Knights fall to Blues 3-1 in St. Louis

Golden Knights

St. Louis Blues’ Kyle Clifford, left, and Vegas Golden Knights’ Ryan Reaves (75) fight during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jordan Binnington made a season-high 50 saves to help the St. Louis Blues snap a seven-game skid a 3-1 win Wednesday night against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Vladimir Tarasenko, Sammy Blais, and Jake Walman scored to help St. Louis end an 0-6-1 stretch. It also gave the Blues their first home victory since an overtime win Feb. 18 against San Jose.

“That was an embarrassing time losing so many games in a row,” Tarasenko said. “We’ve got many games against some tough opponents right now. Obviously we’re fighting for the playoffs but our goal is to go on a winning streak so there’s no need to talk a lot about this game.”

The 50 saves bettering the 42 Binnington had at Vegas on Jan. 24 in the Blues’ 5-4 overtime win.

“I didn’t know that actually until I got in here,” Binnington said about his workload. “We competed and did a job keeping them to the outside and clearing out rebounds.”

Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves while losing his third straight start.

“You can’t really spot them two goals early,” Vegas center Mark Stone said. “We blew them out in their building on Monday. It’s naive for us to think they’re not going to come out and give us their best game.

Tarasenko scored his third goal of the season 48 seconds into the contest to give St. Louis an early lead.

“It’s nice to score at the start of the game,” Tarasenko said. “I had a big break without hockey and am still trying to get my timing back.”

Blais scored 7:21 into the first when he roofed a feed from David Perron over Fleury’s glove for his fourth goal of the season to make it 2-0. Blais had been a healthy scratch for St. Louis’ previous three contests.

Walman scored his first NHL goal to add some insurance with 6:27 remaining in regulation to make it 3-0.

“I kind of blacked out a little bit but it was a great play by our forwards to get the puck deep in the zone,” Walman said. “Kyrou made a good pass off the pad I guess and it came right to me and I was fortunate enough to put it in the net.”

Nicoals Roy spoiled Binnington’s bid for his ninth career shutout when he scored his second goal of the season with 4:16 to go.

“It’s the time of year where you’ve got to have different guys contribute every night,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. “We got a fourth line goal tonight which was big. We knew St. Louis was going to be really good.”

Notes: Kyle Clifford and Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves midway through the first period. It was Clifford’s team-leading fourth fight of the season. … Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was a healthy scratch for the first time this season and forward Mike Hoffman was a healthy scratch for the second time in five games. … Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson returned to the lineup after missing Vegas’ last three games with an upper body injury. Defenseman Alec Martinez was a late scratch and did not take the ice for warmups after scoring two goals Monday night. Vegas played one skater, short dressing 12 forwards and five defensemen. “It’s always tough missing a guy like that,” Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore said. “I think at the end of the day it’s more opportunity for ice time I guess. I think the back end we each have to step up when we have a guy like that out.” … On Friday night, the Golden Knights host Arizona and the Blues host Minnesota.

This post will be updated throughout the game

PRE GAME: Knights Chandler Stephenson back following three-game suspension for elbowing. Marc-Andre Fleury in net tonight going for career win 484 to tie Ed Belfour for 4th all-time.

FIRST PERIOD: Blues Vladimir Tarasenko (3) (Wrist shot), assist Vince Dunn (8). BLUES 1, KNIGHTS 0 early in period.

Blues goal Sammy Blais (4) (Wrist shot), assists: David Perron (25), Torey Krug (19). BLUES 2, KNIGHTS 0, midway through period. Shots on goal: Blues 14, Knights 10.

SECOND PERIOD: No goals scored. Shots on goal: Knights 24, Blues 20.

THIRD PERIOD: Blues goal Jake Walman (1) (Snap shot), Assist: Jordan Kyrou (15). BLUES 3, KNIGHTS 0.

