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game recap

Big third period carries Blues past Ducks

St. Louis wins fifth in a row; Anaheim loses third straight

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Jori Lehtera and Patrik Berglund scored goals 1:04 apart early in the third period, and the St. Louis Blues defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 at Scottrade Center on Friday.

With the win, the Blues (40-20-9) moved within one point of first place in the Central Division. They are one ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks, who lost to the first-place Dallas Stars 5-2 on Friday. The Stars host the Blues on Saturday.

The Blues turned the tables on the Ducks in the third period after Anaheim's forecheck created issues for St. Louis earlier in the game.

Lehtera gave the Blues a 2-1 lead 1:55 into the third when linemates Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz forced Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler into losing the puck. Schwartz fed Lehtera in the left circle for a slap shot past goaltender Frederik Andersen.

Berglund scored at 2:59 when he picked off a Josh Manson pass in the slot, turned and beat Andersen with a slap shot for a 3-1 lead.

Video: ANA@STL: Tarasenko nets turnover to extend the lead

"I thought both teams really struggled against the other team's forecheck," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought we had some really good shifts in the first period on our forecheck and obviously we scored three goals [in the third period] because of it. They put the heat on us too. They come at you with a lot of speed, a lot of size. They come at you really hard."

Tarasenko had two goals and an assist and Paul Stastny scored for the Blues, who tied a season-high with their fifth straight win. Jake Allen made 26 saves to earn his career-high 23rd victory. He is 4-0-0 lifetime against Anaheim.

"Like I said before, we have a lot of lessons this year," Tarasenko said. "Some of them [were] really bad, some of them [were] really good. We need to decide what's wrong and look moving forward. ... We're happy to get these two points. It's really important for us."

Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell scored for the Ducks (37-21-9), who are 0-2-1 after a 14-game point streak (12-0-2). Andersen made 18 saves.

"We give them two shots right from the start [in the third period]," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's tough. They're a good team, but we can't make those defensive mistakes. We haven't in a long time and you would like to say those things happen and we haven't seen them happen. We don't want to see them happen anymore."

After the quick goals by Lehtera and Berglund, Rakell made it 3-2 with 4:33 remaining when he scored an unassisted goal that the Blues actually put into their own net. Allen made an initial save, but Troy Brouwer's clearing attempt caromed in off the skate of Stastny and into the net.

Video: ANA@STL: Lehtera nets Schwartz's nice feed

But Tarasenko made it 4-2 with 2:38 remaining, beating Andersen with a slap shot from the slot. Ducks defenseman Simon Despres couldn't handle Fowler's cross-ice pass and Tarasenko picked it off.

Tarasenko capped off his three-point game by hitting the empty net from midway in his own zone with 1:22 remaining for his 32nd goal of the season.

"Not many guys shoot from there, but he's pretty confident in his abilities and so are we," Allen said of Tarasenko. "I was glad he took it."

The Ducks took a 1-0 lead at 5:17 of the second period when they cashed in on a two-man advantage. Getzlaf knocked in Ryan Kesler's shot from the slot to put Anaheim ahead. After Lehtera was whistled for interference, the Blues were caught with too many men on the ice for 1:03, and Getzlaf was on the doorstep to bat a loose puck out of midair past Allen.

 Video: ANA@STL: Tarasenko nets empty-netter from long range

The Blues tied it at 16:36 when Stastny scored for the first time in 14 games. He redirected defenseman Carl Gunnarsson's shot-pass from the left point past Andersen for his seventh goal of the season. Brouwer, playing in his 600th NHL game, dug a puck out of the corner and fed Gunnarsson, who waited momentarily before finding Stastny alone to the left of Andersen after the Blues center peeled away from the top of the crease.

"You go up 1-0 on the road, you feel like you put yourself in a good position to win and I made a bad defensive play on that goal to make it 1-1," Fowler said. "I lost my guy in coverage, but still heading into the third, you have a 1-1 game. We'll take that 100 times out of 100. Breakdowns [are] what cost us the game. We were in position to win, so that's why it's a tough one."

The Blues began the week with a stretch of four games in seven nights against Stanley Cup Playoff teams; they are 3-0-0 with the chance to win all four if they can beat the Stars on Saturday.

"With everything we've gone through, we wake up tomorrow morning in a hockey game for first place," Hitchcock said. "Nobody would have thought of that because everything these guys have been through. That's been a feather in their cap. This is 3-0 against top teams, a chance to go 4-0 tomorrow. A tough opponent, but pretty impressive that we've been able to maintain a competitive level despite missing key guys all year."

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