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Blues ride D-men goals to win against Red Wings

by Brian Hedger

DETROIT -- The St. Louis Blues felt it was time to get back to what they do best.

Using a dominant forecheck and patrolling the front of the opposing net like they owned it, the Blues snapped a two-game losing streak Monday night by beating the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 at Joe Louis Arena.

St. Louis (33-10-5) got three of its goals from defensemen and the other from a fourth line that gave the Red Wings (21-18-10) fits on the forecheck. It went exactly the way the Blues had planned it.

"The first two periods we played the way we had to play," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought the scoring chances might've been even in the first two periods, but the zone time was in our favor and that's our game. Our game plan was more based on volume and zone time and wearing people out, and that's what we accomplished in the first two periods."

They also did that for the first 10 minutes of the third, getting a fortunate bounce on a goal by Jay Bouwmeester for the three-goal margin before the injury-plagued Red Wings finally pushed back a little. By that point, it was far too little and way too late.

Defensemen Barret Jackman and Kevin Shattenkirk also scored for the Blues, who got their first goal from fourth-line forward Magnus Paajarvi at 11:13 of the first period to open the scoring.

Alexander Steen finished with two assists for the Blues, who had 10 players record at least a point, and goaltender Jaroslav Halak improved to 20-7-3 by stopping 22 of 23 shots.

"[The] bottom line is they were better in all situations of the game," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought they manhandled us, to tell you the truth. They were better. They just won all the battles. You can't win at hockey when you don't win your own battles."

The biggest battle the Red Wings face is one that never seems to relent for them.

Detroit has been devastated by injuries to lineup regulars, including Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, and they received more bad news on that front Monday night.

Goalie Jimmy Howard exited at 10:44 of the middle period with another injury to the same knee that sidelined him for eight games in December. Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson is still on injured reserve with a groin injury, which means rookie Petr Mrazek, who relieved Howard, is the top option going forward.

"When you've got a bunch of kids, I talk about it every day, you don't have to be big to play heavy," Babcock said. "When you come up here and you don't play heavy, you never have the puck. You just keep giving it away. I think we've really been competing hard [recently], but I didn't think we competed hard enough tonight."

St. Louis sure did.

The Blues, who won in Detroit for the third straight time, didn't look past the banged-up Red Wings. They took it to their former Central Division rivals most of the game, outshooting them by a 39-23 margin and outworking them to kill off five of Detroit's six power plays, including a 5-on-3 in the second.

Paajarvi gave the Blues a 1-0 lead just past the midway point in the first, 2:45 after a great glove save by Halak nixed Todd Bertuzzi's one-timer from close range.

Howard's aggression left him slightly out of position, and Paajarvi made him pay with his fourth goal of the season. The Blues left wing collected the puck behind the net and banked a backhand wraparound attempt into the net off the right leg pad of Howard, who had just slid back into the crease.

"Our line was playing really well," Paajarvi said. "We took advantage of our forecheck, and that's key for us to be good on the forecheck. That's when we play like this."

Detroit, which got outshot in the first period 18-7, rallied late in the period to tie it 1-1 on a power-play goal by Gustav Nyquist. His sixth goal came off a rebound of a shot by Henrik Zetterberg and knotted the game with 27 seconds left in the opening period.

The Red Wings went right back on the power play 13 seconds later, when David Backes was called for holding, but couldn't grab the lead with the man advantage, which carried over into the second period.

The Blues seized control by taking a 3-1 lead on quick goals from Jackman and Shattenkirk early in the second. Each beat Howard to the left side of the net off a long shot through traffic. Steen, who assisted on both goals, screened Howard on Jackman's slap shot from the high slot at 1:01 to make it 2-1, and Backes stood in front of Howard, blocking the goalie's sight line, as Shattenkirk ripped a shot into the net with the man advantage for the two-goal cushion at 2:21.

"There was no chance he could see [the puck]," Hitchcock said of Howard. "We're looking from the bench in the second period and we missed three or four [shots] by an inch or two. But there was no way [Howard] was going to see any of those. He had no chance. There were two big bodies at the net all the time."

Howard left about eight minutes after Shattenkirk's goal. Mrazek, who's up from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, finished the game and made 13 saves.

The lone goal Mrazek allowed was Bouwmeester's at 2:14 of the third, and it reflected the kind of night it was for Detroit. Bouwmeester flipped a fluttering point shot that went wide to the far side, but the puck bounced off the leg of Red Wings center Riley Sheahan and into the net.

"The emphasis was to get guys to the net more," Bouwmeester said. "The past two games we didn't really create a lot around the net and part of that [as a defenseman] is, if guys are going to go there, you've got to do the job and get the puck there. We got some pretty good shots and mine was just a lucky one, but we did a good job of getting to the net."

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