With USA Hockey Director of Player Personnel Brian Burke sitting atop Scottrade Center observing three of the country’s selections for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, St. Louis Blues right wing T.J. Oshie was more than willing to leave a lasting impression.
Perhaps Oshie needed a reminder that he was already chosen for the U.S. team. His performance Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings could have been viewed as a final audition — one he no longer needed.
With fellow Blues and U.S. Olympic teammate David Backes still sidelined by an upper-body injury and Alexander Steen, who is second in the NHL with 24 goals, out with a concussion, Oshie took on some of the offensive brunt with two goals in a 5-0 victory against the Kings.
Oshie, who has four goals in three games after going goalless in 15 games, helped the Blues (28-7-5) win their fourth straight and sixth in seven games (6-0-1).
Oshie knew Burke was in attendance, but forgot about it in the heat of battle.
“That’s what [teammate Chris Stewart] told me after the second period,” Oshie said jokingly about his Olympic audition being over. “It was a great night.
“It was a great team win tonight. I got two of them, but those two could have easily been [Vladimir Sobotka] or [Jaden Schwartz] on my line.”
Brenden Morrow scored his 21st career goal against the Kings, Ken Hitchcock earned his 100th win as Blues coach, and Brian Elliott stopped 30 shots in his third shutout this season. Vladimir Tarasenko and Barret Jackman also scored for St. Louis.
The Kings (25-13-4) lost their fifth straight. It’s L.A.’s longest drought since losing five from Dec. 3-13, 2011.
“Anytime you’re losing five games in a row, it’s going to be tough,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “It’s how you respond. It’s easy when things are going right, you’re getting the bounces, it’s easy to sit there and play. It’s time like this when we really need to step up and play our game. Tonight, we didn’t do it.”
The Kings had beaten the Blues five straight games in the regular season, and including the playoffs, they had won 14 of 17 games between the teams.
“We know their team for sure, and they know us,” said Elliott, who won his 12th straight home game dating back to last season, a franchise record. “There’s no surprises when you go out there who you’re playing. It’s good to get a win, and a win like that is key for us.”
Alex Pietrangelo, who had two assists, felt there was an opportunity Thursday night. The Blues had been 0-for-California this season, with five of their seven regulation losses coming at the hands of the Kings (once), San Jose Sharks (three times) and Anaheim Ducks (once).
“They’ve had a couple losses in a row here, and we thought we can come here and have an opportunity to do some good things,” he said. “When you’re playing against a high-quality opponent like these guys, you’ve got to be able to get to your game early. It shows that we can play our game for 60 minutes, which is what we did tonight. They had some opportunities in spurts, but when you’re playing against a team of that quality, they’re going to get their opportunities.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter pulled rookie goalie Martin Jones in the second period after he allowed two goals on 14 shots. Ben Scrivens stopped eight shots in relief.
St. Louis improved to 50-0-1 its past 51 games at Scottrade scoring three or more goals, and the Blues passed the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks for most home victories (16) in the Western Conference.
Oshie scored twice in a span of 1:31 in the second period to give the Blues a 3-0 lead. His first goal chased Jones from the L.A. net.
Oshie gave the Blues a 2-0 lead when Schwartz, who has 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) his past 19 games, had his shot deflected off a Kings player’s stick into the slot. Oshie was there to put the puck into an open net at 11:41.
Oshie struck again, this time taking Sobotka’s faceoff win in the left circle and beating Scrivens with a quick wrister off the far post at 13:12 for a 3-0 Blues lead. It was his eight goal.
The standing room-only crowd of 19,839 went into a “U-S-A U-S-A” chant after Oshie’s second.
“I thought that was pretty special,” Oshie said. “I definitely didn’t expect it, but once I heard it, I thought, ‘What a cool 24 hours for me.'”
The Blues killed off a 5-on-3 that lasted 1:26 late in the second, not allowing a shot and blocking two in that time span. Schwartz, Jay Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo led the penalty kill.
“It’s big. Penalty killing’s huge. It gives you a lot of momentum,” Schwartz said. “It obviously got the crowd going as well.”
“It was huge,” Hitchcock said. “… These are guys that haven’t killed three vs. four, three vs. five pretty much this year. It’s mostly been [Alexander Steen] and Backes. They’ve been huge. It’s another aspect of checking and defense, and it’s creating our offense.”
The Kings lamented the missed opportunity, feeling the 5-on-3 was their chance to get back into the hockey game.
“You’ve got that one there and you cut it to two,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said. “We didn’t score, we didn’t take enough shots. Bottom line, we didn’t score, so it didn’t really matter.”
The Blues had an apparent third-period goal from Derek Roy waved off when officials ruled Morrow had touched the puck with a high stick before Roy could put it in. But Tarasenko scored on Magnus Paajarvi’s pass into the slot at 3:24 for a 4-0 lead.
Jackman’s one-timer from the top of the left circle at 6:11 made it 5-0. It was his first goal.
Despite getting outshot 13-6 in the first period, Morrow’s goal, which came on a power play, gave the Blues a 1-0 lead. It was Morrow’s seventh goal; he also assisted on Jackman’s goal.
After Kevin Shattenkirk’s one-timer caromed off Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, the puck took a big bounce off the back boards. Morrow, at the left side of the goal, popped the backhand off Jones and into the goal 4:42 into the period.
The Blues were on a four-minute power play when Kings defenseman Matt Greene got called for high-sticking Roy.
Elliott was able to preserve the Blues’ lead in the opening period, with his best save coming off Jarret Stoll’s break-in late in the period.
With the win, it was Elliott’s first career win against the Kings (1-4-1). He improved to 7-0-1 in his past eight decisions in earning the 24th shutout of his career and 15th with the Blues.