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Blues shut out Flames to extend winning streak

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Thanks in part to goals from five different players and a 33-save shutout from Jaroslav Halak, the St. Louis Blues beat the Calgary Flames 5-0 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday, running their winning streak to seven.

The Blues' last loss came on Dec. 23 at the hands of the Flames by way of a 4-3 shootout decision, and the two teams have gone in completely opposite directions since. St. Louis' seven straight victories is the longest active stretch in the NHL and the team's longest winning streak since putting together a nine-game run from Oct. 15 to Nov. 5, 2002.

“It’s nice to string a couple together here,” Blues captain David Backes said. “It seems like you have to to stay paced with some of these other teams in the West.

“It’s a good feeling in here. We have different guys stepping up and different guys picking each other up when they falter. It’s a good recipe.”

The Flames, meanwhile, have won once and been shut out in five of seven games since the win against St. Louis. The Flames have scored five goals in that span and have been outscored 15-1 in their past five home games.

“It [stinks],” Flames center Matt Stajan said. “We can't score goals in this building, for whatever reason. We have to dig down. Enough is enough.

“We can't be satisfied just with good chances. We have to score. It's the NHL — you can't win in this league if you don't score.”

The Blues acted quickly Thursday night to make sure their winning ways and the Flames’ losing streak continued.

Eighteen seconds after Dennis Wideman's penalty for cross checking expired, Derek Roy spun and fired a no-look pass between Flames defenseman TJ Brodie's legs to Chris Stewart, who buried his 15th of the season behind goaltender Karri Ramo to put St. Louis up 1-0 at 9:32 of the first period.

Ramo used his blocker to deny Stewart's attempt 42 seconds later, but Vladimir Sobotka made it 2-0 at 11:37. Streaking down his off wing, Sobotka snapped a shot that beat the Flames goaltender to the far side.

The pair of goals prompted a timeout from Flames coach Bob Hartley, but despite a double minor to St. Louis' Maxim Lapierre shortly thereafter, Calgary managed just two shots on Halak over the four-minute man advantage en route to being outshot 12-6 in the period.

Halak was busier in the second, when the Flames directed six shots on net in the first five minutes -- not including Jiri Hudler's drive off the post -- and 15 shots overall. He didn’t waver in his return after an illness forced him to miss five games.

“It was necessary, otherwise it’s a 2-2 game,” Backes said. “We’ve been through that protocol here (in Calgary) before, and it didn’t end pretty for us. He was great in his return after being out for a little bit. Now we’ve got two goalies. It’s a tough decision for [Blues coach Ken Hitchcock], but two great options for him.”

Halak ensured Calgary couldn’t shake its slump despite plenty of scoring chances, and it was the Blues who struck again.

Spending an entire shift in the Calgary zone, Vladimir Tarasenko curled out of the corner with the puck and found Ian Cole inching in from the point. Cole corralled the pass before firing a shot that beat Ramo at 6:47 for his second of the season and a 3-0 lead.

“They had a few chances, hit the post, we scored,” Halak said. “It could’ve been a different game.”

Alex Pietrangelo wasted little time making it 4-0 on the power play early in the third, blasting a shot that hit Lance Bouma before skipping past Ramo and into the net at 1:16.

On the power play with Kevin Westgarth in the penalty box for roughing, Tarasenko, who had already extended his consecutive point streak to five games with his earlier assist, one-timed a pass from Jordan Leopold past Ramo 1:16 after Pietrangelo's goal; it was the second-year right wing’s 15th.

Hudler tried again to snap Halak's shutout bid, stickhandling around Blues defenseman Barret Jackman on a 1-on-1 before letting go a backhander from the slot that Halak gloved.

Halak saved his best for last. With Stewart in the penalty box for holding the stick, he gloved down Mike Cammalleri's redirect from near point-blank range before stoning Hudler again from the slot with less than four minutes remaining.

“I thought the best player in the game was our goalie,” Hitchcock said. “I thought Halak was outstanding. He really did a nice job for us. He shut the door. It’s good on him.”

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