ST. LOUIS — The Blues turned what looked like it would be another installment of Frustration Theater into something that could leave them all feeling happy thanks to a spirited 135 seconds in the first period of their game with Vegas on Monday at Enterprise Center.
Down 2-0 less than seven minutes into the game, the Blues turned everything upside down, with three goals in 2:15. When the game was done, they had goals from some names who have been strangers to the goals column. Tyler Bozak and Niko Mikkola, playing just his third game of the season, had their first goals of the season. Ryan O’Reilly had his first goal in almost a month and Justin Faulk had his first goal since the second game of the season. Only a goal from Brandon Saad was business as usual in a 5-2 win over Vegas.
It was their second win in two meetings with the Golden Knights, expected to be a contender in the West this season but slowed by injuries and illness in the early going. The Blues will look for their first set of consecutive wins since their season-opening five-game win streak when they play at Detroit on Wednesday.
It was the most goals for the Blues since a 5-3 win over San Jose on Nov. 4, though they needed an empty-net goal to get that. It was also the first time this season the Blues had gotten two goals from defensemen in one game.
The Blues carried a 4-2 lead into the third period, where they are no strangers to Vegas comebacks over the years. Heavy Vegas pressure at the start led to a Vegas power play, which the Blues killed without allowing a shot on goal, though much of the credit for that must go to Vegas, which missed badly on several efforts.
Mikkola pretty much put the game away with 10:23 to go in the third as Robert Thomas passed to the defenseman on a two-on-one (and with Pavel Buchnevich catching up on the other side) and he drilled it home from the left dot for the goal that made it 5-2. Mikkola was in the lineup for just the third time in 18 games in a season for him marked by COVID and healthy scratches. It was just his second career goal.
The first period started out looking gloomy for the Blues and then finished looking the total opposite.
Just 36 seconds into the game, after the Blues couldn’t get the puck out of their own end, Alex Pietrangelo took a shot from the point that Jordan Binnington blocked, but the rebound came right to Chandler Stephenson, who was alone and had an open net to put the puck into.
With 13:10 to go in the period, Justin Faulk stole a pass and pushed forward, only to lose the puck to Ben Hutton of Vegas, who hit Reilly Smith for a breakaway and a goal. For just the third time in 18 games, the Blues were down 2-0, and this one took less than seven minutes.
When Ryan O’Reilly fanned on a rebound of a shot by Jordan Kyrou midway through the period, the second time to that point a Blue had been unable to get a shot off on a pass to the slot, it looked like it was going to be another of those nights for the Blues.
But just seconds later, the Blues scored. David Perron did a masterful job of holding on to the puck, skating it out from the goal line to the blueline while being dogged by a Vegas player, and then he found O’Reilly down low, who while at a tough angle, put the puck between Robin Lehner’s pads, where it banked off his right skate and into the goal.
For O’Reilly, it was his third goal of the season and his first since Oct. 23, before he missed four games with COVID.
Less than two minutes later, the game was tied. Faulk took a shot that Klim Kostin in front of the net deflected wide, but Tyler Bozak was there to put in the rebound for his first goal of the season.
Thirty-three seconds later, the Blues had an unlikely lead. Faulk hounded Nicolas Roy of Vegas until he got the puck from him and then took off the other way, with Roy on his back. Faulk had Ivan Barbashev on his left, but chose to keep the puck and postage stamped it into the top right corner on the breakaway for an unassisted goal, the 100th of his NHL career. Faulk is the first defenseman from the 2010 NHL draft class to reach 100 goals.
The lead almost disappeared in the opening seconds of the second period, when Mark Stone shot high from close range, and just over a minute later, the Blues extended their lead to 4-2. Nine seconds into a power play after Hutton flipped the puck into the stands for a delay of game penalty. The Blues won the faceoff, Perron’s cross-ice pass to Vladimir Tarasenko was behind him, but he still got a shot off that Lehner saved. The rebound came to Brandon Saad, who on the second crack put it in the top right corner.
Saad has four goals in the past three games, three of them on the power play. Saad has been playing on the first power-play unit in Brayden Schenn’s absence.
Vegas nearly got a goal with about four minutes to go in the period, but a sprawling Colton Parayko in the crease blocked a shot by Hutton with his stick and eventually Binnington froze the puck. Vegas did get a power play out of that possession, but the Blues killed it.
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