ANAHEIM, Calif. — With names like Walker, Husso, MacEachern, Mikkola and Kyrou on the backs of jerseys, it had the look of the San Antonio Rampage, circa 2018-19. And then there was a fresh face making his NHL debut in Dakota Joshua, newly-arrived from the Utica Comets.
But no, it was your St. Louis Blues, trying to squirrel away points and mark another day off the calendar until they start getting players back from injury. Despite a third-period scare, it worked out well for the Rampage, uh Blues, in a 5-4 victory Monday over Anaheim.
Rapidly becoming an established NHL player, Jordan Kyrou opened the St. Louis scoring with his eighth goal of the season. After yielding his obligatory early goal, goalie Ville Husso settled in, although he was scrambling at the end just like the rest of the Blues.
The Joshua kid wasn’t bad either, winning faceoffs, chasing down pucks, working the corners.
The first person he contacted when he learned he was in the lineup Monday was his mother.
“She was overjoyed with excitement,” Joshua said after the morning skate. “I’m sure she’s really proud and happy that she gets to watch me play in the NHL tonight.”
Imagine how Mom felt when she saw her son score a goal in his first NHL game. (Joshua hadn’t had a chance to check in with her when he met with the media on the Blues’ postgame Zoom.)
The goal took place with 7 minutes 2 seconds left in the second period, and happened simply because Joshua was hustling, working, crashing the net. Kyle Clifford’s backhander bounced off the stick of Ducks goalie John Gibson and then struck Joshua and went into the net without touching his stick.
The native of Dearborn, Mich., who played at Ohio State was beaming after the play. Can you blame him?
Joshua said he thought the puck hit him, “right in the midsection. I’m not too sure, it all happened really fast. A nice, greasy go-to-the net goal.”
The goal was announced in the Honda Center as being scored by “Dalton” Joshua. Hey, he’s not exactly a household name.
“Great to see that energy from Dak’s goal there,” said David Perron, who jump-started a three-goal second period for the Blues with his seventh score of the season. “He was sitting a little in front of me in the locker room (pregame), and to see his energy, a little bit of his nervousness, kind rubbed off on me.”
And perhaps the rest of the team, too. Even coach Craig Berube, not exactly the sentimental type, appreciated the moment.
“I’m very happy for him and proud of him,” Berube said. “To come in there and get a goal in his first game in the NHL, that’s a huge thing for a young kid like that.”
Joshua’s goal gave the Blues a 4-1 lead and a cushion — a rare occurrence for them this season. But as much as they wanted to coast across the finish line, Anaheim had other ideas.
Two third-period goals by Isac Lundestrom trimmed the St. Louis lead to 4-3 with 4 minutes 44 seconds left to play. The 21-year-old Swede also scored in the first period en route to becoming the second-youngest player in Ducks history to record a hat trick.
(With no fans allowed yet in Honda Center, there was no one to throw hats on the ice.)
The pressure seemingly eased when Zach Sanford scored an empty-net goal while the Ducks were on the power play with 80 seconds left to make it 5-3. It was Sanford’s second goal of the night, giving him five goals over his last eight games.
But this was not an easy landing for the Blues. With Anaheim still on the power play, Ryan Getzlaf’s goal with 59.6 seconds left made it a one-goal game again. There were some anxious moments in the final minute, but the Blues (12-8-2) hung on for their seventh straight win at Anaheim.
Meanwhile, the Ducks’ winless streak stretched to seven games (0-5-2), as they fell to 6-11-5 overall.
“They came at us hard (in the third period),” Berube said. “They’ve got some pretty good speed and took advantage of it.
“We gotta do a better job when that’s happening; you gotta have a little bit more composure and better puck play. . . .But hey, it happens. In this league, it happens a lot more than you think. So we hung on and won a game. That’s all that matters.”
Things weren’t rosy for the visitors at the outset, starting with Marco Scandella’s face. On Wednesday, he needed several stitches and couldn’t finish the third period against Los Angeles after taking an entry pass off his face. In the first period Monday, he took a stick to the mouth and lost a couple of teeth. Of some consolation to Scandella: apparently they were false teeth.
Scandella regrouped on the bench and stayed in the game. So did the Blues after falling behind 1-0 when Lundestrom’s first goal beat Husso to the far side off the post. It marked the 15th time in 22 games that the Blues surrendered the first goal of a game.
The situation worsened when Kyrou drew blood with a high-stick to the face of Anaheim’s Max Jones. That meant a four-minute power-play for the Ducks. Luckily for the Blues, Anaheim is even worse on the power play than St. Louis, ranking 29th at 10.4 percent, and the Blues killed it off.
“Very critical kill,” Berube said.
Even before those early-game struggles, Joshua’s NHL career got off to a rocky start during pregame warmup. He couldn’t find his helmet.