Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sign and seal Steen gets contract, scores twice

His two goals, team's fast first period lead to 5-1 victory against Canadiens 

ST. LOUIS -- Blues general manager Doug Armstrong excused Alexander Steen from a press conference Thursday morning because Steen's "going to have to get back to work and earn his money."

Steen may want to renegotiate the three-year contract extension he signed with the club on Thursday.

After Steen put the finishing touches on a $17.4 million contract which will keep him with the Blues through the 2016-17 season. He went out and led St. Louis (23-7-4) to victory without forwards David Backes and Vladimir Sobotka, who each have an upper-body injury. He scored twice to help the Blues to a 5-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' Alexander Steen (second from left) celebrates after scoring a
goal Thursday against the Canadiens past Carey Price (left).
They increased his team-leading total to 24, tying a career high and second to Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin's 28 for the NHL lead, and the Blues snapped a two-game winless streak.

Steen quickly erased what is a memorable day for players and put on his work boots. It was business as usual again for the 29-year-old.

"It's a good day," Steen said. "We came out with a lot of jump. We knew they were a good team that plays physical, has a lot of speed, but it felt like we went out and dictated from the early going."

Steen's teammates were impressed.

"That's one heck of a day," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "It would have been nice if he got the third one there to top it off.

"Guy gets a new contract, goes out and scores two goals the first period just shows the type of guy he is. We're going to expect more from that from him, I guess. That's one heck of a game for him."

The Blues are 48-0-1 in the past 49 home games when they've scored three goals or more, and they set the tempo with a three-goal first period.

"The start was an indication that we were engaged physically," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We were checking. Four of our five goals were because we were checking people off the puck. I think this had a resemblance of a team that we envisioned and the way we needed to play. It's a good sendoff on the road trip here.

"Our whole team was hard on the puck. We needed to be. We needed to get back to that game and start paying the price and start getting physically involved and that's what we did. I thought we had heavy sticks, we really were whacking and hacking on loose pucks."

Chris Stewart scored his fifth goal in five games, Jaden Schwartz scored in his return to the lineup, and Maxim Lapierre had the final goal for the Blues. Jaroslav Halak was able to beat the team that drafted him in 2003 for the fourth time in as many starts, stopping 25 shots. Halak is 4-0-0 against the Canadiens with a 0.98 goals-against average and .960 save percentage.

"We only meet with them two times a year, once a year," Halak said of the Canadiens. "I'm glad we won the game tonight. Playing for 60 minutes, that was the key tonight."

The Canadiens (21-13-3), who began a six-game trip, got a goal from Brendan Gallagher, and Carey Price stopped 24 shots.

Steen put the Blues on top 1-0 with a shorthanded goal when he took a T.J. Oshie pass off a 3-on-1 break and beat Price high stick side 4:20 into the game.

"That first shift, Bergy's line jump-started everything, got us going, good shift offensively, got everybody going in the game," Steen said of Patrik Berglund.

Steen struck again in the first period, this time coming out of the box. He took Derek Roy's drop pass and used Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin as a screen to beat Price high short side at 7:55 for a 2-0 lead.

Stewart put the Blues on top 3-0 in the first period, at 13:33 off Brenden Morrow's 300th career assist. Morrow fed Stewart in the slot from behind the net for a one-timer from the right circle.

"There's a lot of ugly ones in there," said Morrow, who played in his 878th career game. "Tonight was actually a decent (assist).

"If you hang around as long as I have, I guess you find a way to get some in there."

The Blues were able to put their first period woes behind them for one night, a sore spot in recent games.

The Canadiens scored in the second period on Gallagher's 10th of the season, first in 12 games. He batted in a puck from in close past Halak when David Desharnais got the puck to the net at 12:51.

Schwartz, who missed the past two games with an upper-body injury, took Oshie's pass and snapped a shot from the top of the right circle over Price's stick hand 12:21 into the third period to give the Blues a 4-1 lead. Schwartz has 13 points in 13 games, and Oshie's second assist of the game snapped a streak of four games without a point.

"He's one of the better butterfly goalies around the league," Schwartz said of Price. "A couple were through screens, so he might not have saw them. They were great shots. They were labeled pretty nicely.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Chris Stewart celebrates after scoring in the first period to give the
Blues a 3-0 lead. They went on to a 5-1 victory against Montreal. 
"It's a tough day for the goalie when he's not seeing that. Sometimes you go high, sometimes you go low. Great shots by our guys."
Lapierre scored his first goal in 18 games, against the team that chose him in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft, with 2:27 remaining on a slap shot from the slot to make it 5-1.

"We stuck with it and just played the way we should be playing, played the way we were playing in the early goings of the season and what we got away from a little bit a couple weeks ago," Steen said. "I felt like tonight was a solid effort. Jaro played really well in the net, we were moving the puck really crisp, quick."

The blueprint the Blues were looking for in the first period can be viewed from the first period of Thursday's game. Hitchcock can show the clips from this victory over and over.

But ...

"I think you go through stages. If I was a player playing for me, I wouldn't listen to me sometimes, too," Hitchcock joked. "Sometimes you just turn the coach off.

"They've got to listen to each other. The comments on the bench, the rhetoric on the bench, the conversations they had as we were going out for the periods were the right conversations, and they held each other accountable to play the right way. When Montreal scored their first goal when there was a surge, the conversation on the bench was the right conversation. Not by a coach but by players, which was a real good sign. That's what impressed me more than anything. The players were saying the right things to each other, not the wrong things or saying nothing and just letting the game slip."

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