VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)—The St. Louis Blues have found lots of different ways to lose games this season. On Friday night, they discovered an unconventional way to win one.
“Unfortunately over the course of the first half of the year we d find a way to do something to lose a game,” said Keith Tkachuk, who set up Brandon Crombeen’s goal on a 2-on-1 rush 21 seconds later to seal a wild win. “It was nice to battle and get a much-needed two points. We didn’t quit.”
With Sundin in the penalty box for breaking a stick with a slash in his first home game, Boyes’ one-timer from the left faceoff circle was going wide before hitting defenseman Alex Edler and deflecting past a helpless Jason LaBarbera.
It was the second time the Blues had taken a late lead.
“We went through a stretch where it seemed no matter what we did we couldn’t buy a win,” said David Backes, who scored in the first period and assisted on Oshie’s goal in the third. “Now we’re finding ways to close teams out in third periods and that’s a characteristic of a winning team.”
It was a rough ending to an unspectacular home debut for Sundin, who played his first game as a Canuck in Edmonton on Wednesday night. Sundin remained without a point or shot while playing 13:51, and also was on the ice for Oshie’s goal in addition to the late penalty for slashing Tyson Strachan’s stick in half.
“It was a battle for a puck,” said Sundin, who signed with Vancouver as a free agent on Dec. 18. “That’s the rule, when the stick breaks it’s a penalty so there’s not much to say.”
Patrick Berglund and Alex Steen scored less than a minute apart late in the second period to give the Blues, playing after a rare five-day break, a 3-2 lead. But Willie Mitchell tied it with his second goal of the game 27 seconds into the third, beating Manny Legace with a shot through traffic.
“We could have easily folded our tent,” said Legace, who made 18 saves.
Instead the injury-riddled Blues, who are dead last in the Western Conference, retook the lead two more times en route their first road win since Nov. 30
“A lot of times this year we haven’t answered the bell and gone away and let teams trounce us so it’s sign of guys learning and the character of this team developing,” Backes said. “We need that every night to climb the standings.”
Mitchell, a stay-at-home defenseman, added an assist for the first two-goal and three-point games of his eight-year NHL career. Jannik Hansen also scored and LaBarbera made 30 saves, but lost for the first time in five straight starts (2-1-2) since being acquired from Los Angeles for a draft pick Dec. 30.
“Our compete level compared to theirs was not good enough, without a doubt,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “I don’t know for what reason. Most of the time—95 percent of the time—what I can say about this group is our compete level is very high. Tonight we got outcompeted in all areas.”
Sundin agreed, saying it “looked like they skated better than we did,” but at the same time insisting he feels good physically after nine months away.
“There’s still a lot of work to do in terms of timing,” said Sundin, who started on a second line with Kyle Wellwood and Mason Raymond, but worked the top power play with Daniel and Henrik Sedin and finished the game alongside Raymond and Pavol Demitra. Sundin ended up minus-1, but won eight of 13 faceoffs.
“There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs,” said the 37-year-old Sundin. “I have no idea (how long it’s going to take). This is just my second game. It was pretty similar (to the first game— in terms of my legs and hands.”
With St. Louis down 2-1 after Mitchell scored with 18.3 seconds left in the first period, Berglund tied it with 2 minutes left in the second, firing a 2-on-1 shot over LaBarbera’s glove for his 13th goal, tying him for the rookie lead. LaBarbera stopped a 3-on-1 on the next shift, but Steen got behind the defense and tipped Tkachuk’s centering pass through his legs 59 seconds later.
Canucks star G Roberto Luongo, out since Nov. 22 with a groin injury, could return as early as next week, meaning he might yet play in the All-Star game in his hometown of Montreal in late January after being selected by the NHL earlier this week. … Vancouver C Ryan Johnson returned against his old team after missing 20 games with a broken finger and foot. … Mitchell already has 14 points in 43 games, matching his previous single-season high.