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Blues go 3-0 on road trip with win over Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVERJake Allen skated over to the St. Louis Blues' bench, where the coaches had an iPad loaded with clips of the Vancouver Canucks he was likely about to face in a shootout.

The rookie goalie didn't want to know what was coming -- a philosophy that's serving him well in three straight wins to start his National Hockey League career.

Allen made 18 of his 28 saves in the third period and overtime, then added two more stops in the shootout to lead the Blues to a 4-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.

"You don't want to cheat, guys will make you look stupid especially at this level," Allen said of not wanting to look at the shootout tendencies of his opponents. "Some guys want an idea what's coming, but I don't. I just try to wait and wait and wait and wait them out as long as they can.

That's my theory on a shootout. And have fun with it."

The Blues are having fun again, sweeping a three-game road trip after losing the previous five games. All three wins have come in front of Allen, who quickly shook off Mason Raymond's tying power-play goal with 1:47 left, robbing Alexandre Burrows on a breakaway late in overtime, and turning aside Ryan Kesler and Burrows in the shootout.

"I am not getting too far ahead of myself," Allen said. "You never know. You are not going to win forever you just want to keep making the most of your chances, and that's what I am trying to do."

He got some help Sunday from T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald, who each scored in regulation and the shootout as the Blues twice came form behind before Vladimir Sobotka gave them a lead against the flow of play eight minutes into the third period.

St. Louis got goals from its top three lines to complete a road sweep that started with wins against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday and Calgary Flames on Friday. Allen, called up from the American Hockey League after Jaroslav Halak hurt his groin and put in when Brian Elliott struggled, won all three, and may have earned another start even though Halak was healthy enough to back up Sunday.

"He's just a solid guy, there's no holes in his game," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. "It's a big step for us. He really helped stabilize us."

Hitchcock said Allen is "probably going to play one of the next two" back-to-back games, and indicated Halak would get the other, meaning Elliott, who lead the NHL in save percentage last season, could be back in the press box as a healthy scratch again.

The Blues host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday before visiting the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday.

"This is going to end up in [general manager Doug Armstrong's] backyard," Hitchcock said. "We got to get Jaro going."

For now, Hitchcock is happy to have his team going again, though it wasn't always perfect against a Canucks' team that had a six-game losing streak snapped on Friday night. After limiting Vancouver to four shots in the second period, the Canucks outshot St. Louis 15-3 in the third, tying the game on the last of three-straight power plays.

After the recent losses, though, another win was all that mattered.

"We kind of got shocked into playing the right way after a home stand that was definitely less than stellar," captain David Backes said. "And on the road against three quality opponents, we knew it was time to put up or shut up and guys in here responded great."

The Canucks weren't nearly as happy with their response after the win streak was snapped. They mustered only four shots on goal in the second period.

"The second period everybody has to realize there's an opposition on the ice and they just took their game to a level that we had a real tough time finding," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "But we responded well in the third and had opportunities to win the game."

Allen wasn't overly busy early, but made six saves during that flurry early in the third, turning Burrows aside in tight a couple times shortly before Sobotka scored the go-ahead goal against the flow of play.

Kesler and Henrik Sedin each scored their first goals of the season for the Canucks, who have blown leads the last two games.

Roberto Luongo, back in goal after Cory Schneider started three of four, finished with 20 saves, but was beaten by both attempts in the shootout and wasn't happy with the first two goals he gave up.

After Kesler opened the scoring on an early power play – and in his second game after missing more than nine months following shoulder and wrist surgeries – Oshie shoveled a rebound into an empty net after Luongo got caught moving the wrong way on a Backes shot.

Sedin restored the lead on a nice give-and-go with Burrows with 50 seconds left in the period, but McDonald had another empty net and hit it from a sharp angle after Vladimir Tarasenko hit the post.

"I got caught a little bit off balance on the first one and usually I don't fall over like that," Luongo said. "I was trying to get some depth and it was a moving shot so I should have made the save deeper there and been able to recover on the save. On the second one, I got caught up on my post. Those are two mistakes by me I needed to clean up. Other than that, I felt good, I had jump. But definitely two mistakes there."

He didn't have much of a chance on the go-ahead goal.

After Allen turned away the Canucks flurry early in the third period, Sobotka circled out from behind the net to Luongo's left and fired a shot from the faceoff dot through a Patrick Berglund's screen and over the goalie's left shoulder for his first goal in nine games.

Allen, who was stranded on Raymond's tying goal did the rest, flashing the glove on Burrows' backhand late in overtime.

"We make a mistake in front of him, he picks us up and then we feel the responsibility to play better in front of him," Backes said. "It's just a good feeling in here right now."

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