– Photo by Ryan Leopando / Arch City Sports
The St Louis Blues returned home Thursday night to play host to the New Jersey Devils. The Blues entered tonight’s action searching for their seventh consecutive win. The Devils were looking to get revenge against a St Louis team that defeated them Tuesday night in New Jersey. The red hot Blues were getting Paul Stastny back in the lineup to help boost an already potent offense. The Devils, on the other hand, would be without rising star Adam Henrique, who’s suffering from a lower body injury. Jake Allen got the nod in net for the second game in a row. Allen has tossed shutouts in each of his last two games.
With 2:28 remaining in the first, Ian Cole ripped a slap shot from the point. As the puck was on its way to the net, Jori Lehtera was shoved from behind by Stephen Gionta into goalie Cory Schneider. The goal would be waved off.
They say the puck never lies. Shortly after the Blues were robbed of the goal, Vladimir Tarasenko put on a clinic. Jaden Schwartz created a turnover in the corner and fed a cutting Tarasenko. Vladi snapped one from the slot that banged off the post. Six seconds later, Schwartz dished the puck from the boards to Tarasenko. Vladi darted towards the slot and split three Devils, moved towards the crease, shook Schneider, then wristed the puck from a tough angle to give St Louis the lead with under five seconds remaining in the opening period. That would give the 22 year old his ninth goal of the season, and his second highlight reel goal in his last three games.
Jake Allen was perfect in the opening frame, stopping all 9 shots he faced and extending his scoreless streak.
With 8:55 on the clock in the second period, Barret Jackman launched a pass from his own goal to the blue line and found a wide open Jaden Schwartz thanks to a New Jersey line change. With only Cory Schneider to beat, Schwartz coasted in like a penalty shot and buried one under the right arm of Schneider, opening the game up to 2-0.
Shortly after the Blues took a 2-0 lead, center Jori Lehtera was called for holding Tuomo Ruutu and sent to the penalty box for two minutes. The penalty kill unit for St Louis was successful in keeping the Devils off the scoreboard thanks to the net-minding of Jake Allen, who turned away four shots during the power play.
With just over three minutes remaining in the second frame, Jori Lehtera was called for boarding against Dainius Zubrus, giving the Devils their second one-man advantage of the period. The Blues killed this penalty with ease, allowing only a single shot on net.
The second period ended with the Blues out to a 2-0 lead. You really got the feeling that Jaden Schwartz’ goal wouldn’t matter. The Blues defense was just simply overpowering the offense for the Devils. But, they play 60 minutes for a reason.
1:27 into the third, Devil’s forward Jaromir Jagr was called for hooking, giving St Louis the one man advantage. The Blues had nothing going on the power play, putting two shots on net.
The Blues would receive their second power play opportunity of the night when a hooking minor sent Dainius Zubrus to the box. This penalty would be the one that put the nail in the coffin for New Jersey, so we thought. Vladimir Tarasenko passed to Lehtera, who fed Alex Steen with a nice touch-pass for an easy goal, giving the hometown Blues a 3-0 lead. The Blues’ third goal of the night would be the last action Cory Schneider would see, as Keith Kinkaid would finish this one out in net for the Devils.
The Blues gave New Jersey a late opportunity to climb back into the game when Paul Stastny was called for a two-minute minor for hooking. With 3:25 left in regulation, and with time just expiring on the Devil’s power play, Michael Ryder ended the scoreless streak for Jake Allen with a wrist shot from the slot. St Louis still had a two goal lead with time winding down.
With three minutes remaining, Damien Brunner hooked Jaden Schwartz, giving the Blues another power play chance. Alex Pietrangelo ripped a slapper form the point and David Backes redirected it and scored his third goal of the season, and extended the Blues’ lead back to three.
The Devil’s offense seemed to wake up late in the game. Marek Zidlicky scored with under two minutes to go in regulation. Then, with under a minute remaining, the Devils yanked their goalie to add the extra attacker. Michael Ryder beat Jake Allen for the second time tonight to make it a one goal game.
The Blues would squeak out a win to open the five game home stand and extend their winning streak to seven. The difference in the game was the power play. St Louis converted on two of their three power plays, while the Devils went 0-3.
Vladimir Tarasenko added two more points to his stat sheet with a goal and an assist. During the Blues’ seven game winning streak, they have had six games decided by a single goal.
The loss drops New Jersey to 6-5-2 while the surging Blues improve to 9-3-1. St Louis’ 19 points are good enough to sit atop the Central Division. The Blues will host the Nashville Predators this Saturday at Scottrade Center for the second game of a five game home stand. The puck drops at 7 PM CST and can be seen on FS-MW or heard on KMOX 1120.