NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The St. Louis Blues have not only made an incredible run to get into the playoffs, there’s a chance interim coach Craig Berube’s team can win the Central Division.
Defenseman Vince Dunn scored in close with 2.8 seconds left in overtime and the Blues beat New Jersey 3-2 on Saturday night for their 11th straight victory over the Devils.
Combined with Montreal’s win over Winnipeg and Columbus’ victory over Nashville, the Blues moved within two points of the first-place Jets with four games left in the regular season. The Predators have the second-place tiebreaker against St. Louis but the Blues have a game in hand.
What’s remarkable is the Blues are 27-10-4 since the turn of the year and that on Jan. 2, they had 34 points, the lowest total in the NHL.
“It was a tough start for us as a group and a lot of frustration really sunk in quick for us,” Dunn said after his fourth-game winning goal of the season. “But we found a way to turn it around. I think we really came together as a team to be able to win big games against top teams and to put ourselves in a good spot moving into the playoffs.”
Since Berube replaced Mike Yeo on Nov. 19, the Blues are 35-19-5.
“Obviously you want to be playing your best going in and there’s a couple of teams we still want to catch still and home ice would be huge for us and we can keep climbing up so we’ll keep our foot on the gas and keep trying to catch those teams to get into a better position,” said Blues center Tyler Bozak, who scored in regulation along with Robert Thomas.
On the game winning goal, Dunn collected the puck near his own blue line and skated into the New Jersey’ zone, beating Cory Schneider for his 12th goal of the season.
“I got caught flat footed a little bit, not anticipating he was going to get through,” said Schneider, who finished with 24 saves. “I got caught leaning a little bit. I thought he was going to cut across and try to make a move and he quick-shotted me five hole. It’s tough, two seconds left. I thought we played a good game against them and take your chances in the shootout. Obviously a disappointing way to finish.”
Drew Stafford and Joey Anderson scored for the Devils, who battled back from two one-goal deficits.
Thomas opened the scoring with 4:51 left in the first period, coming from behind the net and beating Schneider with a backhander for his ninth goal.
New Jersey tied it with a power-play goal by Stafford early in the second period. Pavel Zacha tracked the puck down in the corner on a rush and made a quick pass in front that Stafford batted out of the air past Allen.
With a delayed penalty about to be called against the Devils, Bozak ended a 10-game goal drought with a shot from between the circles with 4:04 left in the second. Schneider never had a chance with Pat Maroon and Thomas both screening him.
Less than a minute later, Anderson tied the game with a deflection of Steven Santini’s shot.
NOTES: The last time the Devils beat the Blues was Jan. 21, 2014. New Jersey has not allowed a power-play goal in seven games, killing off 15 penalties.
The Devils play their home finale against the New York Rangers on Monday night.
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