NEWARK, N.J. -- The start wasn't quite what the Blues were looking for, but when they realized this was a much-improved New Jersey Devils team, St. Louis ramped up its intensity and hard work ethic and gutted out a key road win.
The line of Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko remained red-hot, combining for seven points, with Schenn and Tarasenko leading the way each with a goal and two assists for the Blues in a 3-1 victory against the Devils on Tuesday before 12,317 at Prudential Center.
The Blues (12-3-1) matched their best 16-game start in franchise history with 25 points, accomplished two other times (2000-01 and 2013-14), but the 12 wins through 16 games is the most in franchise history.
And it was done the hard way on Tuesday after falling behind 1-0 just 3 minutes, 35 seconds into the game on Blake Coleman's goal for the upstart Devils (9-4-1).
The Blues made in-between period adjustments after the first, started to tilt the ice the other way, gained momentum late in the second and scored to tie the game that carried over into arguably the best third period of the season when St. Louis outshot New Jersey 19-4 and earned the win with two goals.
"Once you make adjustments, that's what sports is," said Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who had a key pinch-in on Tarasenko's tying goal late in the second. "It's making adjustments and being able to go from there."
The Blues were able to get some good offensive zone time in the Devils' end late in the second period and they finally capitalized when Schenn fed Tarasenko outside the left circle, and Tarasenko was able to wire a wrister from the top of the circle with traffic, beating Schneider short side after it caromed off Devils defenseman Mirco Mueller with 1:03 remaining.
Bortuzzo did a nice job pinching along the boards and was able to backhand the puck back to Schenn, who slid a short little pass to Tarasenko.
Momentum played a huge role and scoring late in the second fueled the third.
"It definitely gave us momentum," Schwartz said. "It got us feeling good about ourselves. It's a well-structured team. You don't get a ton of chances. You've got to stay with it, you've got to keep working. We talked early that the neutral zone was the biggest part of this game, playing with speed and executing and not turning pucks over. We did a good job of sticking with that, creating o-zone time and wearing them out a little bit."
"Obviously any time you're getting a goal, you're getting momentum," Bortuzzo said. "That's something we pride ourselves in not having to take a goal for us to get going. Maybe in this case today, it did. As a whole, I think once we got that goal, even before that late in the second period, I thought we started to forecheck. That's our bread-and-butter. It was nice to get one and get rolling."
Blues coach Mike Yeo liked Bortuzzo's pinch.
"Smart play," Yeo said. "That was a good shift all around for Borts. I liked his physicality. I thought he was instrumental in the win for sure."
Yeo said he felt the momentum coming on before the Tarasenko goal.
"I actually felt we finally started to find our game a little bit towards the end of the first period, but for the better part of the first period, they were the better team," Yeo said. "I thought we dialed it up. Our pace of play and our intensity in the second period, we could feel things starting to shift and that goal certainly obviously was big for us going into the dressing room, but I think we felt a little bit that it was coming before that too."
The Devils struck quickly in the first when Coleman banged home a second rebound attempt to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead at 3 minutes, 35 seconds of the first.
Allen made a right point shot off the stick of John Moore then redirected on by Brian Boyle's attempt in front, but Kyle Brodziak lost containment of his man Coleman, who was on the doorstep to pop home a second rebound chance.
"I don't think we had a great start to the game," Schenn said. "I thought we picked it up there in the second. That's a team that works hard and we were able to match it and get some opportunities and score with what, 40 or 50 seconds left. It's obviously huge for us going into the third period. It gave us some momentum and we were able to get the go-ahead goal on the power play."
"Obviously the first period wasn't great, but then we improved throughout the game and we tie it up," said Allen, who made 21 saves and improved to 6-0-0 lifetime against the Devils with a 1.17 goals-against average and .952 save percentage. "It was big to tie it in the second. I think that was big for us. It could have been a different ballgame if we didn't get that goal in the second there. I thought we played really well in the third. We really didn't give them anything. We just played really simple, to be honest. It probably looked pretty boring from up there, but I thought it was a perfect road-executed third period and it got the job done."
Boy, were the Blues ever good in the third.
