No offence, but it would be hard to imagine the St. Louis Blues playing a more complete hockey game this season. They shut down the highest scoring team in the NHL while controlling the neutral zone, defeating the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 at the Enterprise Center.
The Canucks scored on their first shot on goal: Conor Garland at 1:57 with a slapper from the high slot. He was all alone on a below-the-goal-line feed from Teddy Blueger and went blocker side on Jordan Binnington.
It was a wide open period, probably more wide open than Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet would have preferred, especially considering the Blues had twice as many legitimate scoring chances and dominated the face-off circle. All-Star Blues forward Robert Thomas — the All-Star team announcements came earlier Thursday — won five of six draws.
The shots piled up, 11-9 in favour of St. Louis through 20-minutes. Vancouver did manage to kill off St. Louis’s one power play opportunity, the only infraction of the period being a holding call against Nils Aman.
St. Louis came out with some pep in its step, adding six more shots in the first five minutes and tying the score 1-1 at the 4:22 mark. Big defenceman Colton Parayko delivered the perfect wrist shot, off the post and in on the blocker side of Thatcher Demko.
Shortly after, Blues forward Pavel Buchnevich fought his way around All-Star defenceman Quinn Hughes and rang a wrister off the cross bar. Unfortunately for the lanky Russian, he clipped “Huggy” in the head during the power move and went to the box for high sticking. The goal wouldn’t have counted had it gone in.
The Canucks failed to click on the man advantage, as did the Blues on their second opportunity of the evening later in the period.
The best scoring chance came with about four minutes remaining when Blueger stole a puck on a solo forecheck in front of the net, but failed on his deke move while trying to go five-hole on Binnington.
The Blues forecheck played havoc on the Canucks over the final two minutes of the period with a diligent cycle game, but they didn’t manage a scoring chance.
1-1 after two periods with the shots 21-16 in favour of the Blues.
Canucks leading goal scorer Brock Boeser had a glorious chance point blank about three minutes into the period and missed. Nils Höglander had a similar opportunity two minutes later and did the same thing. Binnington looked like he got a piece.
The Blues took the 2-1 lead off some sustained pressure with Buchnevich finding Thomas curling through the slot. After receiving the pass, Thomas smoked a shot high-blocker on Demko.
The Blues played conscientious hockey the rest of the way, backtracking effectively and making it tough on Vancouver through the neutral zone.
Tocchet pulled Demko for the extra attacker with 3:17 remaining in the period. Vancouver finally gained some offensive zone time with 100-seconds left. After an icing infraction, the Canucks called time out with 53-seconds remaining.
They didn’t come close, other than a Hughes point wrister that deflected wide through traffic.
Shots on goal ended up 32-26 in favour of the Blues. Power Plays: Vancouver 0-for-1, St. Louis 0-for-2.
Canucks 3 Stars:
1) Thatcher Demko – Gave up two blocker side goals from point black range. Made 30 saves.
2) Conor Garland – The energizer bunny scored Vancouver’s lone goal and had two shots on goal.
3) Dakota Joshua – An assist, four hits, and sound, physical defensive play in his own zone.
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