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Blues beat Kings 3-1 for first win of 2011

NHL.com @NHL
A trip to Los Angeles was just what the St. Louis Blues needed.

The struggling Blues won their first game of 2011 by beating the slumping Kings 3-1 on Thursday night. Rookie Ryan Reaves put St. Louis ahead with his second NHL goal, and the Blues beat the Kings for the fifth time in a row, including three in a row at the Staples Center.

The victory ended a five-game losing streak for the Blues, who were routed 7-4 at Anaheim on Wednesday.

"Five (losses) is too many, clearly, but that's what we have to work with right now," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "When you're looking for wins and trying to get things started, you have to do it any way you can. If we can play this type of game again, we'll have a better outlook at the end of games. Play a consistent game and plug away at the process, and we'll be OK."

The Kings are anything but OK. They fell to 1-6-0 on an eight-game homestand that ends Saturday and have dropped seven of eight overall.

"It's a matter of finding it collectively within this locker room," forward Ryan Smyth said. "Everybody's got to look themselves in the mirror and be prepared to come to play. We're not getting a full 60, and we've got to find ways to keep the momentum that we usually gain from the first period into the second."

B.J. Crombeen and Alexander Steen also scored for St. Louis, which got a 24-save effort by Jaroslav Halak. Michal Handzus scored and Jonathan Quick stopped 18 shots for the Kings, who were leapfrogged in the Western Conference standings by St. Louis -- the Blues are ninth, while L.A. fell to 11th.

The Kings struggled to generate any offense against the Blues, who had Halak back in net after backup Ty Conklin was blasted by the Ducks. Halak got little work early, but punctuated his 16th victory with an exceptional sprawling pad save with 5:05 to play.

The seven-of-eight slide is the second for the Kings this season, matching one in November. The Kings are 21-5-1 otherwise, but the club is losing ground in the chase for its second straight playoff berth.

"Right now we're having a little problem with creativity and getting some enthusiasm," said Kings defenseman Jack Johnson, who had an assist on his 24th birthday. "When you're losing like this, it's easy to get frustrated. It's more mentally demanding than it is physically to keep the enthusiasm and the passion up, and that's what we have to remain focused on right now."

St. Louis opened the scoring 11:38 into the game when Crombeen tipped Alex Pietrangelo's long wrist shot past Quick for his fourth goal and first in 21 games since Nov. 27. Handzus tied it 5:37 into the second when he deflected Alec Martinez's shot past Halak.

Reaves, who got his first NHL goal in the third period Wednesday, put St. Louis ahead at 14:16 when he jumped on a rebound of Chris Porter's shot and beat Quick. The two goals are half of the total he managed in 33 games at AHL Peoria before his recall.

"I'm not known for my goal-scoring, but two in two games is pretty good, I guess," Reaves said. "It's a little easier to come up (to the NHL) this time. The nerves are a little bit better now. I'm settling in a little bit, trying to get to know the guys."

Steen then scored 64 seconds before the period ended, firing home a wrist shot after teammate Brad Boyes forced a turnover by Drew Doughty in the corner.

The Kings know they've got to turn things around quickly before they drop too far in the crowded Western Conference race.

"We'll find a way through this together, but not one or two guys is going to do it," Smyth said. Yes, guys have got to step up and raise their level of play, for sure, but it's going to be with everybody in this locker room. … Everybody wants to win. There's a sense of urgency and a winning attitude, but it's finding it and playing with confidence and building one period or one shift at a time to carry forth into the next and then into the game situations when you're winning."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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