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Blues top Ducks despite missing key players

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- No David Backes, no T.J. Oshie, no Paul Stastny and no Joakim Lindstrom. No worries for the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues found a way to persevere against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday despite playing without four of their top nine forwards, players who had accounted for 19 percent of their offensive production through the first eight games.

Nobody was going to feel sorry for the Blues, so neither were they.

Alexander Steen's first-period goal proved to be the difference, and Jake Allen stopped all 24 shots he faced to earn his second NHL shutout in the Blues' 2-0 win against the Ducks at Scottrade Center.

"You lose those four key offensive additions and key parts of our team, our captain (Backes), but to be able to see guys from my perspective step up, watching them out there, watching [Chris Porter], [Magnus Paajarvi], [Maxim Lapierre], [Ryan Reaves], those guys filled those guys' roles. … I had to do my part," Allen said. "Every team in the League is going to have losses (to injuries) all season long, and unfortunately we have them right now.

"So just to see everyone step up and stick together. They are one of the best teams in the League with so much firepower; guys were sacrificing themselves tonight, and it was a big win."

Reaves also scored for the Blues, who have won three in a row.

The Blues (5-3-1) were missing Backes and Oshie, each of whom was diagnosed with a concussion earlier Thursday after they sustained injuries Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. Stastny (shoulder) missed his fifth consecutive game, and Lindstrom became the latest to fall prey to a bacterial infection the Blues have dealt with over the past two weeks.

Those players were replaced up front by Paajarvi and Porter, and Jordan Leopold, a healthy scratch against Dallas, played as the seventh defenseman.

"I just think we managed the game the way we had to," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "... I thought we did a really good job of managing the lines on the ice. This is really eight of the last nine periods we've done a better job of managing the lines, and when we do that, with our work ethic, we can take advantage of it."

John Gibson stopped 27 shots for the Ducks, who fell to 8-3-0 and were shut out for the first time since Feb. 5. The Ducks play in Dallas on Friday.

The Ducks had a tremendous edge on paper entering the game Thursday, with all their key pieces in the lineup, so they tried to stay cautious of the Blues' situation.

"They were a hungry team tonight," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said of the Blues. "We talked about it before the game. Teams that are down some of their best players, they dig deeper and they played as hard as they could. If you are not ready to meet their work ethic, then you are not going to have success. They just worked harder."

Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf agreed.

"We didn't work," he said. "It doesn't matter what you do. If you are standing still in this league, you can't make plays. It's a pretty simple explanation. We were standing around watching. It's all mental. Our responsibility as professionals is to be ready to play. You can make mistakes on the ice, but not moving our legs, not being mental between the ears is our fault."

Steen's goal, his second, came off a deflection of a left-point shot by Carl Gunnarsson. Despite being tied up by Anaheim defenseman Mark Fistric, Steen got in front of the shot, and the puck got past Gibson off Steen's body 4:29 into the first period to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.

"It's basically the way the team played tonight," Steen said, describing his goal. "... I thought we played a pretty solid game. We got back to playing our style. ... We played a simple, extremely smart hockey game tonight."

It was the Blues' first goal against the Ducks in 129:58 dating back to Jan. 18, when Anaheim won 3-2 in St. Louis.

The Ducks had a great opportunity to tie it late in the first when the Blues turned over the puck in their zone while on the power play, but Getzlaf fired a wrist shot high from the slot in the waning seconds.

The Blues took advantage of a turnover by Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, who fanned on an attempted outlet pass from his own zone, and Reaves fired a wrist shot from the slot past Gibson 2:02 into the third period for a 2-0 St. Louis lead.

The Ducks had 20 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play midway through the third period, and Allen robbed Corey Perry from the slot with 10:55 remaining to preserve the two-goal lead.

Once the Blues gained the two-goal advantage, they felt like they wouldn't be denied.

"I thought we played the third period the way we needed to ... on our toes," Hitchcock said, "and we kept up the pressure right until the very end when they were able to pull the goalie and then took the power play there."

Lapierre, who got an assist on Reaves' goal, saved the Blues from surrendering the Ducks' first goal by pulling the puck off the goal line after it had trickled past Allen with Anaheim playing with a sixth attacker with less than two minutes remaining.

"I thanked him after the game," Allen said of Lapierre. "There was a screen. I think [Ryan] Kesler shot it and I just saw it at the last second and got my glove on it, and I didn't really want to move in case I knocked it in my own net. Great second effort by him. Those guys are sacrificing, paying the extra price."

After allowing 13 first-period shots, the Blues limited the Ducks to 11 the rest of the way.

"We were skating out of our zone, using our speed, using our feet, our smarts, and that's the way we want to play -- it doesn't matter who's in the lineup," Allen said. "But we played great. It was great to see. We've been making a lot of strides lately so it was great to see."

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