Knights goal Nicolas Roy (2) (Wrist shot), Assists: William Carrier (6) and Ryan Reaves (3). BLUES 3, KNIGHTS 1. late in third

FINAL: BLUES 3, KNIGHTS 1, Shots on goal: Knights 46, Blues 35.

Craig Berube stood back and watched his St. Louis Blues practice battle drills so he could see how players handled the situation amid a seven-game losing streak.

Anyone looking in from the outside can spy a team in deep trouble.

Berube’s Blues have lost 12 of their last 14 games and are running out of time to salvage their season and make the playoffs. Less than two years since going on an improbable run to win the Stanley Cup, St. Louis has a brutal schedule down the stretch and faces an uphill climb to even qualify for the NHL postseason.

“We’re in a hole right now and we’ve got to scratch and claw our way out of it,” Berube said Tuesday. “I know this group cares, and things aren’t going well right now. But to get out of it, you’ve got to keep believing and keep working and keep competing and stick together. That’s the only way you get out of it.”

The Blues woke up March 6 second in the West Division before this freefall started and now sit five points back of the final playoff spot with 18 games to go. That’s not an impossible margin to erase, but 14 of the final 18 games are against one of the top three in the West: Vegas, Colorado or Arizona.

“We’ve got tough games and great opportunities, and obviously the teams we’re playing throughout the end of the year here are the teams we’re going to have to get through to reach our goal,” center Tyler Bozak said. “It’s going to be fun. We all love playing meaningful games, and obviously these ones mean a lot.”

They’ve meant a lot for some time, and the Blues have squandered plenty of chances already. They’ve been outscored 25-8 during the seven-game skid, evidence that they can’t get a goal or a stop when they need it.

Injuries have hamstrung the Blues, from playing without top defenseman Colton Parayko since mid-February to losing grinding forward Oskar Sundqvist and depth defenseman Carl Gunnarsson to a season-ending knee injuries. But Berube still expects the leadership group and core players to lead the way out of this slump.

“That’s what those guys get paid to do is score goals and to do the right things on a nightly basis,” he said. “We’re not getting that, so it’s tough to win. It’s the same thing when I talk about the goaltending. You need saves, and we’re not getting enough of them.”

That falls on goaltender Jordan Binnington, who came out of nowhere to win the Cup in 2019 and was an All-Star last season. Binnington ranks 39th in the league with a 2.77 goals-against average and 43rd with a .904 save percentage.

Asked what he needed to do better, Binnington said: “Just make a couple more saves. Same approach: Prepare the best way you can and focus and give the team a chance to win.” Berube wants to see Binnington’s — and the whole team’s — swagger back, but the 27-year-old doesn’t think he ever lost it.

“I always have swagger,” Binnington said. “Sometimes I just do my job and make the saves I’m supposed to make, sometimes you do more and you want to win those games 1-0, 2-0. I always want to play hard and have fun doing it.”

It’s not much fun for the Blues right now and won’t get any better if they don’t find their game quickly. Some of the cast has changed, including captain Alex Pietrangelo leaving for Vegas in free agency, but this is a similar roster to the one that won the Cup, so there’s belief inside the locker room that not all is lost.

“We have such a great group in there, and if there’s a group that’s going to turn it around, this is the group to do it,” Parayko said. “We’re sticking together. We’re going to make progress. We’re going to push. … I have no doubt this is the group to turn it around.”

PLAYOFF RACES

The Blues aren’t the only team trying to make up ground with a month to go. The Philadelphia Flyers are outside the playoff picture in the East, the Western Conference-champion Dallas Stars in the Central and the Calgary Flames in the North.

Philadelphia has another game against fourth-place Boston on Saturday to try to close the gap, Dallas gets four games against last-place Detroit in mid-April and Calgary is treating every game like it’s already the playoffs.

“We’ve got to find a way to find a better game and put some wins together,” forward Mikael Backlund said. The Flames have lost four in a row and eight of nine.

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