Steen, McClement lead way as team snaps five-game home slide
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Fast and furious from the outset, the Blues displayed the passion and energy needed in their home building.
The winning formula has been mastered few times this season.
But on Tuesday against rival Columbus, the Blues used their energy players to set the tone, then delivered the knockout punch with a flawless third period in which the Blues did not allow a goal -- something not done the previous nine games.
Two goals from Alex Steen and a goal and two assists from Jay McClement, along with his second goal in as many games from B.J. Crombeen enabled the Blues to race out to a three-goal first period lead that ultimately led to a 4-1 victory over the Blue Jackets before 17,900 at Scottrade Center.
The Blues (19-19-7), who snapped a five-game winless skid at home (0-4-1) and improved to 7-14-3 overall in home games, were physical and energetic in the game's first 20 minutes. They forechecked and cycled the puck and forced the Blue Jackets (18-21-9) -- and winners of three straight -- to spend too much time in their own zone in the game's first period.
The Blues, who have beaten the Blue Jackets eight straight times here, got goals from Crombeen early in the game and Steen and McClement scored 42 seconds apart late in the first to stake them to a 3-0 lead, a lead they would never relinquish.
"We came out and we were physical, we were fast, we took the play to the net, we had some great offensive zone possessions and cycles, and more important than that, we were in right positions to apply pressure to the net at any given moment," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "I think if you look at the goals we scored in the first, two of them are a direct result of how we're trying to get our game directed."
Not only did the Blues score three times in the first, but the game was marred by four fights, including David Backes, who fought Columbus superstar Rick Nash that also resulted in an eventual fight and game misconduct penalties for the Blues' Erik Johnson and Columbus' Mike Commodore.
"They were kind of rubbing me the wrong way by ragging the puck, trying to lengthen the power play after it was 4-on-4 for a while," Backes said. "(Nash) was holding onto it, I went to hit him, he gives me a little reverse shoulder.
"He's a big boy. We looked at each other. I think he's one of the best players in the league, there's no question about it. If we can trade myself for him, I'm willing to do it for the team. By the time we got out of the box, we had a 2-0 lead."
Crombeen scored his second goal in as many games and third of the season following up a rebound of McClement's shot 1 minute, 54 seconds into the game.
McClement forced Columbus defenseman Jan Hejda into a turnover following a forecheck by Brad Boyes. McClement's shot was stopped by Mathieu Garon, but Crombeen was on the doorstep for a 1-0 lead.
Steen and McClement scored goals 42 seconds apart, as Steen netted his eighth of the season with a power play goal, one-timing Carlo Colaiacovo's feed from near the blue line.
"Carlo gives me a really, really good pass," said Steen, who has seven goals in the last seven home games. "It's nice and slow and gives me a lot of time to get set and get one off. It was a good pass.
"Get (the shot) off as quick as I can and obviously, hit the net. We've got some big bodies in front. (Keith Tkachuk's) in there, (Brad Winchester), Backes, we've got some big bodies in front. If you hit the net, good things happen."
McClement made it 3-0 by following up Barret Jackman's point shot where Garon allowed a big rebound in the slot.
The tone was set by the energy guys and the lead was established.
"It's good to take the heat off our top two lines," said McClement, who also won 14 of 23 faceoffs and was plus-3 in 21:01 of ice time. "It's always good for us to be able to chip in. I don't think we've done enough of that. We've relied too much on those guys. For us to be able to do that lately, it takes the heat off them. I think when that happens, hopefully we'll start relaxing a little bit too. When we look around the league, that's what good teams do. They have three or four lines that chip in all the time."
Tkachuk, who played for the first time since taking a puck off the mouth Jan. 2 against Chicago that resulted in the loss of four teeth, said the energy guys are a plus when they score, but the top lines need to bring it as well.
"Obviously Jay McClement played one of his best games of the year and Alex Steen and Crombeen gets a big goal," Tkachuk said. "We need more from our top six forwards and it has to come around for the top six to go out because we can't rely on those guys. But it's nice to see that. The skill guys, we have to pick it up.
"We just attacked and we were always on the move. We had a lot of energy. We got the puck deep and forced them to play in their own zone and forcing them to turn the puck over and playing in their zone the whole first period."
Along with Backes and Johnson, Cam Janssen scrapped with Jared Boll, and B.J. Crombeen mixed it up with Alexandre Picard. But with Backes' fight against Nash, that makes three Canadian Olympians the U.S. Olympian Backes has dropped the gloves with in the last couple weeks. He also fought with Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Anaheim's Corey Perry.
"No direct agenda there," Backes said with a grin. "They just tend to be the guys that are in my way and creating some havoc, so we'll keep going."
Columbus, which brought some of its best in the second and got a power play goal from Fedor Tyutin to cut the Blues' lead to 3-1, was poised to get within one on several occasions, but the Blues did not buckle and got solid goaltending from Chris Mason. Mason stopped 26 shots.
"I thought we did a good job of closing out. We made sure pucks got deep, especially around the lines. We got pucks out and in, and Mase played great. He made key saves when he needed to. It was a good win."
The locker room mood was one the Blues haven't experienced much this season, with music playing and guys leaving with smiles.
It's something they'd like to turn into a contagious feeling.
"It's been a long time coming," Tkachuk said. "I don't care how we played. We just needed a win bad. We came out of the gates strong, kind of let up a little bit in the second and they got some momentum. But we held on and that's the bottom line. We've got to keep building."
"It's been a while," McClement said. "It's nice to go home with a win. I don't know the last time it was. Obviously, we've got a couple more at home here before we go on the road. It's a good start. I think it will help with the confidence of our team."
* NOTES -- Blues forward Andy McDonald missed the game and is still bothered by what the team is calling a mid-body injury. McDonald was on the ice Tuesday morning, but Payne said the team wants to be cautious and not turn what is believed to be a strained muscle into a long-term injury.
"He's still going to be day-to-day," Payne said. "I think we're going to err on the side of caution there. ... We're going to see where we sit for Thursday. I don't want to have this one be one of those injuries ... if we can make progress in two days as opposed to turning it into a two-week situation, that's where we're going to sit on this one."
The Blues, who scratched forward Derek Armstrong and defenseman Darryl Sydor, also optioned Yan Stastny to Peoria after getting Tkachuk and Kariya back in the lineup.