DETROIT — With the season long ago decided, the Blues haven’t quit playing.
Maybe some fans — yearning for junior whiz kid Connor Bedard — wish they would. But they rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to defeat the Detroit Red Wings, 4-3, Thursday.
And that makes it a four-game point streak for St Louis (3-0-1). The one constant in all four games? Rookie Joel Hofer in goal, who so far is giving coach Craig Berube no reason to keep him out of the lineup.
It’s a modest point streak to be sure, but it’s the Blues’ longest since a five-game point streak (4-0-1) in mid-December.
Now 32-33-6 for the season, the Blues head to the West Coast for games against Anaheim and Los Angeles as the 2022-23 season winds down.
The Blues were down 2-0 at Little Caesars Arena before you could say: Pizza! Pizza!
Just 38 seconds in, the Red Wings took the lead on a goal by Simon Edvinsson. The goal was originally credited to Matt Luff, who was tangled at the net front with Blues defenseman Justin Faulk, but then changed to Edvinsson.
It was the second-quickest goal scored against the Blues this season, with Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner scoring 18 seconds in on the day before Thanksgiving. For Edvinsson, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 draft playing in his third NHL game, it was his first NHL goal.
Former Blue Jake Walman then made it 2-0 Detroit, when he skated free down into the left circle and sent a blast past Hofer stick side just 1:28 into the contest. It was Walman’s eighth goal of the season.
The Blues didn’t get their first shot on goal until 6:07 into the contest and had been outshot 7-0 until then.
The Blues gradually regrouped and made it a 2-1 game on Alexey Torpchenko’s sixth goal of the season midway through the second. With the puck just inside the blue line, Torophenko spun and shot and seemed to surprise Magnus Hellberg, who was in goal for Detroit.
Three in the second
Toropchenko’s goal was just the warmup for the Blues’ offense. Just 3 1/2 minutes into the second period, Brayden Schenn scored on a deft net-front tip-in of a shot by Jordan Kyrou to tie the game at 2-all. It was the 19th goal of the season for Schenn, who’s zeroing in on his seventh season of 20 or more goals — he’s had three so far with Philadelphia and three with the Blues.
At the 12:40 mark of the second, Sammy Blais scored his seventh goal in 20 games since returning to St. Louis in the Vladimir Tarasenko trade. Again, this was a net-front deal, with Colton Parayko’s shot from distance resulting in a rebound, and with Blais in the right spot at the right time to give St. Louis a 3-2 lead.
That was it for Hellberg, who was pulled in favor of Alex Nedeljkovic. (Former Blue Ville Husso, normally the Red Wings’ No. 1 goalie, is out with a lower-body injury.)
The Blues welcomed Nedeljkovic into the contest just 2 1/2 minutes later on a breakaway goal by Jake Neighbours. Neighbours took a stretch pass from Robert Bortuzzo, settled the puck just outside of the blue line, and then skated in to send one through the “5-hole” for his fifth goal of the season.
It marked the 19th time the Blues have scored at least three goals in a period this season.
Thomas a late scratch
Center Robert Thomas took part in the morning skate Thursday. And he was out for pregame warmup as well. But once the game started he was nowhere to be found.
Thomas was a last-minute scratch due to illness and was replaced in the lineup by Logan Brown. It was only the third game missed by Thomas this season. The previous two came after he took a puck to the groin area on Jan. 26 in Arizona.
Return of Rosen
Defenseman Calle Rosen had been a healthy scratch in 12 of the Blues’ past 13 games. But with Torey Krug staying back in St. Louis to be with his wife and their newborn child, Rosen returned to the lineup Thursday, playing on the third pairing with Robert Bortuzzo.
By now, Rosen is used to being in and out of the lineup and knows how to stay ready. But this extended stretch as a scratch has been a little tougher than usual.
“You always want to play,” he said following the Blues’ morning skate Thursday. “It’s not fun to sit on the side that much. But I’m doing my work and now I’m back playing today, and that’s all I can focus on.”
The return of Marco Scandella to the lineup Feb. 21 following hip surgery has taken away one of the six game-day spots on defense. In addition, the team was getting a steady look at rookie Tyler Tucker before he was sent down to Springfield of the AHL on March 18.
“We kind of went back with our six guys that we used for a long time,” coach Craig Berube said. “But Tucker was up here, we wanted to get him playing. When he’s up here we want him to play, so Rosey was the odd man out.”