STOCKHOLM, Sweden – For the second straight game, a veteran stepped up and helped the St. Louis Blues rally past the Detroit Red Wings.
Keith Tkachuk had two power-play goals and an assist as the St. Louis overcame a two-goal deficit for the second straight night, beating the Red Wings 5-3 on Saturday to sweep the two-game series.
“Detroit is the best team in the Western Conference and to come over here and beat them twice is huge for us,” Tkachuk said. “Hopefully we can keep building. It’s a great learning experience for some of our young guys.”
“In both games, our goaltending really kept us in the game in the first period. They were on our heels a little bit in the first period in both games. It could have been over in the first.”
Tkachuk said he enjoyed the week in Sweden.
“I had a blast, it was a great experience,” he said. “It was a once in a lifetime thing. It was fun playing before a great crowd and see our own fans travelling all the way from St. Louis.”
St. Louis trailed 2-0 early in the game, then again 3-2 in the second period before blitzing Detroit with two goals 13 seconds apart later in the same period that gave the Blues a 4-3 edge and silenced the pro-Red Wing crowd.
The Blues won opener 4-3 on Friday behind Paul Kariya’s two power-play goals before another soldout crowd at the Ericsson Globe Arena in the Swedish capital.
“Our penalty killing wasn’t good tonight either,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We know we have to play better for 60 minutes than we’ve been doing here.”
The Blues’ win again spoiled the homecoming of the Swedes on the Detroit team.
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, a six-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman who hails from a city near Stockholm, had a disappointing outing and finished without points.
Andy McDonald, Brad Boyes and Patrik Berglund also scored for St. Louis.
Tomas Holmstrom and Niklas Kronwall, two of the Red Wings’ eight Swedes, and Daniel Cleary scored for Detroit.
With so many Swedes on the roster, Detroit is arguably the most popular NHL team in Sweden. There were red jerseys throughout the crowd at both games.
Detroit came out fast in the first period, taking a 2-0 lead just 2:08 in and opening the scoring after just seconds.
Holmstrom, parked in front of the goal, tipped in the first goal after being set up by fellow Swede Johan Franzen. Cleary made it 2-0 from close range.
Tkachuk made it 2-1 with 1:33 left in the period, just after the Red Wings had killed a two-man advantage by the Blues for nearly a minute.
McDonald tied it with a power-play goal at 3:47 in the second period, tapping in a backhand rebound past goalie Jimmy Howard.
Kronwall put Detroit ahead again with a shot from the right circle at 7:29.
Brad Boyes tied it 3-3 at 13:24, beating the goalie with a shot from a tough angle behind the pads. Then, just 13 seconds later, Howard gave up another goal exactly the same way after Berglund’s shot from the right circle.
Tkachuk scored midway through the final period, tipping in a shot from close range.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin received a standing ovation and the loudest cheers of the evening when he dropped the puck during a ceremonial faceoff before the game. The Stockholm native retired earlier this week after an NHL career that lasted nearly two decades.
This was the second straight year the NHL opened the season with a two-game series in the Swedish capital. Last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators split their series in the same arena.
The NHL returned to Europe this weekend for the second straight year with regular-season openers in Stockholm. The Chicago Blackhawks and the Florida Panthers played a similar doubleheader in Helsinki – the first regular-season games ever in Finland.