Tarasenko scores hat trick as Blues beat Lightning
ST. LOUIS -- Anytime right winger Vladimir Tarasenko scores a couple of early goals, the excitement starts to build on the St. Louis Blues’ bench.
“We were kind of all licking our chops to see what he was going to do,” defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “He still had 50 minutes to work with. He’s one of those guys where loose change seems to find him, and he’s able to capitalize on a lot of his chances.”
Tarasenko added an assist before completing the third regular-season hat trick of his career in the third period, leading the Blues to a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Shattenkirk also had a four-point game for the Blues, scoring twice and earning two assists, and center Alexander Steen marked his return to the lineup with three assists as the Blues extended their home winning streak to six games. They are 9-0-2 in their past 11 home games.
The Lightning, despite rallying from a 4-1 deficit to twice get within one goal in the third period, lost their fourth consecutive game, their longest losing streak of the season.
Tarasenko’s final goal of the night, his 13th of the season, came after the Lightning cut what was a 4-1 deficit to 4-3. It was his first regular-season hat trick since Dec. 16, 2014. His initial shot hit the post but then deflected into the net off the skate of goalie Ben Bishop, stretching the advantage to 5-3 at 8:11 of the final period.
As is his custom, Tarasenko tried to deflect the credit for his goals to his teammates.
“Thanks for the guys; they created a lot of good chances for me,” Tarasenko said. “They helped me a lot.”
Tarasenko scored an unassisted goal 1:39 into the game before adding a power-play goal off a pass from Steen at 9:37 of the first period. It was the first of three power-play goals for the Blues, the other two coming from Shattenkirk.
After going through a scoring slump in the early weeks of the season, the Blues have scored three or more goals in each of their past nine games.
“It wasn’t like this when the season started,” Tarasenko said. “We had a tough time from you guys (the media), and it was so many bad words about our offense. We just keep working, and like I said, we just fight for each other every game and try to stay on our program. The most important thing is we believe in each other. We believe in our game.”
Unlike Tarasenko, Shattenkirk has never completed a hat trick in his NHL career. With the Tampa Bay net empty in the closing minutes after Bishop was pulled in favor of an extra attacker, the thought did cross Shattenkirk’s mind.
“I thought maybe I should stay out for the last 15 seconds and get selfish with it,” he said. “I‘m never really thinking hat trick. (Tarasenko) is the guy who’s thinking hat trick.”
Shattenkirk’s second goal, 1:44 into the second period, chased Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed the four goals on 10 shots. Bishop came off the bench to replace him.
Goals by center Tyler Johnson and right winger Nikita Kucherov, his 12th of the season, pulled the Lightning back within 4-3 before Tarasenko’s third goal. Center Cedric Paquette’s second goal of the game made it a one-goal game again at 11:56 of the third, but Blues goalie Jake Allen was able to protect that lead for the final eight minutes.
Allen made 22 saves. Bishop stopped nine of the 10 shots he faced.
“I‘m not going to sit here and say that we deserved to win the game, but we definitely deserved points out of this game,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Ultimately they had 10 minutes of power-play time and we had 10 seconds. Now you’re sucking a lot of momentum because you’re killing so many penalties, and eventually that cost us.”
One ray of hope for the Lightning was that they were outscored 14-5 in their first three losses during their losing streak, but they were able to rally and get back into Thursday’s game in the third period.
“The last four games in a row we gave up the first two goals,” Paquette said. “It’s just tough to come back, but I think we were almost there. I think it’s encouraging for the next game.”
Although St. Louis scored five goals, neither right winger David Perron or left winger Jaden Schwartz registered a point, ending their scoring streaks. Perron had at least a point in eight consecutive games, the longest streak of his career and the longest active streak in the NHL. Schwartz point streak ended at seven games.
NOTES: The Lightning started Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal instead of Ben Bishop, a St. Louis native and former Blue who is 0-2-1 in his career in starts as a visitor in his hometown. ... Blues C Paul Stastny played in his 700th career game. ... C Vladislav Namestnikov was a healthy scratch for the Lightning, missing his first game of the season. ... RW Michael Bournival and RW Joel Vermin were inserted into the Lightning lineup, one day after they were recalled from the minors. ... D Anton Stralman also returned for the Lightning after missing nine games because of an upper-body injury. ... The Blues host Winnipeg on Saturday, while the Lightning return home to play Washington on Saturday.