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Perfect 10: Blues equal team record for longest win streak by posting third straight shutout

Perfect 10: Blues equal team record for longest win streak by posting third straight shutout

Blues post 3rd straight shutout, beat Wild for 10th straight

St. Louis Blues' Ryan O'Reilly (90) congratulates teammate Vladimir Tarasenko (91), of Russia on scoring a goal against the Minnesota Wild during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)

ST. PAUL, Minn. • In light of recent events, these questions must be asked.

Will the Blues ever give up another goal? It’s now three straight shutouts and 187 minutes, 16 seconds of goal-free hockey by their defense. That’s the third-longest streak in franchise history.

Will the Blues ever trail again in a game? They haven’t since the third period against Florida on Feb. 5, eight games ago.

And will the Blues ever lose again? Sunday’s 4-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center made it 10 consecutive wins, matching the franchise record set by the 2001-02 squad of Pavol Demitra, Keith Tkachuk, Chris Pronger, Al MacInnis ... and current Blues assistant coach Mike Van Ryn.

The answer to the above? Of course.

But right now the Blues simply are playing at a higher level than everyone else. During the 10-game winning streak they have outscored the opposition 40-14.

“It’s all good stuff,” said interim coach Craig Berube, who tosses superlatives around as if they were sewer lids. “Players are doing a great job. They’re going out and executing and playing hard, doing the right things.”

OK, fine. But 10 in a row? In the parity-driven NHL?

“I’ve never really been on a streak like this too often in any league where you can pull this many together,” defenseman Vince Dunn said. “It’s pretty unbelievable. Especially with three shutouts. It’s an incredible feeling for us in the room.”

Speaking of those shutouts, the Blues haven’t strung together three consecutive shutouts since the 2015-16 season, when they actually posted four in a row from March 19 through March 26. Brian Elliott was in goal for the first of those three shutouts; Jake Allen got the fourth.

This time around, after Allen stopped 32 shots in Saturday’s 3-0 victory in Colorado, Binnington stopped 31 Wild shots Sunday. (Binnington got the shutout streak going in Thursday’s 4-0 triumph in Arizona.)

So it has been some defensive turnaround since the first month or two of the season.

“The defense is doing a great job,” Berube said. “The big guys are getting in the way, and good sticks. The forwards are coming back and doing a good job. And the goalies are stopping pucks. It’s everybody on the ice. It’s not just one or two players. It’s everybody buying in to do a good job.”

Despite all those good deeds, the Blues made it tough on Binnington to preserve the shutout in the third period, getting whistled for three penalties. In addition, the period began with an additional penalty spilling over from late in the second period.

“Obviously, (Minnesota) had a couple penalties in the second, so we knew there was probably gonna be some calls (against us),” Binnington said. “We handled it well, we battled, and I think we helped our PK numbers a little bit.”

It may have been a case of the Blues getting a little sloppy down the stretch, with a 4-0 lead after two periods. Or a little bit of the referees trying to even things up after giving the Blues all kinds of power play time in the second period, including 2 minutes, 42 seconds of 5-on-3.

It was Robby Fabbri who made one of the afternoon’s biggest saves early in the third period when Charlie Coyle had Binnington beaten with a wraparound move. But at the last instant, there was Fabbri to get his stick down and prevent Coyle from jamming the puck into the open side of the net.

Suffice it to say Binnington was grateful for Fabbri’s hustle.

“I went and gave him a little tap,” Binnington said. “It’s all love between us.”

It’s all love, all right, and sunshine and roses for the Blues these days.

At 31-22-5, the Blues are firmly ensconced in third place in the Central Division. “Separation Weekend” was a total success as the Blues swept games against three teams chasing them in the Western Conference. Arizona and Colorado now sit 10 points back of St. Louis; Minnesota (27-26-6) is now seven points back.

“I think we had real high expectations at the beginning (of the season) and it took us a while,” Ryan O’Reilly said. “It was frustrating, but we stuck with it and kept fighting for wins and staying in the hunt.

“We found our game and it’s been good. ... We’re still not satisfied. We want to keep climbing.”

The one area that had struggled during the hot streak was the power play. They were just two for 21 on the power play during the winning streak entering Sunday’s contest, falling to 19th in the NHL on the season at 18.2 percent.

But that changed in the first period. With Minnesota’s Jordan Greenway off for high-sticking Oskar Sundqvist, Robert Thomas and Ryan O’Reilly combined to win a puck battle along the side boards.

O’Reilly sent a cross-ice pass to Vladimir Tarasenko, who caught Alex Stalock sliding over late and blistered a wrist shot under the arm of the Wild goalie to open the scoring at the 5:08 mark.

It was Tarasenko’s 26th goal of the season, which extended his career-best scoring streak to 12 consecutive games and gave him 15 goals in his last 19 games.

“He’s pretty good, as you can see,” Binnington said, in a subtle deadpan. “It’s fun to watch him. I’m happy to be on this side of it. That whole line’s rolling.”

Tarasenko then returned the favor, feeding O’Reilly for another power-play goal with 30 seconds left in the opening period, making this the first game since Nov. 28 against Detroit that the Blues had scored two power-play goals.

It didn’t stay 2-0 for long. In the second period, Dunn scored his eighth goal of the season and Brayden Schenn got his 11th to double the lead. And that was enough — more than enough — to keep the Blues rolling.

“I think it’s fun to be a Blues fan these days,” Binnington said.

Yes, probably so.

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