Vrbata, Lack lead Canucks past Blues

Louie Korac  - Correspondent | Tuesday, 03.31.2015 / 12:31 AM

ST. LOUIS -- The Vancouver Canucks are doing all they can to keep pace in the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Playing the St. Louis Blues seems to bring out the best in the Canucks.

Radim Vrbata had a goal and an assist and Eddie Lack defeated the Blues for the fifth time in as many tries in a 4-1 victory at Scottrade Center on Tuesday.

Vancouver (44-27-5) remained two points ahead of the Calgary Flames, who defeated the Dallas Stars 5-3 on Monday, for second place in the Pacific Division. The Canucks lead the Los Angeles Kings, who lost 4-1 at the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, by five points.

"This is a tough building to win in, and we've done well here against St. Louis this year because we rise to the occasion against those good teams," said Canucks center Nick Bonino, whose goal was the game-winner in the second period. "We've done it all year and it's going to need to happen again tomorrow in Nashville.

"Just another solid road game. We played really tight in the neutral zone."

Lack, who was 4-0-0 with a 1.92 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage and one shutout against the Blues, made 23 saves.

"I don't know. Obviously they're a really good team so we're always focused playing them," Lack said of his success against the Blues. "This is obviously a tough building to play in and it's a fun building to play in. Everyone keeps coming and we're having a little bit of luck on the way."

Shawn Matthias and Alexandre Burrows each had a goal for the Canucks, who are 23-12-3 on the road. Christopher Tanev had two assists.

Vancouver has defeated the Blues six straight times and is 11-0-2 against them since Nov. 4, 2011.

The slumping Blues (46-23-7, 99 points) remain three points behind the Nashville Predators for first in the Central Division. Their hold on second place is down to one point on the Blackhawks and four ahead of the Minnesota Wild.

St. Louis, which missed out on a chance to clinch a playoff spot, lost for the sixth time in nine home games. The Blues, who are left scrambling to try and find what ails them so late in the season, got a goal from Zbynek Michalek. Brian Elliott made 18 saves.

"It's hard to say. There are so many things," Michalek said. "I don't think there's one good thing about our game right now. We need to look in the mirror and start playing as a team. Right now, it just seems like everybody's doing different things. We need to get on the same page, play for one another. Right now, it's not good enough.

"This late in the season, you want to build your game, play a good game so you can get your confidence going into the playoffs and right now, we're doing the exact opposite. We've got to regroup here, take a couple days and make sure we come out with a much better effort."

Making matters worse for the Blues, they lost leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko, who was tripped 8:08 into the third period by Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa. Tarasenko skated to the dressing room and did not return.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who had nothing new to report on Tarasenko other than to say he'll be evaluated on Tuesday, said there are many issues troubling the Blues.

"This is really effort-based," Hitchcock said. "This is really ... as the game went on, this is two games in a row now where quite frankly, we've lost a lot of board battles, we've been indecisive with the puck, we've been slow in our heads, and I think sometimes when you're slow in your head, any information you're getting is too much information.

"We're playing slow. Everything we're doing is slow. We're surprised by pressure, we're surprised by getting checked, we're getting beat on board battles. This is your reaction to this time of the year."

The Canucks grabbed a 1-0 lead when Matthias converted Vancouver's third breakaway of the game after the Blues were making a line change and got caught.

"That was big," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. "St. Louis had a real good start to the game. I thought they controlled the first 10 minutes and then we got going."

Matthias took a long pass from Tanev and beat Elliott on the forehand 3:54 into the second.

Michalek's first goal with the Blues tied the game 1-1 after he took an Olli Jokinen pass from the point and beat Lack with a long-range slap shot at 12:44 of the second.

But Bonino restored Vancouver's one-goal lead 31 seconds later after Kevin Bieksa's point shot caromed off the back boards around the other side of the goal and Bonino put in the rebound from a sharp angle.

