Steen nets two more goals, ties Ovechkin for league lead; Oshie,
Schwartz, Pietrangelo each with goal and assist; Halak strong in goal
By LOUIE KORAC
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Alexander Steen is doing his best to keep pace with another well-known Alexander.
But the Blues' Alexander wants to make one point crystal clear when comparing himself to Washington Capitals sniper Alexander Ovechkin: cool it with the scoring pace.
"It's only nine games ... nine games," Steen said after catching Ovechkin for the NHL lead in goals with 10 in the Blues' 6-1 victory over the Nashville Predators Saturday night. "He's been doing it for years. I've been doing it for nine games."
(St. Louis Blues/Getty Images)
The Blues' T.J. Oshie (right) battles Nashville's Shea Weber for position on
the ice Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.
Steen's teammates are taking notice and will be a constant reminder if Steen can stay on Ovechkin's pace.
"We let him know all the time," Blues right wing and linemate T.J. Oshie said, "but he seems to stay level-headed and keeps working hard. He deserves everything he gets."
Ovechkin and the Capitals played against the Calgary Flames late Saturday night, but for the moment, Steen is on level par with him. Steen and the Blues have two games in hand when all is said and done.
"He feels like he's fresh on the ice and when you're fresh, you're confident," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Steen. "That's how he's feeling right now."
The Blues got contributions from a number of players even after losing forwards Chris Stewart and Magnus Paajarvi to upper-body injuries in the game. Oshie, Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo each had a goal and an assist, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jay Bouwmeester each had two assists and Derek Roy scored for the Blues, who erased the bad memory of a 3-2 overtime loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday.
"I thought we played really well, but it was a strange game," Hitchcock said. "For the two teams that play each other, we don't give up many scoring chances and they don't give up many and there seemed to be a lot of scoring chances.
"We had a lot of scoring chances ourselves. We seemed to have a lot of odd-man rushes today. It was a 6-1 game, but it didn't feel like a 6-1 game. ... Our players that have carried us all year offensively did a great job for us."
The Blues (6-1-2) also got a strong game in goal from Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 22 shots and was solid, particularly in the first period, as coach Ken Hitchcock went back with his No. 1 guy on back-to-back nights for the first time this season. Halak improved to 10-3-3 in his career against the Predators.
"We needed Jaro to be good today," Hitchcock said. "There were a lot of scoring chances against us, bang-bang plays at the net. ... We needed our goalie to be good and he was."
St. Louis has now won a franchise-best four straight in Nashville dating back to Feb. 4, 2012. The Blues have won seven of eight against the Predators. The Blues also improved to 10-0-1 in Saturday games dating back to last season, outscoring their opponents 47-18.
"The way last night ended, it was good to get right back on the horse," Bouwmeester said. "We played a pretty solid game. Jaro made some good saves early on and as the game went on, we kind of took over. That's how we want to play."
Added Oshie: "It was hard to fight through their checking. They did a great job those first two periods of just coming at you. Those are tough games. It was a different pace than last night's game. I think we handled it really well."
The Predators (6-5-1) lost for only the second time in regulation in their past eight games. Nick Spaling scored a shorthanded goal and Carter Hutton stopped 21 shots before being pulled in the third period in favor of Magnus Hellberg, who made his NHL debut.
Steen's goal surpassed his total of eight he scored in 40 games a season ago seven seconds into the Blues' first power play of the night. Steen, who has five goals in four games and has scored in eight of the Blues' nine games, snapped a wrister from the left circle past Hutton, who was screened by Chris Stewart, 5:27 into the opening period.
The Blues, who were looking for a better start as opposed to a lackluster beginning Friday at home against the Canucks, outshot the Predators 17-8 in the opening period.
"We got out of the gates a lot quicker than we did [Friday] night against Vancouver," Steen said. "Pretty solid and straight-through from the start of the game to the finish. ... It was a mixture of things. We talked about it and we wanted to come out with a lot more jump [Friday], but we'd been away from the game for a week and Vancouver's played 13 games. We came out a lot harder today, which I think is expected. I don't think guys felt tired. I think it was the opposite. We're back in the rhythm of things."
Oshie gave the Blues a 2-0 lead 7:34 into the second period when he redirected Pietrangelo's point shot from the high slot past Hutton with David Backes parked in front of the Predators' goalie.
Vladimir Sobotka's nifty pass to Schwartz off a 2-on-1 gave the Blues a 3-0 lead when Schwartz one-timed a shot from the right circle at 11:36 of the second period on the Blues' third shot of the period.
The Blues lost Paajarvi after the first period after he took a hit, played a couple shifts but was done for the night, and Stewart, who got shoved into the corner boards by Patric Hornqvist midway through the second period, was lost for the third period after he also returned for a few shifts despite Hitchcock saying he probably shouldn't have allowed Stewart to return to the game. Both will be re-evaluated but sounds like the team will be making some call-ups from their American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago.
"He got whacked in the boards there," Hitchcock said of Paajarvi. "We'll give you a better evaluation here tomorrow, but he's got a pretty good upper-body injury right now. We'll get a better evaluation here in the next couple days."
Stewart came back in the game and took his frustrations out on Hornqvist that drew 14 minutes in penalties with seven minutes left in the second.
(St. Louis Blues/Getty Images)
Blues players (from left to right) Roman Polak, Vladimir Sobotka, Vladimir
Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz celebrate Schwartz's goal Saturday.
With the Blues on a power play to begin the third period, a bouncing puck eluded Sobotka at the right point, and Spaling pounced with a breakaway. He beat Halak high stick side just 52 seconds into the period to make it a 3-1 game. The goal ended a shutout streak in this building for the Blues at 132:59.
But that all was for naught as Steen got his second of the game from an improbable spot when he was able to take in a puck behind the Nashville goal and bank it in off Hutton's back at 4:07. Steen's 10 goals came on 26 shots this season.
Roy took a Tarasenko feed and raced in on a 2-on-1 and fired a high wrister that chased Hutton from the game at 7:48.
Pietrangelo's first of the season came via the power play. His blast beat Hellberg with Steen setting a screen in front at 12:58.
It was the kind of bounce-back game the Blues needed and putting an exclamation point on a resounding win helps matters.
"Guys are playing unbelievable right now," Steen said. "... It's what we're about in here, team stuff."