Physical, determined Blues too much for Red Wings
The Red Wings don’t have anything to play for at this point in the season, haven’t for quite a while.
The St. Louis Blues do have something to play for in these remaining games: to sustain a good playoff position, to head into the postseason on a winning note.
That urgency the Blues had, plus the talent disparity between the teams right now, carried St. Louis on Thursday to a 5-2 victory.
Thomas Vanek scored early in the game to put the Wings in front. But from there, the Blues were the better team, way more physical than the Wings, using their size, and capitalizing with their greater offensive depth.
Blues forward Ivan Barbashev scored two goals in the second period, breaking a 1-1 tie, before Vanek cut the lead to 3-2. But Blues forward Patrick Maroon scored less than two minutes later to give St. Louis back its two-goal lead, and Barbashev scored into an empty net, his 12th goal and third Thursday, with 48 seconds left.
The Wings (26-38-10) saw their modest two-game winning streak end, while the Blues (39-27-8) moved three points within second place in the Central Division.
► Detroit's goals: Vanek opened the scoring early in the first period (2:05). Taro Hirose got the puck through on a shot, got his own rebound on net, and Vanek shoveled the puck past goalie Jordan Binnington for his 15th goal. Vanek added his 16th, and second of the night, in the third period on a shot from the circle with Tyler Bertuzzi causing havoc in Binnington's crease.
► The goalie matchup: Blues goalie Jordan Binnington has played a major role in his team’s turnaround. Binnington won his 19th game in 24 decisions (19-4-1), making 20 saves and shaking off Vanek’s early goal. The Wings’ Jonathan Bernier (19 saves) won Saturday’s start against the New York Islanders with one of his best outings of the season, but it didn’t carry over.
► Hot Hirose: The undrafted free agent from Michigan State earned his second point in two games — both assists — getting the primary helper on Vanek’s goal. Hirose played just under 16 minutes, had an assist, two shots, and was minus-1.
► Vanek’s season: Vanek’s two goal gave him 16, and with only eight games left getting to 20 will not be easy. Vanek has reached at least 20 goals in 11 of his previous 13 seasons. With 36 points (20 assists) in 63 games, Vanek has provided the secondary scoring the Wings expected when they brought him back on a 1-year contract worth $3 million in the summer. Vanek’s offense, and equally important his veteran presence in the locker room, has been a nice addition.
► St. Louis’ goals: Oskar Sundqvist tied the game 1-1 with his 14th goal at 11:46 of the first period. Sundqvist found open ice near the hashmarks, receiving a pass from Michael Del Zotto from the corner. Sundqvist buried the shot past Bernier. Ivan Barbashev made it 2-1 St. Louis at 3:22 of the second, converting a rebound after the Blues’ fourth line pressured. Barbashev extended the lead to 3-1, out-muscling both Michael Rasmussen and Anthony Mantha while going to the net and again putting in a rebound. Maroon made it 4-2 with his ninth goal at 10:19 of the third period, converting a smart skate pass from Robert Thomas to Maroon alone at the post. Barbashev completed his hat trick with an empty-net goal.
► De la Rose update: Forward Jacob de la Rose, who left Tuesday's game against the New York Rangers because of an accelerated heartbeat, saw a specialist Thursday, coach Jeff Blashill told Fox Sports Detroit, and will see another one Wednesday to determine the cause. de la Rose had a similar issue during training camp this season when he played for Montreal.
► Who is in, out: Both undrafted college free agents, Hirose and Ryan Kuffner, were in the lineup, as Justin Abdelkader (leg, out for season) and Jacob de la Rose (heart condition) were unavailable. On defense, Mike Green (virus, out for season), Trevor Daley (back, out for season) and Jonathan Ericsson (lower body, day-to-day) were unavailable.
► Battle for the worst: The Wings (62 points) stayed six points above Ottawa (56) for the NHL’s worst record and four points ahead of Los Angeles (58), both of whom played later in the evening. New Jersey (63) lost to Boston, staying a point ahead of the Wings.
► Next: The Wings travel to Las Vegas for a game Saturday against the Golden Knights (10 p.m./FSD,97.1 FM).