"The 2-on-1's a perfect example. We worked hard to tie it up and then the next goal we give up, it's a back-checking mistake," Hitchcock said. "That's Hockey 101 stuff."

Vrbata's 31st of the season gave Vancouver a 3-1 lead when he raced off with the puck on a 3-on-1 and sent a shot past Elliott from the right circle at 7:06 of the third. Burrows scored into an empty net with 1:31 remaining.

"He's been unbelievable," Desjardins said of Vrbata. "They were coming out hard and that was such a big goal for us. If they get one, it's totally different and we were able to beat the pinch and turned it the other way. He put it away for us."

Another scoreless first period for the Blues was their 10th in a row. They've gone 205:40 without a goal in the first dating to March 10 against the Winnipeg Jets.

The save of the period did not come from either Elliott or Lack. Michalek laid out on the ice and was able to prevent Henrik Sedin from capitalizing on an Elliott turnover near the net 6:15 into the game.

Vancouver's four-game road trip continues against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

"You always want a good start on the road and you always need that when you want a few wins," Bonino said.

The Blues won't play again until Thursday when they host the Flames.

Scoring Summary
1st Period
2nd Period
03:54VAN Shawn Matthias (18) ASST: Christopher Tanev (17) 1 - 0 VAN
12:44STL Zbynek Michalek (3) ASST: Olli Jokinen (5), T.J. Oshie (33) 1 - 1 Tie
13:15VAN Nick Bonino (15) ASST: Kevin Bieksa (9), Radim Vrbata (29) 2 - 1 VAN
3rd Period
07:06VAN Radim Vrbata (31) ASST: Chris Higgins (23), Christopher Tanev (18) 3 - 1 VAN
18:29VAN EN - Alexandre Burrows (15) ASST: Daniel Sedin (52) 4 - 1 VAN
Three Stars of the Game
Radim Vrbata
G: 1Shots: 3
A: 1Hits: 1
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: 2TOI: 15:01
Nick Bonino
G: 1Shots: 3
A: 0Hits: 0
PTS: 1PIM: 0
+/-: 1TOI: 15:35
Christopher Tanev
G: 0Shots: 1
A: 2Hits: 0
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: 2TOI: 20:22
Penalty Summary
1st Period
17:02STL Marcel Goc  Holding against  Linden Vey
2nd Period
01:14VAN Alexander Edler  Holding against  Paul Stastny
3rd Period
08:08VAN Kevin Bieksa  Tripping against  Vladimir Tarasenko
shots by period
Team Stats
Power Plays0/10/2
Faceoff Wins2730
Blocked Shots1812
Penalty Minutes42
2D. HamhuisD0001020:56
3K. BieksaD0120219:19
5L. SbisaD0010020:47
6Y. WeberD00-11018:32
7L. VeyR0010011:44
8C. TanevD0221020:22
13N. BoninoC1013015:35
14A. BurrowsR1012014:39
17R. VrbataR1123015:01
20C. HigginsL0111014:59
22D. SedinL0110016:26
23A. EdlerD0021220:09
27S. MatthiasC1011012:27
33H. SedinC0012017:16
36J. HansenR0004016:02
41R. KeninsL0000014:37
51D. DorsettR0001012:20
53B. HorvatC0001014:49
31E. Lack2324.95860:00
4C. GunnarssonD0001019:33
5B. JackmanD0000014:58
6Z. MichalekD1001016:31
9S. OttC00-10011:21
12J. LehteraC00-20017:19
13O. JokinenC0115014:50
17J. SchwartzL00-21018:26
19J. BouwmeesterD00-21022:28
21P. BerglundC00-21014:39
22K. ShattenkirkD00-22020:06
23D. JaskinR00-11016:29
26P. StastnyC00-20016:39
27A. PietrangeloD00-21024:44
42D. BackesC0003018:42
57M. GocC000129:31
74T. OshieR0101016:51
75R. ReavesR000309:45
91V. TarasenkoR00-12015:22
1B. Elliott1821.85759:46