ST. LOUIS -- Rust? What rust?
After missing the past 12 games due to injury, St. Louis Blues center Vladimir Sobotka returned Thursday night with a goal and two assists to power a 6-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Scottrade Center.
Sobotka, who broke his left kneecap Jan. 31 against the Carolina Hurricanes, is more known for his 200-foot game, but his offensive skill set was on full display against the Oilers as he matched his career-high for points.
It was the fifth time Sobotka had three points in a game in his career; the last was March 9, 2013, when he scored his only NHL hat trick against the San Jose Sharks.
"I would say it probably took me two or three shifts. Then I kind of got going," Sobotka said. "I just kept it simple on the ice. I tried to keep up with [Vladimir Tarasenko and T.J. Oshie].
"As a line, we skated. We put the puck deep and didn't turn it over too much. That was our game plan."
Sobotka, who is from the Czech Republic, apparently isn't familiar with the saying, "He didn't miss a beat."
"I told him that on the ice ... he didn't know what I meant," joked Jaden Schwartz, who scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season. "He worked hard to get back. He's a guy that's got good instincts and works hard. It's good to see him have a game like that.
"He's doing his job, and we want to make sure we're following guys like that. It's fun to watch. You want to push yourself to the next level when you see guys playing like that."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was impressed by Sobotka's performance.
"He's a smart player," he said. "Take control of the middle of the ice, smart, had good tempo to his game and distributed the puck. It looked like the same guy that ... I think it's pretty impressive for a guy to miss six weeks and really has not practiced other than he's got worked a lot at optionals."
The Blues scored three times in a 7:14 span in the third period to snap a 2-2 tie on the way to the big win, which gave them 97 points, four more than their closest competitors for the Presidents' Trophy, the Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins and Sharks.
Oshie had a goal and two assists, Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, and Alexander Steen had two assists for the Blues, who improved to 45-14-7. Ryan Miller stopped 23 shots to improve to 5-0-1 with the Blues and 7-0-0 all-time against the Oilers. Miller has a 1.82 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage while stopping 134 of 145 shots since coming to St. Louis in a Feb. 28 trade with the Buffalo Sabres.
The Blues won all three games against the Oilers this season and have won eight of the past nine. St. Louis outscored Edmonton 17-4 this season.
The Oilers got goals from former Blues forward David Perron and defenseman Mark Fraser. Ben Scrivens stopped 31 shots.
Giving up four goals in the third period did not sit well with Oilers coach Dallas Eakins.
"I don't care how good they are," Eakins said of the Blues. "We were able to play with them for two periods. We should certainly be able to do it for another 20 minutes."
The teams went to the second intermission tied at 2-2, but the Blues blew the game open in the third. Alex Pietrangelo scored 42 seconds into the period on a feed from Sobotka, who stripped Oilers defenseman Andrew Ference of the puck behind the Edmonton goal. It was Pietrangelo's eighth goal, second in as many games.
"It certainly looked like he didn't miss a beat," Pietrangelo said of Sobotka. "It's a big return. It's certainly helped us here. We kind of needed that.
"Sometimes when you find those holes, you tend to find them again. Sometimes the bounces go the other way. Hopefully, I keep getting the bounces."
Schwartz scored at 4:25 to make it 4-2, beating Scrivens with a one-timer from the slot off a David Backes feed. Oshie scored his 17th goal at 7:56 on another one-timer from the side of the goal with the Blues on a two-man advantage. Schwartz scored his second goal at 12:56 when he cleaned up another rebound, this time off a Maxim Lapierre shot.
Perron fired a wrister past Miller for his team-leading 25th of the season off a pass from Taylor Hall to give Edmonton a 1-0 lead 7:39 into the game.
"I thought we had them when we scored there because ... well, obviously, I knew there was a lot of time [remaining], but at the same time I know they get the first goal most of the games and I remember from playing over there, when the other team would get the first goal, it would be hard to get back in the game," Perron said. "They're set up to play with the lead and when they get the lead, it's impossible to come back on them pretty much.
"But it's good for our team to see what it's like to play one of the teams that's going to go far in the playoffs. We know what we're missing and we'll try to adjust slowly."
Sobotka took a saucer feed from Tarasenko in the slot and made a strong drive to the net, fighting through Ryan Nugent-Hopkins before going backhand to forehand in tight to beat Scrivens at 18:48 of the first to tie the game 1-1. It was Tarasenko's sixth assist in the past seven games.
Oshie, Sobotka and Tarasenko combined on the rush to give the Blues a 2-1 lead 5:05 into the second period. Sobotka dropped the puck just inside the Edmonton blue line to Tarasenko, who sent a cross-ice feed to Oshie before taking the return pass and sending a wrister past Scrivens high stick side for his 20th goal.
The Oilers tied the game when Fraser scored his first of the season, fourth of his career, with 1:57 left in the second period.
Barret Jackman took a knee to the head from Oilers forward Jesse Joensuu, leaving the Blues defenseman lying face-first on the ice. But instead of blowing the play dead, referees Kevin Pollack and Chris Rooney allowed play to continue as per rule 8.1 of the NHL Official Rule Book, and Fraser's shot from the slot trickled through Miller, who immediately began arguing with Pollack for not stopping the play immediately and for not blowing the play dead when he felt Joensuu interfered with him in the crease.
"I got bumped as I challenged the play, [so] I couldn't make my move the other way," Miller said. "I had to spin off of it. If the guy's going to set a pick ... it is what it is.
"We came out and played a great third period and didn't have to worry about it. I was a little ticked ... go out and take it to these guys a little bit."