Late goals allow Blues to avoid loss against hapless Red Wings

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington stops a first-period shot against the Dallas Stars on May 5, 2019, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. (Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News/TNS)

The ending for the Blues was a happy one: David Perron scoring 1:28 into overtime to give the Blues a 5-4 win over the Red Wings. That goal was made possible by a power-play goal by Ryan O’Reilly with 4:38 to play in regulation that tied the game.

The road there was anything but.

A crisp first period that saw the Blues take a 2-0 lead just 7½ minutes in turned into a so-so second period and then a third period in which the Red Wings, losers of seven games in a row and a team that hadn’t scored more than two goals in any of those games, scored three times to take the lead and were poised to pull out a win over the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Blues showed resilience and resolve to pull it out, but something else let them get in that spot to begin with.

“That’s a massive two points,” said O’Reilly, who had his second four-point game of the season, with two goals and two assists. “It wasn’t by any means a perfect game by us. We have to do some things a lot better for sure. Having a two-goal lead, usually that’s something you close out. We found a way to win, and that’s huge; these are obviously very important points we need. We’re going to have to be better going down the stretch here.”

“It would have been a tough [loss],” captain Alex Pietrangelo said. “We knew what we did, we gave pretty much everything. Just find a way.”

It was the fourth time in 12 games this season that the Blues have let a two-goal lead slip away, though this is the first time they recovered to get the win. The Blues were paying the price for their emotional and hard-hitting game Saturday in Boston, which ended just 19 hours before the puck dropped at Little Caesars Arena. The team didn’t reach its hotel in Detroit until a little before 2 a.m.

“We just made it hard on ourselves,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “[Detroit] thrives on turnovers, we turned the puck over. It’s a quick turnaround for us, it’s not an easy game to play. Getting in really late, waking up and playing. Sometimes you just have to find a way to win and we did.”

All’s well that ends well, and for a while it did not look like this would end well for the Blues. They started the third period up 3-1, but had just lost Alexander Steen to a lower-body injury, and then saw the score become 3-2, 3-3 and then 4-3 the other direction. While that was happening, Detroit seemed to have an RV parked in the Blues’ end of the ice, outshooting them 16-5 in the period (it was 33-20 for the game) and just cycling and cycling the puck to their heart’s content, with the Blues only occasionally coming up for air.

The goal that put the Red Wings ahead, a shot by Tyler Bertuzzi immediately off a faceoff to Jordan Binnington’s left with 8:09 to play in the third, seemed inevitable with the pressure Detroit was putting on. But that goal finally snapped the Blues out of whatever malaise they had been in.

“With their speed, they kept coming at us and we just kind of sat back a bit,” O’Reilly said. “We thought it might be easier, or they were going to give it to us. We got away from the details and they made us pay. They have a lot of skill over there and you open it up like that, they possessed it and were shooting point-blank opportunities. Usually when we’re playing our right game, we don’t give those up.

“Once they get that goal, we know we have to go and you could see everyone’s mindset was, get the puck in. You see how much quicker you play and then you get opportunities and we get that power play, which is huge. It’s tough when you’re up a goal to keep that mindset but you have to find a way and it’s something you have to build on.”

“I was very disappointed, very frustrated on the bench that we let that go,” said Perron. “This was more self-inflicted.”

The gift that made it all possible was a too-many-men penalty on Detroit with 4:41 to play in the third. The Blues cranked it up from there and got even when O’Reilly drove the net and ended up beyond the goal line. He tried to reverse direction and stuff the puck in, but the puck went across the crease. O’Reilly went around the goal and got the puck on the other side. He gave it to Perron, who briefly had it, then gave it back to O’Reilly, who had the right angle for his second goal of the night.

“I was pretty upset when I missed the open net,” O’Reilly said, “and then came around and Perron, it’s an amazing play, everyone’s shifting over and the net’s open for a split second. He just holds on to it, sucks everyone across, I just try to get in a one-time position. He makes a beautiful play that gave us momentum.”

“I have a good look at the net,” Perron said, “and there are guys flying to block the shot. I feel he’s going to have a better look than me. Thankfully it went in. It’s one off those if it doesn’t go in, I don’t look good, so I’m glad it went in for him.”

O’Reilly had one goal, an empty-netter, coming into the game, and left with three. His linemate Perron, meanwhile, also had a four-point game, with three assists and his game-winning goal.

That one came after the Blues had taken possession of the puck and were working it around the Detroit end. Jaden Schwartz got off and Perron jumped on. Brayden Schenn, who scored his ninth goal of the season in the first period, got Perron the puck and he picked his spot and beat Jonathan Bernier.

“I played with Bernier in juniors and I don’t think I ever scored on him before,” Perron said. “So it was nice to get one by him. I saw a guy in the lane and I tried to use him. Shot it high blocker it went in, so it’s good.”

Disaster averted.

“We take the foot off the gas for a little bit and you see how they hemmed us in multiple times tonight and that’s a lesson for us for sure,” O’Reilly said. “In order to do well this season, we have to be consistent. We’re not going to be able to get away with one and a half good periods. It has to be 2, 2½ to have a chance to win.”

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©2019 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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