As David Backes drifted back toward his net in the third period Saturday, he hoped to clear a body or two.
Instead, the St. Louis Blues captain wound up making one of the biggest saves of the day when he whisked a puck away from the goal line after a high shot by Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle hit the crossbar, bounced off the back of goaltender Jake Allen and was headed toward the back of the net.
There were 8 minutes, 37 seconds remaining and the Blues were frantically trying to protect a 2-1 lead at the time.
“It’s pure instinct and you can’t think,” Backes said. “If you think it’s too late and it’s in the back of the net. It’s just ‘hey there’s a puck and it’s too close to my goal line. Let’s get it the heck out of there.’’’
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Backes did what his brain commanded and the crisis was averted. The Blues went on to win 4-1, but at the time a Minnesota goal could have created all sorts of trouble.
“You see it trickling in behind him and just try to whack it out of there,” Backes said. “Hopefully you got it before it crossed the line and that was the case.”
Allen is more than happy to repay Backes’ favor.
“I’ll go talk to him, buy him a beer for that one,” Allen said. “That was a great second-effort by him.”
Allen wasn’t sure where the puck was, knowing it went off his elbow or arm. He scrambled behind him with his glove before Backes cleared the puck away.
“I was reaching back for it and all I saw was this stick coming out of nowhere,” Allen said. “I didn’t know whose stick it was at first. That was a good effort.”
It was a day of strange bounces for Allen, who collected his first career playoff win in his second start by stopping 24 of 25 shots. He made several key saves, most notably a clutch stop on Mikko Koivu near the end of the second period and another on Jason Zucker early in the third.
The one shot that he didn’t stop came on a weird play when Minnesota’s Marco Scandella broke his stick on a shot from the left point. The puck slowly headed to the net through traffic, eventually snaking its way past a screened Allen for a goal.
“I didn’t even see it,” Allen said. “I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if he broke his stick, I don’t know if he fanned on it, he meant to go glove side the whole side. I just heard a thud going into the back of the net.”
In the second period, Allen had to smother a loose puck at his feet after it bounced off his leg pad and skate following a strange bounce of the puck off the boards.
“We have some weird glass here,” he said. “We practice here a lot so we see those bounces and you never know when they’re going to happen, especially that first one. I didn’t really see it until it hit my pad, so I was lucky on that part.”
One of the most memorable plays Saturday involving pesky Blues winger Steve Ott — and there were several — saw him appearing to pet the top of the helmet of Minnesota’s Zucker during the second period.
Asked about what he was doing, Ott’s response was “I don’t know. You guys watch that stuff more than me. I think it’s just reactionary. Sometimes my brain is shut off.”
After trying unsuccessfully to get under the skin of the Wild in Game 1 Thursday, Ott found a home there in Game 2.
Ott did what he does best, find ways to constantly agitate, anger and generally discombobulate the opposition to get them thinking more about him than they are about the task at hand. He delivered hits and running commentary, seeking out action wherever he could find it.
During one long shift in the second period, Ott was engaged in a battle in front of the net by Wild defenseman Matt Dumba and also got whacked at least twice in the back of the legs by goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
“It’s from competing,” Ott said. “You play the game hard and you play the game the right way and try to stay on that fine line without crossing it throughout the night. The compete usually leads to talking or the physicality part of things.
“To a man out there, I can name 15 guys on our team that competed extremely hard and had a lot of good hits and had a reaction from that.”