CALGARY – They're heading in the right direction, but coach Ken Hitchcock doesn't feel the St. Louis Blues have quite turned the corner yet.
Not even a four-goal first period at the expense of the Calgary Flames was enough to sway Hitchcock.
The reigning Central Division champions got two goals from David Perron and a goal and two assists from Alex Steen as they beat the Flames 5-2 Friday night, giving the Blues back-to-back wins after snapping a five-game losing skid two nights earlier with an overtime victory in Detroit.
"For us to get to the next level, we have to collectively enjoy the competition and not want it to be something different," Hitchcock said. "For me, we need to find 60 minutes in our game. We've been playing 40 minutes but we've had our foot off the accelerator. We're making some strides but we aren't there yet."
St. Louis (8-5-1) was spotted an early two-goal lead after two bad turnovers by the Flames (4-5-3) and never looked back.
Just 1:28 into the game, Dennis Wideman tried to clear the puck up the middle but put it directly onto the stick of Steen. He quickly found Jaden Schwartz parked on the edge of the crease, and Schwartz deked starter Leland Irving before lifting the puck into the net for a 1-0 lead.
It became 2-0 at 4:07 after another failed clearing attempt by Wideman wound up on Schwartz's stick. Schwartz found Patrik Berglund streaking towards the net, and he beat Irving over the glove to make it 2-0. The goal, on St. Louis' fourth shot, ended Irving's night.
The Flames tried to crawl back into the game, but rookie goaltender Jake Allen slammed the door.
Jiri Hudler broke the St. Louis zone and fed Alex Tanguay; he returned the puck to Hudler, who found trailing defenseman TJ Brodie cruising into the slot. Brodie was staring at an empty net with Allen caught out of position, but was left empty-handed after Allen extended to knock the puck out of midair with his paddle and keep Calgary off the board.
"Most of the guys would've taken that one-timer option on a 3-on-1 like that, but he's skilled so he made another play. I saw a guy come out of the corner of my eye in the back and if you have to do something desperate you have to," Allen said. "I just tried to get anything in front of the puck and fortunately for me, it hit my stick and even better just popped up in front of me. It was definitely one of the more lucky but bigger saves I've made."
The stop left more than an impression on David Perron.
"Probably the save of the year right there," he said. "I think it's pretty impressive that he did that in his second NHL game and it's good for us, I think. We had a good start and if they score on that, they probably were going to have a better period."
Brodie could only shake his head at the missed opportunity.
"I watched it," he said. "I had lots of room. I should have put it in."
"It changes the whole outcome of the game. I definitely have to put those in."
The save, one of 30 on the night by Allen, energized St. Louis. The Blues added goals by Steen and Perron before the end of the period. Both were scored against Joey MacDonald, who relieved Irving.
"We shouldn't even be talking about our goalies tonight. We just didn't give them a chance," Flames coach Bob Hartley said.
In the second period, Calgary picked up its play in front of MacDonald – making his first appearance of the season after being claimed on waivers by the Flames this week.
Hudler stripped Alex Pietrangelo of the puck behind the net and centered for Blake Comeau in the slot, but Allen was equal to the task with just under eight minutes left in the period. Hudler got the better of Pietrangelo again at 14:30, dancing around the Blues defenseman on a partial break but had his shot bodied away by Allen.
Wideman, atoning for his earlier misplays, broke through against Allen just over a minute later.
With Chris Stewart serving a bench minor for too many men on the ice, Wideman corralled the puck in the high slot and fired a slap shot over Allen's blocker with 4:23 remaining in the period to make it 4-1.
Curtis Glencross made it a two-goal game at 2:46 of the third period by redirecting a Jarome Iginla pass on the doorstep to Allen's right into the net for his fifth of the season and the 100th goal of his career. But Perron answered with his second power-play goal of the night, ripping the puck over MacDonald's blocker at 4:08.
"I just made a bad play that took the puck right out of the zone and I was pretty frustrated about that and I wanted to go in and make a good play," Perron said. "I don't know if I put any extra mustard on that shot, but I was so frustrated and it went in."
Allen closed the door on the Flames after Perron restored the three-goal lead, making a pad save off Matt Stajan alone in the slot at 8:43 and stopping Iginla from in close after a Kevin Shattenkirk giveaway behind the net with just over four minutes remaining.
"This is now five periods of really strong hockey," Hitchcock said of Allen. "We'll see moving forward, we'll see if he gets another start and if he does, hopefully he can continue to play the same way."