The chant was loud and clear, and deservedly so.
As if two big hits and ferocious penalty killing wasn’t enough on Thursday, Blues’ rookie T.J. Oshie
captivated the crowd and stole the show with a goal that even Alex Ovechkin could admire.
With his team trailing the Vancouver Canucks by a goal early in the second period, Oshie took a pass from David Perron
and danced around veteran defenseman Mattias Ohlund. Then, holding onto the puck, he drew goaltender Roberto Loungo out of position before burying a shot into the open net to even the score.
If there was ever a formula to send a sell-out crowd into a screaming frenzy, this was it.
“I just really wanted to get that,” Oshie said.
“He holds on, holds on, holds on, steps through two veteran defenseman and gets one of the best goalies down and out,” said Blues forward David Backes
, who was given the impossible task by the media of trying to describe a goal that no words could describe. “Unbelievable goal by him, gets all the guys going.”
After missing the morning skate with a touch of the flu, Oshie topped off a stellar performance with a shorthanded assist, setting up a breakaway goal by Backes that put the Blues ahead in the game, 2-1.
Much like each of the Blues’ wins since early January, Thursday’s 4-2 victory was a team effort, but Oshie was certainly the center of attention.
“He’s unbelievable. He’s so tenacious, just the awareness and his hockey sense is unbelievable,” said goalie Chris Mason, who stopped 21 shots for his first career victory over the Canucks. “He’s part of what this team is all about. He never quits, he’s such a hard worker…he’s a great player.”
“He’s energetic, he’s fresh out there, just doing it all,” Backes added. “Hopefully (management) locks him up for 20 years here.”
Blues’ Head Coach Andy Murray, who typically refrains from praising individual players for a more team-first approach, had rave reviews for his rookie forward.
“I think what people appreciate about our whole team, and T.J. is a pretty good example of this, is hard work,” Murray said. “It’s great to see the nice moves and things like that, but I think (the fans) like his level of determination and they appreciate that.”
The Blues, once considered down and out by many, have begun to grab headlines with their stellar play as they drive towards their first postseason berth since 2004. The team is 10-4-1 since Feb. 24 and has moved to within one point of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Part of their success can be attributed to the young guys, Oshie included. Some credit belongs to the defense, a group that has remained strong despite the losses of Erik Johnson and captain Eric Brewer to injury. The rest can be attributed to Mason, who has shrugged off a 3-13 start to boast a 21-20-6 record.
The Blues won’t have much time to enjoy the win. They have just eight games remaining on their schedule, including six on the road, to clinch a spot in the playoffs. But for at least a day, Oshie can enjoy the most memorable goal of his young career.
“This (goal) is up there for me,” he said. “Especially at this time of the year and in the situation we’re in.”
Oh, and about the crowd chanting his name?
“(That’s) unreal,” Oshie said. “It’s one of those things when you’re younger, you imagine the crowd screaming your name. For that to happen my first year, it’s something else.”