Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Blues double up Oilers 4-2 for fifth win in a row

Backes, Tarasenko lead charge with goal, 
assist each; team allows season-low 15 shots

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues wanted to leave little doubt this time against one of the bottom teams in the NHL.

On Saturday, the Blues nearly fumbled away two points against the Carolina Hurricanes, who came in last in the Eastern Conference before winning 5-4 in a shootout. They were down 3-1 after the first period.

The Blues left little doubt on Tuesday.

Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes scored first-period goals, with Jori Lehtera assisting on each, starting the Blues to a 4-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Scottrade Center on Tuesday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) battles for the puck with Edmonton's Teddy
Purcell on Tuesday at Scottrade Center. Lehtera had two assists in a 4-2

"Right from the start, guys were getting the pucks deep," said Blues defenseman Barret Jackman, who had two assists. "We were getting a lot of shots on net and recovering the rebounds. When we get our feet moving and play a North game, we're a much better overall team and a lot harder to defend."

St. Louis (27-13-3) won its fifth straight; it's outscored the opposition 28-10 in that stretch. It's the third time this season the Blues have had winning streaks of at least five games.

"I think when we were on the streak before, we're playing much better hockey than we did then," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who tied Pat Quinn for fifth on the all-time list with his 684th NHL victory. "We were finding ways to win. We're controlling hockey games now. 

"Now we're going to get really challenged here Thursday and Saturday, but we're really controlling the game a lot better. We were winning games, but overtime, late, we were finding heroes every night. We've got more of a team concept, team game going right now. If we can get our special teams both up and running here this week,  I like our chances."

Tarasenko and Backes each had an assist, and Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen scored for the Blues.

Jake Allen made 13 saves. The Blues allowed a season-low 15 shots.

The Oilers (10-25-9), who have the fewest wins on the road this season (two), have lost 13 straight away from Rexall Place (0-7-6). They got two goals from Benoit Pouliot, and Ben Scrivens made 25 saves.

The Blues scored twice in the first period on back-to-back shots. 

Tarasenko's Blues-leading 24th goal this season, and fourth goal in the past five games against Edmonton, put St. Louis up 1-0. His wrist shot from the left circle trickled past Scrivens at the near post at 13:49. 

Backes' 13th point (seventh goal) in the past nine games made it 2-0 on a redirection of Lehtera's backhand feed in the slot at 16:41.

"That was a really nice goal," Lehtera said. "I just threw it there, I closed my eyes and hoped."

Lehtera's second two-point game in the past three games came on the heels of having gone without a multi-point game in 24.

"I think when he skates and plays with tempo, he's a very effective 200-foot player," Hitchcock said. "He's almost similar to David Backes. He's big, he's strong. When he plays with that kind of straight-line mentality, that's not what he's done in Europe, but when he plays that game here in North America, he's really, really effective. I think he's a little bit like our team. We started to go east-west after the power plays. I think we got a little bit cute trying to make the next play, but when he's very deliberate, very direct, he's an excellent player."

Schwartz made it 3-0 with a redirection of Jackman's slap-pass from the left point 5:30 into the second period. Schwartz deflected the puck past Scrivens from the left circle to give him four goals and eight points in five games since returning from a broken foot.

"No, I didn't see him at all," Jackman said of Schwartz. "I was actually just trying to put it on net and it happened to go off an Edmonton forward's stick and 'Schwizz' put a good tip on it."

The Blues have won 10 straight with Schwartz in the lineup and have outscored the opposition 52-23.

Pouliot ended Allen's shutout with a power-play goal 8:37 into the third period on a tip of Justin Schultz's wrist shot. 

Steen's 400th NHL point gave the Blues a 4-1 lead. Backes won a faceoff, and Steen's slap shot beat Scrivens high stick side with 3:34 remaining. Steen extended his point streak to seven games (five goals, eight assists). The Steen-Backes-Oshie line now has 42 points in the past nine games.

Pouliot's second of the game, a wrist shot from the high slot with 1:56 remaining, made it 4-2.

Hitchcock called a timeout to rally his team and reinforce finishing strong.

"He had to say a couple bad words," Lehtera joked. "We got the points, that's the most important.

"... We had a really good start, really good first period. After that we played a bit lazy, but we got the points."

Hitchcock's history with Quinn, who passed away in November, goes back to their international days with Canada. Their friendship goes back many years.

"Because it's Pat. Obviously, we had a great friendship," Hitchcock said. "He was a real good friend, so just ... kind of means you're just old. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Barret Jackman (5) and Jori Lehtera (12) celebrate a first-period goal by
Vladimir Tarasenko (center) on Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers.

"He was the best manager of people that I've ever been with in my life. Whether it's the manager or a coach or anything, he's the best manager of people I've ever seen. He was in some highly volatile situations with us with World Cups and Olympics and he handled it perfectly every time. He was amazing."

Allen, who most of the game was the loneliest player on the ice, is glad to have been associated with both greats.

"He's one of the legends of hockey," Allen said of Quinn. "Obviously his passing was unfortunate but definiteliy left a great legacy.

"Hitch is one of the best of all time. Guys battled hard for him."

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