Blues gets early jump on Stars
ST. LOUIS -- One of the goals coming into this season for the St. Louis Blues was to get their defensemen more involved in the team’s offense.
Two games into the season, that is working out pretty well.
The Blues’ first two goals Saturday night came from defensemen Carl Gunnarsson and Joel Edmundson, sending St. Louis to a 4-2 victory in its home opener over the Dallas Stars.
The goals followed two from Alex Pietrangelo and one by Colton Parayko in their first game of the season, meaning five of the team’s nine goals in the first two games have been scored by defensemen.
It’s the first time in team history the Blues had goals from four different defensemen in the season’s first two games.
“We believe we have a group of defensemen who can get involved; that they have the ability and on top of that the hockey sense to recognize when it’s there and not put us in a vulnerable position,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said.
Jaden Schwartz followed the two goals from the defensemen with St. Louis’ third goal in a five-minute flurry in the first period to make it a 3-0 lead, and the Blues relied on goalie Jake Allen to preserve the lead and move to 2-0-0 on the season.
Pietrangelo followed his two-goal game Wednesday night with two assists against the Stars, including setting up the first goal of the season from Vladimir Tarasenko, just six seconds into a power-play in the third period.
“It alleviates some of the pressure on the forwards,” Pietrangelo said about the scoring from the defensemen. “It’s what our system is built on. Now that we’ve played this system for a while and gone through a training camp, we’re getting a lot of momentum in the offensive zone and that’s what’s creating our opportunities.”
Allen, for one, is appreciative of the extra offense.
”They’re not sitting back when that puck’s on that blue line,“ Allen said. ”Obviously throwing pucks at the net is crucial, but keeping your head up and being able to make that extra play and patience with the puck. Every player’s skilled in this league, it doesn’t matter if they’re D-men or a forward.
“If they have the opportunities and they can make the most of them, I think that’s just what they’re doing right now.”
Gunnarsson started the outburst for the Blues with a shot off a Dallas skate whch deflected past goalie Kari Lehtonen 9:50 into the first period. Edmundson’s goal followed 1:24 later before Schwartz added his first of the year.
Allen lost his shutout bid 2:48 into the third period on a power-play goal from defenseman John Klingberg. The Stars also added a goal by Mattias Janmark later in the period.
The loss dropped the Stars to 0-2-0 under new coach Ken Hitchcock, who was frustrated by the fact the Stars had 40 shots and had just two goals. They only scored one goal on 46 shots in their season-opening loss to Vegas at home on Friday night.
“We’re getting lots of shots on goal,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve had close to 90 shots in two games but I don’t think today we were as dangerous as we were yesterday. We’ve got some things we really like and we’ve got some things we really don’t like. We just really have got to bear down. We’ve got to bear down and be better in our own end. If we can do that then we can build something good.”
Lehtonen allowed the three St. Louis goals on consecutive shots in the first period as the Blues went on to win their sixth consecutive home game over the Stars.
“It’s not a good feeling when they come that close to each other but you just have to reset and refocus and keep playing,” Lehtonen said. “It’s just part of the game. Today that happened and of course you don’t want to see that but you just need to keep going. There were still 40 some minutes left. You don’t need to quit.”
The loss kept Hitchcock at 781 career wins, one shy of tying Al Arbour for third on the NHL list for most career victories.
Center Martin Hanzal left the game with a lower-body injury in the second period and did not return. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated Sunday.
NOTES: Dallas G Ben Bishop was cleared to play after having to come out of Friday night’s game when he was hit in the head by a puck, but the Stars kept with their original plan to start backup Kari Lehtonen against the Blues. Bishop, a St. Louis native, is 1-5-1 in his career against his hometown team. ... The Blues could learn next week when RW Alexander Steen (hand) and D Jay Bouwmeester (ankle) will be ready to play. ... The Stars inserted RW Adam Cracknell into their lineup in place of C Gemel Smith. ... The game was the only home contest in the first two weeks of the season for the Blues, who play seven of their first nine games on the road.