ST. LOUIS — To make everyone’s life easier in the 2020-21 NHL season, the league scheduled games in pairs last season, so a team would come to one city and play two games.
It was not a great thing for the Blues, who soon found that whatever success they had in the first game was negated by their lack of success in the second game. In five of their first six pairs of games, the Blues won the first, lost the second.
That is largely a thing of the past in the 2021-22 season, and it shows up just once on the Blues’ schedule, for their two games in St. Louis against the Kings this season. And after beating the Kings 7-3 on Saturday, the Blues could figure Monday would not go as easily.
“We know from last year when you do play teams on back to backs, usually the team that loses the first game is a little bit more hungry on the second game,” Blues forward Brayden Schenn said. “We're not going to expect like we're going to beat them like that again. They were on a back to back, they were probably a little bit tired and they got us maybe a little bit fresh and these games in the second game of two are always a little bit tough.”
It was tougher. After scoring 22 goals in their first four games, the Blues and Kings were tied at 0-0 going into the third period, where Vladimir Tarasenko put the Blues ahead 3:08 in on a nice slalom drive to the net and added a second on a breakaway with 4:29 to play as the Blues went on to a 3-0 win to become the first team in franchise history to start the season 5-0. David Perron added an empty-net goal with 1:15 to play.
Ville Husso got his first start of the season in goal as the Blues gave Jordan Binnington the night off after going the full 60 minutes in the first four games and posted his second NHL shutout, stopping 34 shots. Husso was plagued last season by giving up goals on one of the first three shots he faced in eight of his first 13 games, though none of his final four, which included a shutout in his last game of the season.
Husso was solid from the start on Monday, even if he didn’t face a shot on goal until midway through the first period. He stopped 10 shots during the Kings’ three power plays.
On the first goal, Tarasenko took a long diagonal cross-ice pass from Torey Krug and entered the Kings zone. He cut around defenseman Mikey Anderson, got in front of the other defenseman, Austin Strand, and, like a return address label, but it in the upper left corner of the net for his second goal of the season.
On the second, Ivan Barbashev grabbed an errant pass in the Blues’ end and flipped it ahead to Tarasenko just in front of the blueline, where he came in alone on Quick and went between the goalie’s legs for his third goal of the season.
The Blues did everything but score in the first period, outshooting the Kings 18-7, but not finding a way to get the puck past Jonathan Quick in the Kings goal. It was only the second time this season, after the first period against Vegas, that the Blues hadn’t scored.
The period got weird with 3:43 to go when a penalty was called on Blues forward Jake Neighbours. The 19-year-old complained to the referees on the way to the box and as he took a seat, the officiating crew gathered in front of the scorer’s table and discussed the matter, before one turned to Neighbours in the box and signaled that he could leave.
Referee Kendrick Nicholson then skated over to the Kings bench to tell coach Todd McLellan that the penalty was in fact on his skater, forward Vladimir Tkachev, who got two minutes for hooking.
It quickly got worse for the Kings. Off the faceoff, Kings defenseman got his right leg stuck between the legs of David Perron and when Perron fell, it brought his weight down on Walker’s leg and twisted his right knee to an angle it was not meant to go. Walker crumpled to the ground in pain and play was stopped. After some time on the ice, Walker was helped off the ice, with the Kings trainer cradling his knee, and left the game.
The Kings killed the penalty, though the Blues kept the pressure going for most of the rest of the period.
Neighbours had avoided his first NHL penalty in the first period but he couldn’t in the second, getting called for interference in front of the Blues’ net and the Blues killed the penalty, though the Kings had four shots on goal, and some good looks, in their first power play opportunity.
As much as the Blues dominated the first, it evened up in the second, with the Kings outshooting the Blues 12-3. Late in the period, for one of the few times in their offense-heavy first four games, Berube rearranged his lines, moving James Neal from the fourth line into Klim Kostin’s spot alongside Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron. Kostin, along with the rest of the fourth line, went unused for most of the second half of the second period and the third.©2021 STLtoday.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.