Blues end losing streak with win over Canucks
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Jake Allen did not want to go home for Christmas in a bad mood.
The St. Louis Blues goaltender did not have to after backstopping the St. Louis Blues to a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night in the final game before the National Hockey League’s holiday break for both teams.
Allen made 30 saves and held the Canucks (15-17-5) scoreless in the third period.
“If it would have been a loss, it would have been tough to go home,” said Allen after the Blues (23-13-2) ended their losing streak at three games.
Allen and the rest of the Blues were relieved to prevail two nights after the Blues had squandered a late lead and lost to Edmonton.
“It was an emotional game for us,” said Allen. “It took a lot out of us (Friday).”
Kyle Brodziak’s goal with 1:30 left in the second period stood up as the winner before Allen was unbeatable in the third.
“We got a lucky one in the second,” said Allen. “We haven’t had a lucky one like that in a long time.”
Brodziak squeezed a shot from a sharp angle between Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom and the post — while the crowd groaned.
“The goal I scored is a little lucky,” said Brodziak, who hit the post in the third period. “Maybe (I was) a little bit unlucky on the other one, so they tend to even themselves out.”
Brodziak was thinking shot all the way as he fooled Markstrom, who made some timely saves in the third period that were too little, too late.
“We’ve talked about (shooting) a lot,” said Brodziak. “We want to have guys driving to the net. If you get a bad angle, try and throw it in (the goaltender’s) feet. You never know what kind of rebound you’ll get. Fortunately, it just found a hole.”
The Blues have struggled offensively since losing Jaden Schwartz to an ankle injury. The game marked the first time in seven games that the Blues had scored more than two goals.
Like Allen, Brodziak was relieved to end the losing skid before before Christmas.
“It’s big. We’ve played a lot of hockey in the last month or so where we haven’t been playing our best hockey,” said Brodziak. “To go into a couple days break with a positive feeling is something we really wanted to do, and we’re happy to get it done.”
Patrik Berglund and Alex Steen, into an empty net, in the final minute, also scored for the Blues, who are now unbeaten in 19 games when leading after two periods.
“We did a better job of staying in the mindset of taking care of the little things and playing more of a complete game,” said Blues coach Mike Yeo. “Games like this (are) a way to build confidence.”
Rookie Brock Boeser tallied for the Canucks. The 20-year-old Burnsville, Minn., native became the fastest Canucks rookie to score 20 goals in a season as he reached the mark in 34 games — after missing the first two as a healthy scratch. He bettered the mark of 20 goals in 49 games set by Pavel Bure in 1991-92.
“It means a lot,” said Boeser. “But it’s obviously a lot better if we’re getting the results we want. It’s a tough stretch right now.”
The Canucks entered the game with 10 goals in their last three outings, while the Blues had only scored six in the past six outings. But the goal-starved Blues led 1-0 and 2-1 by periods on seemingly easy shots while the Canucks struggled to create dangerous scoring chances.
Markstrom finished with 31 saves, but had a tough night as he allowed two admittedly stoppable goals.
“You want to outplay the other goalie,” said Markstrom. “(They’re) two goals I want back, especially at this time. When it rains, it pours for us.”
Berglund opened the scoring at 11:17 of the first period as Canucks defenseman Troy Stecher allowed him to skate away from the boards with the puck, circle into the high slot and beat Markstrom with a harmless-looking backhand.
Boeser pulled the Canucks 1:46 into the second period, firing in pass from Thomas Vanek after Sam Gagner had forced a turnover with strong forechecking against Colton Parayko behind the Blues’ net. The goal came moments after St. Louis center Alex Steen slid the puck off Markstrom’s pad and the post on a breakaway.
The Blues had chances to extend their lead in the first 12 minutes of the third period. But in addition to Brodziak, Brayden Schenn and Alex Pietrangelo also hit the post on quick shots that beat Markstrom cleanly
“We’re back playing a better game than we have the last couple weeks here, but we’ve got to take this Christmas break and come back a refreshed team,” said Markstrom.
NOTES: Blues D Carl Gunnarson was a plus-three as he returned to action after missing one game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Jordan Schmaltz and Fs Chris Thorburn and Ivan Berbeshev were scratched from the St. Louis lineup. ... Canucks D Ben Hutton drew back into lineup after being a healthy scratch for the previous two games. He had never been a healthy scratch before. With Hutton back, the Canucks iced an extra defenseman, going with seven rearguards. ... Canucks C Reid Boucher, called up from the minors earlier in the week, was a healthy scratch after playing in only one game, along with winger Alexander Burmistrov.