ST. LOUIS – Some of Erik Johnson’s best hockey this season came right before the defenceman scored an overtime winner for the St. Louis Blues.
Facing Sidney Crosby and the talented Pittsburgh Penguins certainly brought out the best in Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick in 2006.
Johnson scored 50 seconds into overtime, Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves and the Blues beat the Penguins 1-0 on Saturday night for their 10th straight home victory. In nine of those wins, the Blues have held the opposition to two goals or fewer.
Johnson scored his first goal of the season and it came after T.J. Oshie stripped the Penguins’ Paul Martin of the puck in the corner. Oshie fed Johnson in the slot and the defenceman beat goalie Brent Johnson.
“I kind of found my stride offensively in the zone and it’s just hopefully a springboard for me and the team,” Erik Johnson said. “Hopefully we can put a streak here together and hopefully I can continue to contribute. It feels good to get the monkey off my back.
“I just cycled down the wall and went to the net, called for it from Oshie. He made a great play right on my tape and I just tried to get it through the defender (Kris Letang) there and it found its way through Brent Johnson. It was a great hockey play by Oshie.”
Brent Johnson stopped 23 shots for the Penguins. He lost for the first time in five games this season. He said the overtime goal happened so fast, it was tough to react to.
“It was just one of those plays that the forechecking just pinned us down in our zone for a little while,” said Johnson. “I think they just moved it down to the guy coming from the top. I went out to challenge and I think it hit our (defenceman) and it went through my legs.”
The Blues are 4-0 at home this season after winning their final six last season. St. Louis, after beating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 Friday night, won on consecutive nights against the last two Stanley Cup champions.
“We’re not a team that’s going to be all hyped up because we beat two of the better teams in the league,” Blues defenceman Barret Jackman said. “We have to take the approach with every team that we play that we’re just as good or better. If the opposition wants to think of us as the underdog, that’s good for us. We’ll go through the whole year being the underdog and keep improving ourselves.”
The Blues had the best chance in the first period, but Brad Boyes couldn’t convert on the doorstep with a bouncing puck. Jay McClement also missed a chance to scored in the second period when he rushed in along the right side on a short-handed breakaway. McClement’s wrister sailed high over the net with 4:32 left in the period, in which the Penguins outshot the Blues 19-7.
“In the second, I thought we outplayed them and generated a lot of chances,” Crosby said. “In the third, it was kind of 50-50. Both teams had their fair share of chances. Unfortunately for us, they got the winner in overtime.”
Crosby had a chance in the third period on the Penguins’ fourth power play, but his snap shot from the right circle popped off the outside of the goal post with 9:34 left.
Other than the shot off the post, Halak was there to frustrate the Penguins once again.
“You still need to be aware of their guys because they got skill guys and they can score any time when they get a chance,” said Halak, who improved to 4-1-1 on the season. “It’s been fun so far, but we’ve got plenty of games left to keep on the same pace.”
NOTES: The Blues are one of five teams Crosby hasn’t scored against in his career. … The last time Halak faced the Penguins, it was with the Montreal Canadiens, who upset Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season. … The Penguins were without D Zbynek Michalek (shoulder), C Jordan Staal (foot infection) and RW Aaron Asham (shoulder). D Brooks Orpik (groin strain) returned after missing six games. … Blues D Roman Polak didn’t return after sustaining a right arm injury in the second period. … Brent Johnson began his career with the Blues in 1998, playing parts of five seasons.