The Blues were on the verge of losing their way. In two road games over the past week, they were outscored 11-2, earning no points in losses to New York and Dallas. Their problems were no longer confined to their performance on home ice, and a weekend back-to-back at Scottrade Center loomed.
Those two road games were anomalous. The Blues fell behind early and played their way out of contention in both games. The first two periods of Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets were an improvement, containing a familiar but frustrating recipe: St. Louis earned plenty of chances, but had no goals. Despite outshooting the Blue Jackets 23-10 for the first forty minutes, the Blues trailed.
The 1-0 Columbus lead didn’t feel insurmountable, though, the way those recent roads deficits had.
“A little easier tonight, it only being a one-goal deficit,” Kevin Shattenkirk said. “But we’ve gone down 2-0 and we’ve tried to reinvent the wheel and kind of sell-out when we still have 40 minutes left in a game. We just have to trust our structure and realize that a couple smart, simple plays, we can build on that and start chipping away at a team. We’re capable of coming back from those games if we just stick with our game."
Though Ken Hitchcock was dispirited with their third-period play, the Blues got what they needed to push the game to overtime—from an unlikely source.
After being honored before the game for his 1,000th career NHL game—which came Tuesday in New York—it was Jay Bouwmeester who had the emphatic breakthrough for the Blues, whose scoring troubles have snowballed with each passing game. And for as well as the Blues controlled the first two periods Saturday, something had to give. Bouwmeester, a defenseman who had scored just 10 goals since joining the Blues in 2013, decided he might as well be the one to give it.
Gliding up the left side of the ice, Bouwmeester took a pass from Scottie Upshall and whirred the puck into the net from the top of the circle. After redirections, deflections, and rebounds produced nothing, Bouwmeester ripped the shot that gave the Blues life.
“It was awesome,” said Carter Hutton, who stopped 20 of 21 shots in the win. “We were trying to get a speech out of him there after, but he doesn’t say too much. The ultimate pro, he just comes to work everyday and does his business. What an honor for him. For him to score on his night here was great.”
The Blues secured one point after ending regulation tied 1-1, but needed one more breakthrough in overtime to claim another. This time, the source surprised no one.
Selecting an opportune moment to bust out of a seven-game scoreless streak, Vladimir Tarasenko sniped the game-winner late in the three-on-three festivities, elevating the Blues to victory.
“He looked like he had his skating legs today,” Hitchcock said of Tarasenko. “He was a determined player. He stayed with it—we stayed with it. When your best players stay with it, it forces everybody to do that.
“That was the thing I was most pleased with: We had more of our better players who stayed with it longer, and didn’t get discouraged without the instant success. That helped us a lot.”
The Blues, whose 14 points are now second in the Central division, recognize the NHL season is long. They preach consistency as an offensive philosophy, whether their shots find the net on a given night or not. Still, positive feelings accelerate quickly when the results manage to align with the effort, as they did for the Blues Saturday night.
“The last few days… It hasn’t been a great feeling around this locker room,” Shattenkirk said. “Finally to have something positive to build off and keeping our minds, but at the same time, we have to bring that attitude into tomorrow’s game. That hunger that we had tonight, it’s nice.”
Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.