ST. LOUIS — The Blues got to the end of a challenging stretch of their schedule on Saturday, one made even more challenging by a rash of COVID-19 cases and some significant offensive struggles.
The Blues played 12 games over the course of three weeks, and Sunday and Monday will mark the first time they’ve had consecutive days off since Nov. 5 and 6, when they were 6-1-1. The Blues had gone 3-6-2 in the meantime, and after looking decidedly lethargic after the first period on Friday in Chicago, they somehow managed on Saturday to bring all sorts of energy into their game with Columbus.
Backed by a second period that saw the Blues outshoot Columbus 17-8, outscore it 3-0 and pretty much limit the Blue Jackets to nothing over the first 12 minutes, the Blues snapped their two-game losing streak with a 6-3 win before a sellout crowd at Enterprise Center. It was their biggest offensive night since the Blues scored seven goals in the fourth game of the season, against Los Angeles.
The Blues still haven’t won consecutive games since their five-game run to start the season — and their next two games are against two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay, so the tough sledding is about to continue, just with more rest — but, once again, it’s a start.
The Blues would be nowhere without their Russians right now, who combined for four goals on Saturday night.
The Blues got their first goal from Pavel Buchnevich, who tipped in a pass from Vladimir Tarasenko, and their second from Ivan Barbashev. And the Blues were down a Russian on Saturday, with Klim Kostin missing his second straight game because of an upper body injury.
Buchnevich added a second goal in the third period, again with an assist from Tarasenko and Barbashev added a second as well. The Blues have six of their past eight goals and seven of their past 10 from Russians, with Buchnevich having scored in three consecutive games. Tarasenko didn’t score but assisted on three of the six goals.
Ville Husso, getting the start in goal, stopped 23 of 26 shots to improve his record to 3-1.
The Blues were down three forwards on Saturday, with David Perron and James Neal also out. Neal was put on long-term injured reserve Saturday, and will be out for another three weeks, while Perron and Kostin are day to day. Dakota Joshua was back from the AHL, but the Blues still had only 11 healthy forwards in the game.
The Blues fell behind 1-0 on a power-play goal by Boone Jenner, who deflected in a shot by Zach Werenski with 7:22 to go in the first period.
Once the second period began, it was all Blues. Fifty-eight seconds in, Buchnevich tipped in a pass from Tarasenko for his seventh goal of the season and his first one at Enterprise Center. It was also the third straight game where Buchnevich had the first goal of the game for the Blues.
Fifty-eight seconds after that, the Blues were ahead. Brandon Saad took a shot that was blocked by Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo, but he couldn’t find the rebound and Barbashev raced to poke the rebound in. It was the second straight game with a goal for Barbashev, and his sixth for the season, exceeding his total for each of the previous two shortened seasons. (His career high is 14 in the Stanley Cup season.)
It took a bit longer for the Blues to get the elusive third goal which for them is often the difference between winning and losing. But they didn’t lack for opportunities, basically spending the entire period in the Columbus end. They finally got the goal with 2:49 to go in the period.
Ryan O’Reilly won a faceoff, getting the puck back himself and starting a two-on-one break with Jordan Kyrou. Kyrou took the puck, sped to the net, finally slamming on the brakes, cutting to his right and slipping the puck under Korpisalo’s pad for his ninth goal of the season.
Columbus cut the lead to 3-2 with a power-play goal early in the third, but the Blues then did something they’ve seldom done — added to their lead. Robert Thomas kept a puck in the Columbus zone and eventually worked a cross-ice pass to Justin Faulk, who drilled it into the top right corner for his fourth goal.
Buchnevich got his second with 9:30 to go in the third. Tarasenko kept the puck in the zone, Buchnevich passed to Thomas, who passed back to Buchnevich, who was able to stick in the bottom corner before Korpisalo could recover.
Barbashev then scored on a breakaway with 7:20 to play and Columbus got its final goal from Adam Boqvist with 2:14 to play. It was the second goal of the game for Boqvist.©2021 STLtoday.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.