After netting two goals in the first 9:37 Thursday, it took Vladimir Tarasenko until the third period to collect his third career hat trick.
That didn’t make it any less special as Tarasenko’s three goals and an assist and two goals and two assists from Kevin Shattenkirk helped carry the St. Louis Blues to their sixth straight home win, a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever played with, hands down,” Shattenkirk said of Tarasenko, who scored his first 1:39 into the contest and is now tied for second in the NHL with 13 goals through 24 games. “I’ll make sure to bring him back down to earth maybe tomorrow, but he’s a weapon and we’re obviously lucky to have him. He’s changed the dynamic of our team over the last few years.”
Tarasenko was happy to hear Blues fans chanting his name, though he was a bit sad his wife missed the game. The big night gave him 19 goals and 236 points in 283 NHL games, including nine goals and 17 points in his last 13 games.
“Thanks for the guys out there, they created a a lot of good chances for me today,” Tarasenko said. “It was a tough game for us, they have a really good team, really skilled players. It was a good challenge for us today.”
Along with winning their sixth straight at home, the Blues (14-7-3) earned at least a point in their 11th straight on home ice for the first time since 2014. In his first game back after missing six games with an upper-body injury, Blues center Alexander Steen collected three assists.
Tarasenko scored two goals in the first period, then collected No. 3 8 minutes, 11 seconds into the third period on a shot that deflected in off of Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop.
His other hat tricks came on Dec. 16, 2014 vs. the Los Angeles Kings and Oct. 28, 2014 at Dallas.
After handing the Blues six power plays, resulting in goals on three of the first four, the Lightning got their first power play early in the third period. Just seven seconds into the man advantage they got a goal from Nikita Kucherov that cut the Blues’ lead to 4-3.
After Tarasenko made it 5-3, the Lightning (13-11-1) fought back again on Cedric Paquette’s second goal of the game.
The Blues used aggressive forechecking to make Tarasenko’s first goal happen.
He threw a check in the corner that helped result in a bad pass before Colton Parayko poked the puck loose from Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn. Tarasenko pounced on it, then made a power move to the net before beating Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
In his first back after a six-game injury absence, Alexander Steen put the puck on a tee for Tarasenko during a Blues power play later in the first period. Steen held the puck an extra second before firing it across to Tarasenko, who let loose with a sizzling one-timer from the right circle for his second goal of the night and 12th in 24 games.
Paquette cut the Blues’ lead to 2-1 on a mishandled rebound before a Kevin Shattenkirk shot restored the two-goal lead.
It marked the first three-goal opening period by the Blues this season. It also was their ninth straight game with three or more goals for a team that had scored only 14 in the previous nine before that.
“You know it wasn’t like this when the season started,” Tarasenko said. “I know we had a tough time from you guys, not so many good words about our offense. We just keep working and we just fight for each other every game and try to stay in our program. The most important thing is we believe in each other and believe in our game.”
A blast from Shattenkirk hit the back of the net just 1:44 into the second period for his second goal of the night, chasing Vasilevskiy in favor of former Blues goaltender and St. Louis native Ben Bishop.
Vasilevskiy allowed four goals on 16 shots before his exit.
Tyler Johnson’s eighth goal of the season later in the second period cut the Blues’ lead to 4-2 after Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester had trouble handling the puck.
Shattenkirk assisted on two of Tarasenko’s three goals.
“When you’re with Vladdy a lot on nights like this you just give him the puck and you seem to get some points, too,” Shattenkirk said.
One of five members of his family to play in the NHL, Blues center Paul Stastny logged the 700th game of his career Thursday against the Lightning.
Stastny’s father, Peter Stastny, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame after scoring 450 goals and 1,239 points in 977 games with Quebec, New Jersey and the Blues. Paul Stastny’s uncles Anton Stastny and Marian Stastny also played in the NHL as did his brother, former Blues forward Yan Stastny.
Stastny, in the third year of a four-year deal worth $28 million, said reaching 700 games was a nice number but nothing to get overly excited about.
“I remember my first one and I remember 500,” Paul Stastny said. :It flies by. The first couple hundred for sure, you’re younger in the league and you don’t even think about it. It seems like it goes slow at times when you’re looking at it, then when you don’t pay attention it flies by.”
Before Thursday, Stastny had 192 goals and 566 points in his first 699 NHL games. That includes 32 goals and 108 points in 161 games with the Blues in just over two seasons.
“A lot of people really don’t look at him as a superstar,” Shattenkirk said, “but a lot of the things that he brings to the ice are things you can’t coach, things you just have in you. It starts with his father, obviously, some of the things that he taught him at a young age. Paul’s probably one of the smartest hockey players I’ve ever played with and that’s why he’s been here for 700 games.”
Shattenkirk said many things Stastny does well are not readily evident to the average fan.
“If you watch him away from the puck, the things that the does ... his stick position, how hard he is on battles in the corners,” Shattenkirk said. “He’s not an extremely big and extremely strong guy, but he knows where to be positioned on your body and how to take you off the puck. He’s always in a position away from the puck as an outlet.
“When you run out of room, you always have Paul kind of just sitting there.”