ST. LOUIS -- With the Olympics and a 18-day break in the NHL schedule awaiting, the last thing the Blues wanted to do on Saturday was hang around.
But, playing their fourth consecutive overtime of a four-game homestand, with their travel plans on hold, the Blues defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 4-3, in an overtime-shootout in front of 19,052.
After a 3-3 tie and a scoreless overtime period, T. J. Oshie and Vladimir Tarasenko -- both Olympians -- scored Blues goals in the shootout. Two Jets skaters were unable to beat goaltender Brian Elliott at the other end.
The afternoon delight boosted the Blues into a numerical tie with Chicago atop the Central Division standings as the NHL shuts down for the Olympics. St. Louis (39-12-6) and Chicago (35-11-14) both have 84 points, but the Blues will have 25 games remaining when they return, while the Blackhawks will have 22.
The Blues are 33-1-4 when they score first, so Brenden Morrow's goal with 12:21 to play was promising. Morrow took a drop pass from Vladimir Tarasenko and picked the lower right corner on goaltender Al Montoya. It was Morrow's 10th of the season and gave the Blues seven players with at least 10 goals. Derek Roy also got an assist and the Blues led 1-0.
But the Blues' power play has been more dysfunctional than the opening ceremonies in Sochi, Russia. After going 0 for 7 against Ottawa, and 0 for 3 against Boston, the Blues went 0 for 8 against the Jets. That makes 0 for 20, but who's counting.
On the flip side, the Jets cached in two power-play goals. Those differentiating math led to trouble throughout the afternoon.
The unit fired blanks on its first attempt less than three minutes into the game. Later in the period, with 9:27 to play, Winnipeg's Mark Stuart off for tripping Jaden Schwartz and the unit floundered again, self-imploding altogether with a "too many men" penalty.
Moments later, the Jets tied the game. Devon Setoguchi slid a pass by Alex Pietrangelo's stick and Mark Scheifele pounded it past a helpless Brian Elliott. The power-play goal tied the score with 7:25
Off the ensuing faceoff, Ryan Reaves engaged Winnipeg's Chris Thorburn in a lengthy contest of punch-throwing. It was Reaves' first fight since he broke his hand punching Dallas Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon on Nov. 23. Reaves missed 17 games after that fight, he missed five minutes after this one.
And moments after he returned, the Blues regained a lead. This time it was Morrow doing the table-setting. He fielded the carom of Pietrangelo's dump-in and passed to the opposite side where Roy was crashing. The diminutive center banged in a shot that exited out so quickly the red light didn't go on. Nonetheless, the In-N-Out Burger, Roy's ninth goal and second point of the day, provided a 2-1 margin with 2:24 left, a lead the Blues took to intermission.
Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold, who got tangled with Zach Bogosian and seemed to injure his right ankle late in the first, did not return.
Five minutes into the second stanza, the Blues power play got an extended opportunity to wake up. Winnipeg's Olli Jokinen whacked Morrow in the face, drawing blood and drawing a four-minute major infraction. The stagnant specialty unit did nothing for nearly three minutes.
Then, with a minute remaining on Jokinen's infraction, Thorburn upped the ante by slashing Alexander Steen and going to the box. With 1:01 of a 5-on-3 in front of them, the Blues called timeout to get organized. No dice.
The two-man advantage expired after one shot on goal and the Blues were unable to take advantage of the elongated power play. At that point, they were 0 for their last 18 power plays.
As often happens in such circumstances, the impotence came back to bite. Moments after the penalties evaporated, the Jets caught the Blues flat-footed. After a poor clearing attempt, Blake Wheeler led Scheifele as he zipped around Blues defenders. He beat Elliott on the backhand for his second goal of the game and 13th of the season.
The scored was tied 2-2 with 9:38 to play in the second, and remained in a knot heading into the final period.
But it took only 34 seconds of the third to get it back. Patrik Berglund won a faceoff back to defenseman Barret Jackman, who threw a shot at the Jets' net. Montoya made the save, but left a rebound for Schwartz, who knocked in his 19th goal of the season and third in four games.
Playing in his 700th game as a member of the Blues, Jackman picked up his 165th point with the assist and the Blues led 3-2.
But the Blues gave up the lead again and gave up a second Winnipeg power-play goal. With Steen off for hooking, and with Elliott jostling with a Jet in front of the net, Dustin Byfuglien blasted a shot that trickled in off Elliott and tied the score 3-3 with 6:17 to play. Elliott protested about interference, but to deaf ears. It was the seventh time on the four-game homestand the Blues gave up a lead.
With 2:02 left on the clock, adding insult to overtime, the Blues got one more power-play chance as Wheeler slashed Roy. You know what they say, if at first you don't succeed, try 19 times again. Again, the Blues couldn't connect. They went to overtime for the fourth consecutive game.
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