NEWARK, N.J. — The last time the New Jersey Devils beat the St. Louis Blues was more than six years ago, on Jan. 21, 2014. Only three players for the Blues who suited up on Friday night were in that game, including Alex Pietrangelo.
“I was a lot younger then,” Pietrangelo said.
The Blues have aged well in the intervening years, but they couldn’t extend either that streak, which was at 12 games, matching the franchise record for wins against one team, or their current overall eight-game win streak. The Devils, the team that started the Blues’ win streak, were the team that ended it, beating the Blues 4-2 at Prudential Center on Friday night.
The loss potentially could have knocked the Blues out of first place in the Central Division, but Colorado's defeat by Vancouver several hours later kept the Blues two points up though with one less game to play. Both teams are in action again on Sunday, when the Blues play at Chicago and the Avalanche play at San Jose.
Considering that the Devils were the only team the Blues played in that eight-game run that weren’t in or closely pursuing a playoff berth, they were an unlikely candidate to end it, but that’s the way it goes. The goal that put the Devils ahead came from another unlikely candidate, Alton, Ill., native Dakota Mermis, whose first career NHL goal put New Jersey ahead in the second period. It was an unlikely night all around.
“It was a good little run, but it’s over now,” forward Zach Sanford said. “We’ll come into Sunday prepared and start a new one.”
The Blues’ recent games had been getting closer and closer. Win No. 6 came in overtime, Win No. 7 came in a shootout and Win No. 8 required the Blues to hold off some quality chances by the Rangers throughout. On this one, they fell behind again and couldn’t get back.
“It started in the Rangers game and I think it just carried over,” Pietrangelo said. “We’re not aggressive enough on the forecheck, not making plays out of their D zone, just giving the puck away. We’re just chasing the game, so it’s the same things as the Rangers game. We just weren’t able to grab it. We know that’s not good enough.”
For all the disappointment about seeing the win streak end, there was also the reality that the team had just won eight games in a row, regardless of style points.
“We put ourselves in a good spot,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s one game.”
“We played some real good hockey (in the streak),” coach Craig Berube said. “We won eight games in a row and we ended up not playing good enough tonight. You’re not always going to have your best game night in and night out. Tonight they were a lot better than us I thought.”
New Jersey won by getting to the net and blocking Jordan Binnington’s view of shots, while the Blues didn’t do the same thing to New Jersey’s Corey Schneider.
“I don’t think we were connected tonight,” forward Oskar Sundqvist said. “We didn’t help each other. That’s not our game and when we are not playing our game we’re not successful. We need to get back to being connected and being tight.
“We’re not in front of his eyes. If you’re not in front of the goalie’s eyes, he’s going to catch 10 out of 10 so we need to take his eyes away and get some bodies in front of him.”
This has happened before toward the end of some of the Blues streaks. In the final few games, there’s some imperfect play, but they keep on winning. Eventually, the wins turn into losses.
“A lot of times you go on these streaks and maybe you’re getting bounces and finding ways to win that maybe aren’t necessarily playing the way that you want to play,” Pietrangelo said. “We got away with one in New York. I didn’t think we played our game; I don’t think we played our best but we found a way to win. Come in here, we didn’t get the bounces tonight. They got the bounces.”
First instance, there was the goal by Mermis, a defenseman who had been in the Arizona organization. He signed with New Jersey in the offseason and had been in the minors until the Devils’ trade deadline dealings opened some roster spots. This was his 18th NHL game.
He was being challenged by Pietrangelo and was skating the puck away from the goal when he turned and fired from the top of the left circle and put it in off the post past a stunned looking Colton Parayko, who was in front of the net. “That happens 15 times a game and it goes wide,” Pietrangelo said. “When we’re winning and on a streak, we’re getting those bounces.”
Another goal from a defenseman, this time Connor Carrick, made it 3-1 with 2:02 to go in the second. His shot from the point again found its way through traffic and beat Binnington. Then it briefly looked like the Devils had gone up 4-1, but the Blues made a successful challenge of goalie interference and the goal came off the board.
For all their struggles, the Blues closed the gap to 3-2 on a goal by Jaden Schwartz with 3:11 to play and threatened to tie, but New Jersey got a late empty-net goal to seal it. Vince Dunn had a first-period power-play goal for the Blues’ other score.
One streak the Blues kept going was falling behind. This was the fifth game in a row that they trailed.
“We didn’t execute very well with the puck,” Berube said. “Just a lot of bobbled pucks and missed passes. They were quicker than us all night. We didn’t really get to our game tonight. The third period there for a while I thought we put pressure on them. They did a pretty good job for about 10 minutes in the third period.”
Also coming to an end was Brayden Schenn’s five-game goal streak.
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