Last season, the St. Louis Blues went on a historic worst-to-first comeback that ended with a Stanley Cup championship. On Monday, Oct. 14, the Blues invaded NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to battle the New York Islanders.
“Sometimes the theme of perseverance is overused,” said Blues beat reporter for The Athletic Jeremy Rutherford. “But I have never seen a team absolutely, positively never quit. The Blues have a winner’s mentality.”
It was a classic David versus Goliath matchup. Entering the contest, the Islanders were 2-3-0 and coming off a difficult first week of play. The Blues earned points in four of their five games, causing Fanduel to name them -135 favorites.
That prediction seemed like destiny in the first period. An early mistake by the Islanders gifted the Blues an own-goal, making the score 1-0 just six minutes into the game.
The Blues pinned the Islanders in their own zone following the tally, suffocating their opposition with a relentless forecheck and tight defensive structure. This boiled over when Derick Brassard took a penalty in the third period to give the Blues a power-play.
Vladimir Taresanko made the Islanders pay. At 5:23 of the third period, Taresanko sniped a wrist-shot past Thomas Greiss to give the Blues a 2-0 lead. This goal stunned the Hempstead crowd and all hope seemed lost for the underdog Islanders.
But they kept fighting. The Islanders flipped the tone of the game, generating more shots on net and keeping the puck in the Blues’ defensive zone. In his first career National Hockey League (NHL) game, Oliver Wahlstrom was a catalyst that created various scoring chances for his new team.
“I thought for his first game he didn’t look out of place at all,” said Islanders head coach Barry Trotz in an interview with Newsday. “He was physical, the speed wasn’t an issue. I thought he moved his feet, stayed involved, didn’t watch the game.”
Michael Dal Colle also had a productive afternoon, and he found Brock Nelson for an open shot with five minutes left in the game. Nelson took advantage of the opportunity, cutting the deficit in half.
The Islanders fed off this tally. With less than a minute left in the game, Blues defenseman Colton Parayko corralled the puck in the corner and attempted to clear the zone. Johnny Boychuk walked a tightrope on the blueline, keeping the Islanders in the game with an acrobatic display of athleticism.
With bodies on the ice, Boychuk kicked the puck to Mat Barzal, who found the back of the net and sent the game to overtime.
“That gave me chills,” said Islanders fan Zack Sapolin on the Coliseum concourse after the victory. “This team is special. I have never seen anything more exciting in my life.”
Barzal was also a hero in overtime. After the Islanders won the opening faceoff, Barzal jumped onto the ice. He skated past three defensemen and parked himself behind Blues’ goaltender Jordan Binnington.
Devon Toews was in front of the net anxiously awaiting Barzal’s pass and Barzal did not let him down. When Toews received the puck on his stick, he immediately sniped a shot over Binnington’s glove to give the Islanders the win.
Following the contest, the Blues hopped on a plane and traveled to Washington D.C. for their Stanley Cup visit with President Donald J. Trump at the White House. The Blues may be champions, but the Islanders found a way to beat the best.
“This upset win will do wonders for the Islanders the rest of the season,” Sapolin said. “No matter what, they are never down for the count and that was proven in this game.”