in the third round.
But the Blues prevailed in the end and will look for a win at Minnesota for the second time in a week.
“It was a big game for us,” Steen said. “I thought not just the loss but the game before it, we had two uncharacteristic periods so that was pretty much five straight ones. We needed a rebound from that, not the result as much.”
AP photo courtesy of KSDK Sports