VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - The St. Louis Blues have an easy explanation for their surprising dominance of the Vancouver Canucks this season.
Figuring out why they've been better since trading their best players is tougher.
"We just outworked them," goalie Curtis Sanford said after the Blues completed a season sweep of Vancouver with a 4-1 win Sunday night. "When you do that, things usually go your way."
Sanford made 23 saves and rookie center Jay McClement had three assists for the Blues, who went 4-0 against Vancouver this season, outscoring the Canucks 16-4 despite trailing them by 30 points in the Western Conference standings
"We just seem to have their number," said McClement, who set up Scott Young and Barret Jackman in the first period, then added his third assist on Lee Stempniak's power-play goal in the third.
Christian Backman also scored for the Blues, who have won seven of 10 since trading away top scorers Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger in late January.
"That's tougher to explain, those are our two best centers and two of our top point-getters," McClement said of the Blues' improvement since the trades. "It was a big loss for us."
With nine points in his last four games, McClement has helped make up for that loss. But the 23-year-old center wasn t ready to accept too much of the credit, instead pointing to improvements in the defensive zone and a team-wide willingness to work hard.
Canucks captain Markus Naslund agreed.
"I think you ve got to look at the work ethic," Naslund said. "They outworked us."
Young opened the scoring 2:18 into the game after a delayed Vancouver penalty to Naslund and a resulting coverage breakdown left him all alone in front of Alex Auld. The Canucks had a great chance to tie the game 3 minutes later, but failed to register even a shot during a 5-on-3 power play for 1:38.
Jackman doubled the Blues lead with 2 minutes left in the first, pinching in from the point behind Carter's check before taking McClement's pass out of the corner and beating Auld.
"My fault on the first one and then we let another mistake happen and we're down 2-0 and that's exactly what we didn t want to do against these guys because they're a disciplined team, they work hard and they're tough to get chances against," Naslund said.
Anson Carter got most of the Canucks' chances, but only converted one that counted. He scored the only Vancouver goal with 3:19 left in the second, but was robbed by Sanford with 20 seconds left in the period to keep the Blues' lead at two goals.
Carter had another goal called back with 1:50 left after referee Kerry Fraser ruled he had knocked the puck out of the air past Sanford with his glove.
Backman made it 3-0 midway through the second - seconds after the Canucks killed off a power play - and Stempniak rounded out the scoring in the third after Vancouver forward Richard Park was given a 5-minute penalty and game misconduct for knocking Jackman face first into the boards with a hit from behind.
Auld finished with 31 saves.
Notes: Unlike Weight, St. Louis LW Keith Tkachuk, who recorded his 27th point in just 19 games, said he will not waive his no-trade clause before the upcoming March 9 trade deadline. ... Blues forward Tomofei Shishkanov played after being called up from AHL Peoria Saturday to replace Petr Cajanek, who was placed on injured reserve after hurting his wrist at the Olympics. ... Blues RW Vladimir Orszagh missed the game with a leg injury. ... Vancouver C Ryan Kesler played after leaving Friday's game in Chicago with a knee injury. ... Canucks D Mattias Ohlund has resumed skating after injury his ribs in the Olympics and could return Thursday against Nashville, but D Sami Salo is still week-to-week with a shoulder injury suffered during the Olympics.