On Nov. 10, the St. Louis Blues were riding an extreme high.
Winners of seven straight and sitting atop most websites' power rankings, the Blues embarked on a journey to Columbus to try and extend their winning streak. What followed that night was the start of a nightmare that this team has only partially awakened from.
The Blue Jackets shelled the Blues 8-1, knocked TJ Oshie out for three months with a broken ankle and broke Jaroslav Halak's confidence. A five-game losing streak ensued, with St. Louis giving up 21 goals during that streak.
Fast forward to Dec. 9 and the much-anticipated next game between these two clubs.
Despite the outburst of goals by Columbus in that November game, the Jackets haven't fared any better than the Blues in the last month. Coming into this game the Blues trail Columbus by only one point in the very tight Central Division.
Right from the drop of the puck St. Louis came out flying. Patrik Berglund drew a minor tripping penalty 38 seconds into the first and it didn't take long for the Blues to capitalize.
Alex Steen netted the first of three power-play goals on the night after taking a feed from Carlo Colaiacovo, who had made a desperate attempt to hold the zone. Steen was left with a 2-on-1 advantage and beat Columbus goalie Mathieu Garon to the short side.
St. Louis took advantage of another Columbus mistake late in the first when Erik Johnson fed Jay McClement in front of the net on another Blues power play. Columbus took a too many men on the ice penalty and, after some great puck cycling, Johnson fed McClement from behind the net for his first goal in 17 games.
Johnson also assisted on Vladimir Sobotka's power-play goal in the second with a nifty slap pass from the point. Sobotka was parked in front of Garon and took the low pass from Johnson and deflected it to the upper corner of the net. It was Sobotka's first goal in front of the home crowd.
Halak made many a nifty save to preserve the victory, including stoning Jakob Voracek on the doorstep with a post-to-post pad save.
Halak also prevented Derick Brassard from closing the gap mid-way through the third on a clear cut breakaway. Brassard tried to beat the Blues net minder low to the blocker side, but Halak said no way and solidified the win.
Jan Hejda broke the shut out bid, though, on a broken play seven minutes into the third period. Rick Nash danced into the zone, pulling three defenders with him before losing the puck. Hedja swept into his wake, picked up the puck and fired it past Halak for the only blemish on his record.
The second period was marred with multiple penalties on St. Louis, which led to three 5-on-3s for Columbus, totaling two minutes and 28 seconds. The Blues successfully killed all eight power plays and the last 14, overall.
With the power play clicking with three power play goals, the penalty kill not allowing a goal and Halak finding his game again, this was a solid team win. It may not have been the beat down fans wanted to deliver, but it was a solid win against a team who will be fighting for a playoff spot right along side the Blues.
Up next will be a chance for the Blues to continue their dominance of the Eastern Conference against a surprisingly good Carolina team on Saturday night. Columbus heads back home looking to bounce back against the Rangers on Saturday night.
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