TORONTO - Dion Phaneuf
rocked T.J. Oshie with a thunderous hit, and that wasn't even close to the biggest beating at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs tried to take it to the St. Louis Blues but were on the wrong end of a 6-1 blowout at the hands of a potential Stanley Cup contender. The loss was the Leafs' 28th in their past 35 games.
The Blues toyed with the Leafs from the drop of the puck and never seemed to let them have it. St. Louis swarmed, scored and out-classed Toronto at every turn. Neither starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier (three goals on 17 shots) nor backup James Reimer (three goals on 27 shots) stood a chance.
Jaden Schwartz, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Butler, Paul Stastny and David Backes scored for the Blues (41-19-5), who snapped a two-game skid and moved to within two points of the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators. Brian Elliott was barely tested in making 23 saves and allowed just a third-period goal to David Booth.
Returning home for their first game after the trade deadline, Leafs players talked about how much they had to play for: some for contracts and jobs and others for teammates, the Leafs logo and whatever else. If they were motivated, it was no match for the relentless Blues' talent and depth.
Many of the 19,108 fans in attendance for one of Toronto's worst routs of the season gave a Bronx cheer when Richard Panik registered the Leafs' first shot more than halfway through the first period. St. Louis had nine at that point, and it didn't get much better.
Newcomer Zach Sill, a pending unrestricted free agent, made his presence felt by beating Blues heavyweight Steve Ott in a fight. And Phaneuf's textbook shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Oshie drew the ire of Backes.
On the scoreboard, though, it was all Blues. There was little Bernier could do on Schwartz's shot that deflected off Eric Brewer's stick, Oshie's back-hander and Tarasenko's wrister through traffic.
Still, interim coach Peter Horachek yanked Bernier after the first period, in which the Leafs were outshot 17-5. The switch to Reimer did nothing to change the course of the game.
The Blues, not happy with blowing a late lead in a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, didn't let up. Butler scored from the point with a second left on a Leafs power play, Stastny was untouched skating through the slot before beating Reimer, and Backes scored off former teammate Roman Polak's skate.
Notes — Canadian Olympic gold-medal-winning defenceman Jay Bouwmeester missed the game for the Blues with an illness, and former Leafs centre Olli Jokinen made his debut after a deadline-day trade. ... The Leafs scratched defenceman Stephane Robidas as Brewer played in career game No. 993.
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