ST. LOUIS – Brad Winchester doesn’t score much, so it’s understandable that he relishes offensive opportunities when he gets them.
Winchester, one of St. Louis’ big-bodied forwards who is called upon to play in front of the net, redirected a point shot into the net 5:15 into the third period to break a tie and give the Blues a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.
Winchester, who has 23 goals in 261 career games, scored his second in three games by deflecting Tyson Strachan’s shot from the point past Mike McKenna 5:15 into the third period. That extended St. Louis’ unbeaten streak in regulation at home to nine games (8-0-1).
“It was a great shot by (Strachan),” Winchester said. “Certainly that’s something I work on a lot in practice. It doesn’t even have to be on net, just in an area where you can get a stick on it. I was able to get the tip there, so it’s good.”
Jaroslav Halak stopped 35 shots after allowing a goal on the first shot he faced, Alex Pietrangelo and Eric Brewer also scored, and Matt D’Agostini had two assists for the Blues, who won their 12th in a row over an Eastern Conference opponent—including 7-0 this season.
“It was just a matter of finding a way,” Blues coach Davis Payne said. “We really didn’t have the jump that was necessary. We made some mental errors, we made some positional errors. There was lots of try, there was lots of intent, which is something we talked about at great length, but Jersey came in and had a lot of possession, had a lot of skills players that we had to expend energy defending.”
David Clarkson and Mattias Tedenby scored for the Devils, who dropped their third in a row. New Jersey (5-13-2) is only one point above the New York Islanders, who are last in the East. McKenna, a native of St. Louis who made his Devils debut after being recalled on Friday, made 24 saves in place of injured No. 1 goalie Martin Brodeur.
“We had some energy. I thought we came out strong,” Devils coach John MacLean said. “We played really hard. We had the opportunity to go up 3-1, but we couldn’t bury that third one. You get a bounce off the end boards and it’s 2-2.
“St. Louis is a team that works hard, competes the whole game. They found a way to win. We didn’t.”
The Devils outshot the Blues 37-27.
Clarkson gave the Devils a 1-0 lead just 26 seconds in with a wrister from the left circle that hit Halak’s glove and squirted in on the game’s first shot.
Halak shook that off and settled in to snap his four-game losing streak (0-3-1), dating to Nov. 6.
“After the first goal, I was trying to reset and trying to start over,” Halak said. “That’s not the start you want to have, but it was early in the game. You can’t let your teammates down.”
The Blues tied it at 9:22 on Pietrangelo’s first of the season and second of his NHL career. With the Blues on a power play, several players were in a pile in front of McKenna. Pietrangelo came in and swept in the loose puck with a backhander.
“It was kind of a scramble play sitting in front,” Pietrangelo said. “It was just sitting there right behind (McKenna). He was in his butterfly, and all their guys were kind of on a bad angle, so they didn’t see it sitting there. I heard the ref say it’s between the legs, so I just slid it in.”
The Devils regained the lead when Patrik Elias picked off Jay McClement’s errant pass and sent Tedenby in on a breakaway. Tedenby roofed a backhanded shot over Halak to make it 2-1 9:53 into the second.
But the Blues, outplayed through two periods and outshot 27-16, took advantage of a break and tied the game. Brewer’s shot from the blue line took a fortuitous bounce off the end boards, caromed back into the crease, and went in off McKenna’s backside with 1:02 to play in the period.
“I saw it come off the boards like a rocket and I couldn’t either get out of the way of it or control it,” McKenna said. “You know it’s frustrating. I don’t know if we could script something like that even in practice if we wanted to.”
Brewer, who scored his 58th goal in his 701st career game, said he’ll take it any way he can get it.
“They happen sometimes,” Brewer said. “We’ve had a few of them against us lately. The hockey gods are watching, I guess.”
After the Blues got the lead, they were in lockdown mode the rest of the way and fended off the Devils, who attacked most of the game.
“Efforts are there. Opportunities are there,” MacLean said, “but we need wins.”
NOTES: Brodeur had an MRI taken on his right elbow Friday which came back negative. Brodeur has a bruised elbow. He will rest for four or five days, and could be out for two weeks. … Elias skated in his 900th NHL game. … Blues C David Backes has a six-game point streak. LW Andy McDonald and C Patrik Berglund had five-game point streaks snapped. … McDonald, Backes and Brad Boyes have 21 points in the last five games, including two points against the Devils. … The Blues were without D Barret Jackman (knee), D Roman Polak (wrist), LW David Perron (concussion) and RW T.J. Oshie (broken ankle). … Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner (sore neck) missed his fourth straight game.