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Blues top Capitals for 10th win in 11 games

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues have received what coach Ken Hitchcock called some great individual play throughout the young season. Somebody new always seems to step up at the most opportune time, whether it's a big goal from the "STL Line," stellar goaltending or a key defensive play that's sparked the Blues during their recent surge.

The veteran coach said the Blues were still waiting for a consistent effort from the group.

On Saturday night, they got it.

The Blues got efforts up and down the lineup in a 4-1 victory against the Washington Capitals at Scottrade Center to finish a five-game homestand 4-1-0.

All three members of the "STL Line" seem to be taking turns helping the Blues (12-4-1) win games, and Jaden Schwartz made his presence felt with a goal and an assist Saturday. But top-line players David Backes and Patrik Berglund also got in on the scoring with a goal and assist each

Although Vladimir Tarasenko saw his seven-game point streak end, Schwartz got his ninth and 10th points during a six-game point streak (eight assists), and fellow "STL Line" member Jori Lehtera extended his point streak to seven games (11 points) with his fifth goal for the Blues, who have won 10 of 11. The "STL Line" has combined for 33 points in the past eight games.

Goalie Brian Elliott earned his sixth win in his past seven starts by stopping 24 shots. Kevin Shattenkirk had two assists to give him five in three games.

"I think it came down to Backes' line," Shattenkirk said. "They had to face the [Alex] Ovechkin line all night, and they did a great job keeping them in their defensive zone. I think that was the most important thing, shutting them down, and then the other three lines were able to get free and play good hockey

"Everyone played really well tonight, from three defensive pairings to all four lines and obviously [Elliott]."

Washington (7-7-3), which lost its second game in as many nights, got a goal from Joel Ward. Justin Peters stopped 30 shots.

"I think it was a good example; I think St. Louis, you have to consider them a contender in the [Western Conference] and you get measured up by them and you see the level of play and the level of physicality and the level of commitment that's needed to be successful," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said of the Blues. "There's a reason they've won 10 of 11 games. They play a pretty solid game."

Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt agreed.

"They were just all over us," Schmidt said. "We didn't have a lot of speed hitting the blue line. We need to get pucks deep, and their defensemen played really well.

"We can learn a lot from this game, see a lot of things we can work on, take some things from their game. They do some things especially well; take what we learn and use it in our next couple of games."

The Blues smothered the Capitals for much of the game. They didn't take any penalties to give Washington's third-ranked power play an opportunity. Ovechkin came into the game as the NHL leader in shots on goal with 75, or 4.69 per game; the Blues held him to three.

"That doesn't happen very often, because he loves to get that puck on his stick and let 'er rip," Backes said of Ovechkin.

From top to bottom, the Blues perfected their game plan.

"I thought we had the game with the most contributors," said associate coach Brad Shaw, who subbed for Hitchcock at the postgame press conference.

"It was probably our most complete game of the season, 60 minutes, all facets," Backes said. "... We played a good game against a tired team where we were getting pucks deep, not letting them transition and fly the way that they like to stay on the move and turn it into a track meet. They've got tons of skill that will make you pay."

Lehtera scored his seventh goal when he converted Schwartz's flip pass from the slot with a quick shot past Peters 9:11 into the first period for a 1-0 lead. Schwartz's initial shot was blocked, but he stayed with the puck and made a quick pass.

Ward tied the game and snapped Washington's goal drought at 91:59 when his wrist shot from the top of the left circle eluded Elliott and trickled over the goal line 6:38 into the second period. It was Ward's first goal in four games after he had a three-game goal-scoring streak.

Schwartz gave the Blues the lead again at 2-1 when he was able to backhand in a rebound off Shattenkirk's wrist shot from the right point, outmuscling Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner in front of Peters at 12:36 of the second period.

The Blues then got a gift from Peters early in the third. Peters misplayed a puck behind his net, and Berglund was able to reach and tip a pass to Backes, who found an empty net 12 seconds into the third period to give the Blues a 3-1 lead.

"I told you guys this morning he's been working his butt off doing a lot of the little things that haven't been on the scoresheet all year," Backes said of Berglund. "Tonight he got on the scoresheet a couple times. Awesome effort by him to take the puck from the goalie. I had the empty net."

It was the second night in a row a turnover by a Capitals goalie cost Washington a goal. On Friday, Braden Holtby's giveaway to Mike Cammalleri in the third period enabled the New Jersey Devils to win 1-0.

Berglund took a cross-ice pass from Oshie and beat Peters with 3:19 remaining to give the Blues a 4-1 lead.

"He's driving hard down the far side, [Oshie] makes a great patience play and finds his tape, and [Berglund] makes no mistake," Backes said. "... Great to see him get the rewards."

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