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Allen's 26 saves, Backes help Blues shut out Stars

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Jake Allen made 26 saves, and David Backes had a goal and an assist in the St. Louis Blues' 3-0 victory against the Dallas Stars at Scottrade Center on Saturday.

The shutout was Allen's fourth this season, the ninth of his NHL career and his second against the Stars.

Backes' power-play goal early in the first period held up as the 26th game-winning goal of his NHL career, tying Brad Boyes for ninth in St. Louis history. Vladimir Tarasenko scored his Blues-leading 17th goal, and Ryan Reaves scored his first goal of the season.

The Blues brought back 10 past captains Saturday for a pregame salute, so it was fitting that Backes, the 20th captain in their history, had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in arguably his best game of the season.

"It's one of the better efforts we've had as a group, and you've got the team with the best record in the League coming in and you know you're going to need it," said Backes, who fought Dallas captain Jamie Benn at 17:09 of the first period. "We were able to limit their chances, but they had a few good ones, and Jake was up to the task. A big 5-on-3 at the end and we find a way, and Jake gets the shutout.

"Things are trending in the right direction; we play like that, or have a little bit better second period, and we're going to like what we're doing."

St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said he is used to Backes' determination.

"He's our leader; he leads by example most nights," he said. "Tonight's no different. Obviously, it's Captains Night too, so a great night for him. He played outstanding. Overall, he brings that night in, night out. Good for him."

The Blues (17-9-4), who host the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday, took pride in keeping Benn and Tyler Seguin off the score sheet. They are tied for second in the NHL with 40 points, and Benn's 20 goals lead the League.

"You're not going to shut them down," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They had their scoring chances. But you've just got to make it hard for them, and that's what we did today, at least for the first and third period. We at least made it hard for them. They're a dynamic team there. This was probably a game that was more to our liking than to their liking. I think from our standpoint, if we can find a way to put more minutes on this performance, we're still in the 40s, if we can get more minutes, we're going to get better and we're going to be able to control the game."

The Stars (22-6-2), who got 23 saves from Antti Niemi, were shut out for the first time in 38 games, dating to March 27, a 4-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. They also lost in regulation for the first time in eight games (5-1-2).

Dallas was playing the second of a back-to-back after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on Friday.

"I thought they had it their way in the first and I thought we played a real solid game after that," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who lost in regulation for the 500th time in his NHL career. "We had them on their heels, we hit a few posts, didn't find a way to get that goal to get us in that game. I think coming off the back-to-back last night, they sensed a little bit of a team that didn't have their legs moving. Our goaltender gave us an incredible first, and I thought we responded well."

St. Louis dominated the first period, outshooting Dallas 17-5, but built only a 1-0 lead, thanks in large part to Niemi.

With Stars forward Jason Spezza off for roughing, Backes scored two minutes into the first period to put the Blues ahead 1-0. He tipped Alexander Steen's one-time slap shot from the top of the right circle after it initially deflected off Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya's stick. Backes, who is tied with Red Berenson for eighth in St. Louis history with 53 power-play goals, was between Oduya and Niemi at the top of the crease.

Moments after Dallas defenseman Jamie Oleksiak hit the post with a wrist shot from above the right faceoff circle, Tarasenko scored at 11:10 of the third period when he took Backes' drop pass and beat Niemi high to the glove side with a wrist shot. Tarasenko's past nine goals have come on home ice.

Reaves scored to make it 3-0 with 4:25 remaining when he followed up Scottie Upshall's breakaway attempt.

The Stars got their legs underneath them in the second period and outshot the Blues 11-2, but they couldn't solve Allen.

"He's a good goalie," Benn said of Allen. "He just made some big saves, I guess. You know, I thought his team blocked some pretty good shots for him, but he's a good goalie. He's going to make saves, and we didn't make it hard enough on him tonight."

The Blues went from tying a season high in shots in the first period (17) to tying a season low for shots in the second period (two).

"We took our foot off the gas in the second period, which we still need to improve on," Allen said. "Not the whole second period, but there were some parts where we can definitely get better, there's a long ways to go, but it's another step in the right direction."

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