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Blues reach 100-point plateau with win vs. Jets

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Playing without two of their top six forwards didn't faze the League-leading St. Louis Blues.

The Blues will be without Vladimir Tarasenko for six weeks with a right hand injury, and T.J. Oshie missed the game against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night because of the birth of his first child, a daughter, earlier in the day. It left the Blues without two players who've combined for 38 goals.

But David Backes' power-play goal with 6:51 remaining snapped a 1-1 tie and the Blues remained hot by defeating the Jets 3-1 at Scottrade Center.

Backes had two goals, Brenden Morrow scored and goalie Ryan Miller stopped 16 shots to remain unbeaten in regulation with St. Louis (7-0-1).

The Blues are the first team in the League to hit the century mark in points (101). They are four points ahead of their closest competitors, the Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.

St. Louis improved to 47-14-7 on the season and 8-0-1 in its past nine games. The Blues are 7-0-2 in their past nine home games and 20-0-2 against Central Division opponents.

It's the sixth time in franchise history that the Blues have reached the 100-point mark, the most-recent was in 2011-12.

"'Vova' (Tarasenko) with his injury, we're hoping he's back sooner than later and then our thoughts are with 'Osh,' Lauren and the new baby in the hospital," Backes said. "Hopefully he'll be back with us soon. We miss a guy like that, all his energy.

"We had to fabricate a little energy in the locker room before we went out. He's quite a spark plug for us. You miss a guy like that, not just in the room, but on the ice too making plays all over the place. They're both missed, but we're going to have little instances like that throughout the year, throughout the rest of the season, throughout the playoffs. Different guys stepping in to fill those roles, it's good to see."

Eric O'Dell scored for the Jets, who fell six points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the Western Conference's second wild-card spot in the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Jets goalie Al Montoya stopped 22 shots.

"That's frustrating. This is what that team does," Montoya said of the Blues. "They get up by a goal and they hold the fort. It was a perfect situation for us."

After Evander Kane took a slashing penalty in the offensive zone, Backes gave the Blues the lead with their only shot with the man advantage after he took a caromed puck in the slot off a shot from Ian Cole and beat Montoya five-hole at 13:09 of the third period.

"I wish I had a beautiful explanation for you that it was all planned out and great hockey sense," Backes joked. "At that time of the game, power play late, power plays for both teams weren't real spectacular to say the least earlier. Just kind of dumbing it down, shooting the puck, getting bodies to the net and I was able to find a loose one and swatting at it and rolled her through there."

Jets coach Paul Maurice lamented that Kane took an offensive-zone penalty against the Blues' Chris Porter.

"We just can't be in the box there," Maurice said. "That's the bottom line on that play."

O'Dell had tied the game for the Jets (31-30-9) 1:55 into the third after taking a pass from Kane in a 4-on-4 situation and beating Miller, who dove out to try to poke-check the puck.

It was a game then, and not because the Jets fought their way back in, according to Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, but more so because the Blues failed to capitalize when the chances were there in the second period.

"For us, we made a game of it because we couldn't pull away because of all the scoring chances," Hitchcock said. "That made a game of it.

"We really played well in the second period and kind of got a little bit sloppy in the last four, five minutes. But the first 15 minutes, 16 minutes we played in the second period, we could have had four, five goals if we would have salted it away and gave them a chance to play in the third period."

Backes was given credit for an empty-net goal with 1:11 remaining when he was taken down by Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba while trying to go for the empty net to make it 3-1. It's Backes' first goal without actually putting the puck in the net.

"I think it is," Backes said. "That doesn't happen a whole lot. Sometimes when things aren't going perfect for you, you'll take them any way you can get them. Hopefully that's the start of a little streak here."

"I don’t think that game should have gone to 3-1," Maurice said. "I don't think that's an automatic goal. I don't think it's a slash. He goes down, maybe they locked feet. But it's not unimpeded progress.

"That game should be still 2-1 in my mind. But 2-1 is still a deficit for us."

Morrow snapped a 10-game scoring drought when he one-timed Derek Roy's centering feed past Montoya 1:44 into the second period to open the scoring. After Jay Bouwmeester's point shot was blocked, the bouncing puck eluded Jets forward Devin Setoguchi and Roy was able to slot a pass to Morrow. Bouwmeester broke a 12-game pointless streak and Roy also snapped a 10-game drought.

Miller only saw five shots in the second period but was up to the task on a couple of quality chances, including saves on Blake Wheeler after a neutral zone giveaway and Bryan Little after a Blues line change that could have produced a disastrous result.

An uneventful first period produced only 13 shots between the teams, hardly any stoppages in play and no penalties. The Jets' Anthony Peluso had the best chance with a point-blank backhand that Miller was able to get his paddle down to make the stop.

"We had a lot of good players," said Hitchcock, whose team improved to 38-1-5 when scoring first and 30-0-4 when leading after two periods. "We didn't finish like we normally would have but we had a lot of good players in the game today. I thought we managed the game well. We got up to speed more and more. ... We had all six defensemen contribute. We had four lines chip in when we had to. You like to see rewards for working this hard, getting that many scoring opportunities."

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