ST. LOUIS – Andy McDonald was the St. Louis Blues’ leading scorer when he was sidelined by a concussion in early December. His return sparked an offence that had been struggling.
The speedy forward emerged from a 24-game absence with an assist and played more than 18 minutes, sparking a top line that scored twice in a 5-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night. The Blues totalled six goals the previous three games, all losses.
“I thought Andy had a real solid night for the first game back,” coach Davis Payne said. “It’s not easy to do, to jump back and play at that level.”
T.J. Oshie scored his second goal in six games back from a broken ankle and Ty Conklin made 28 saves subbing for Jaroslav Halak. The No. 1 goalie is day-to-day with an upper-body injury sustained in the Tuesday morning skate before that night’s game against Colorado was postponed by a winter storm.
Payne said Halak’s injury wasn’t serious, but wouldn’t provide any details.
“He tried to work through it, tried to get himself ready to go today, and wasn’t able to,” Payne said.
Alex Steen had two assists in the Blues’ first game in nine days due to the all-star break and Tuesday’s postponement. They’re trying to move past a 2-8-2 January that dropped them to 13th in the Western Conference.
“We’ve put ourselves in a spot where we have to focus game by game and not look too far ahead,” Steen said. “At the end of the day whatever happens in the league is not in our hands. We got the W and we move forward.”
Andrew Cogliano had two assists for the Oilers, who’ve lost 17 of their last 20. Edmonton rallied from three goals down on scores from Taylor Hall and Theo Peckham late in the second period before the Blues answered on Brad Winchester’s goal off a rebound early in the third.
“It was a weird game,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “It just seemed like every chance the puck could go in the net for them it seemed to find a way in.”
McDonald was injured near the end of an overtime loss at Edmonton on Dec. 4, crashing into Shawn Horcoff after getting his skate stuck in a rut. At the time, McDonald was the Blues’ leading scorer with 17 points.
“Having Andy in the mix helps us a ton,” said Brad Boyes, McDonald’s linemate. “He was moving, he was getting back into what he does, controlling the puck and making good plays. I think our line played in the offensive zone for the most part, and a couple goals, too.”
Though outshot 13-5 in the first period, the Blues got goals from Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo for a 2-1 lead. Matt D’Agostini scored on a power-play deflection, capitalizing on Jim Vandermeer’s double minor, and Boyes nudged the puck over the line after Erik Johnson’s shot deflected off Patrik Berglund to make it 4-1 at 13:46 of the second.
Boyes was a bit sheepish about scoring his 11th goal.
“It’s tough to see how fast it’s going in,” Boyes said. “I’ll take a little heat for it, par for the course, I guess,” Boyes said. “
Hall answered 50 seconds later with his 17th goal and third in five games, and Cogliano scooted across the slot and handcuffed Conklin to set up Peckham’s tip-in that cut it to 4-3 with 1:08 left in the second.
The Blues restored order in the third, outshooting Edmonton 13-9.
“I think with a young team that’s gone through some losing it can tend to be pretty fragile in those tight games,” said Oilers centre Sam Gagner, who scored a goal. “We’ve got to find a way to really push back.”
NOTES—Blues D Eric Brewer, the team captain, missed the game with his wife in labour. … Steen has two goals and six assists in the last five games. … The Blues have sold out all 27 home games. … The Oilers are 3-26-5 when trailing after two periods. … Conklin has won four of his last five starts against Edmonton. … Hall entered the game third in rookie scoring with 31 points.