Schwartz scored 32 seconds in for a 2-1 lead on the power play, the Blues' fourth of the night, after Steen flipped a puck from the left point to Tarasenko, who then fed Schenn near the goal line, who flipped a nifty backhand to Schwartz in the slot for a one-time shot high into the net over Devils goalie Cory Schneider, who was brilliant especially in the third making 37 saves for the game.
"I seen him shoulder-checking a bit, so I had a pretty good feeling he was dishing that one over," Schwartz said of Schenn. "It was a really good pass.
"We wanted to be better, no question. We told the guys we needed to be better and if we got another chance, we're going to execute. We did a good job of that. I thought we had chances earlier. We had a lot of zone time."
In the past, the Blues may have tried to play a safer game and there were multiple times when it would burn them. It happened earlier in the season, but the mindset has changed with this team.
They continued to stay on the attack, and if not for Schneider, it could have been a 4- or 5-1 game.
"That's one thing that we talked about," Yeo said. "No matter what the score is, we talk just continue to go out and play our game. I'm very impressed with our third period, the aggressiveness of it and how we were still able to get in on the forecheck. We might have generated more scoring chances in the third period than we did even in the second. That's a good sign. You want to be smart, you want to be in good position and you want to be responsible defensively, but you don't want to be safe. You want to make sure that you defend by playing in the offensive zone. I thought we did a good job of that."
"We don't ever want to be a team that sits back," Bortuzzo said. "We're going to be smart in our own structure, but when opportunities arise, we're going to take the chance to capitalize and stretch leads. Overall, I thought our third period was great."
Schenn, who moments before scoring into an empty net to seal the Blues' win with 56.6 seconds left, fed Tarasenko for a one-timer that was just wide of Schneider. It could have given the Devils a break coming back the other way looking for the equalizer, but St. Louis was able to stay on the hunt, forecheck the puck and eventually get the two-goal lead they deserved.
"You want to do that," Schwartz said of staying aggressive. "I think there's times in games this year where we sat back a little bit and I think we've learned from that. That's never good when you're just giving teams waves and letting them have speed through the neutral zone. You want to stay on it. That's something that we're learning for sure."
"It's important, especially on the road," Schenn said. "You still want to forecheck hard and try to hang onto the puck down low and make plays. Obviously limit turnovers, but at the same time, still try and generate and I think we did a good job of that tonight."
With the win, the Blues have defeated the Devils eight straight times, outscored New Jersey 27-8, have gone 9-for-30 on the power play and a perfect 23-for-23 on the penalty kill.
"We had a lot of really good performances tonight," Yeo said. "Those guys were key, 'Schwartzy' and 'Schenner' both outstanding tonight. I thought (Paul) Stastny's line, they didn't factor in on the scoresheet like they possibly could have, but I thought they were a really big part of the win tonight."
The Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko line now has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) the past two games, with Schenn going for a goal and six assists, Tarasenko having two goals and three assists and Schwartz one goal and three assists.
Tarasenko has two goals and seven assists the past three games against the Devils, while Schwartz has tallied at least a point in all seven games he's played against New Jersey (three goals, five assists).
"It's been fun," Schenn said. "Two guys with tons of skill. If we work for one another, we'll be a good line. Tonight, maybe it took a little bit for us to get going, but I think each guy in the line brings something different. Obviously 'Vladi's a shooter and can pretty much score at any given time and he's getting chances and 'Schwartzy's so good on the forecheck and seeing the ice and taking away pucks. The three of us feel it, but complement each other at the same time.
"Each night, it's someone that's getting the job done for us. We're working in five-man units, we're working as a team and that results in winning hockey."
The Blues announced on Tuesday night that forward Robby Fabbri underwent surgery on his left knee.
The procedure was performed without issue by Dr. Bernard Bach in Chicago.
There is no timetable for Fabbri's return.
Fabbri originally sustained a torn left ACL on Feb. 4, 2017 and had surgery on Feb. 28 by Dr. Bach in Chicago, and he was cleared to play on July 31.
Fabbri went on to re-injured his knee during training camp after an exhibition game against the Washington Capitals.