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Blues use fast start to defeat Oilers, win 5th straight

by Louie Korac /

ST. LOUIS -- This time, the St. Louis Blues wanted to leave little doubt against one of the teams near the bottom of the NHL standings.

Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes scored first-period goals, with Jori Lehtera assisting on each, and the Blues defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 at Scottrade Center on Tuesday.

On Saturday, the Blues nearly fumbled away two points against the Carolina Hurricanes, who came in last in the Eastern Conference. The Blues trailed that game 3-1 in the first period before winning 5-4 in a shootout.

"Right from the start (Tuesday), guys were getting the pucks deep," said Blues defenseman Barret Jackman, who had two assists. "We were getting a lot of shots on net and recovering the rebounds. When we get our feet moving and play a [north-south] game, we're a much better overall team and a lot harder to defend."

St. Louis (27-13-3) won its fifth straight, outscoring the opposition 28-10 in that stretch. It's the third time this season the Blues have had a winning streak of at least five games.

"I think when we were on the streak before, we're playing much better hockey than we did then," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who tied Pat Quinn for fifth on the all-time list with his 684th NHL victory. "We were finding ways to win. We're controlling hockey games now.

"Now we're going to get really challenged here Thursday and Saturday, but we're really controlling the game a lot better. We were winning games, but overtime, late, we were finding heroes every night. We've got more of a team concept, team game going right now. If we can get our special teams both up and running here this week, I like our chances."

The Blues host the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in their next two games.

Tarasenko and Backes each had an assist, and Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen scored. Jake Allen made 13 saves for the Blues, who allowed a season-low 15 shots.

The Oilers (10-25-9), who have the fewest wins on the road this season (two), have lost 13 straight away from Rexall Place (0-7-6). They got two goals from Benoit Pouliot, and Ben Scrivens made 25 saves.

"It [stinks] when you lose," Pouliot said. "Everyone is down on themselves, everyone is in a bad mood. There's not a lot of positives, but we try to find a way to be positive and we've just got to battle. We've shown we can do it against the top teams and we can win games when we need to win games.

"It's tough. For the whole year, it's been tough, I think. Road games are always tougher than home games, that's normal, but the good teams are going to win wherever they play, and we've got to try and find a way to do that. It's getting late in the season, but it's never too late to build something off of what we got left and you never know what can happen."

The Blues scored twice in the first period on back-to-back shots.

Tarasenko's Blues-leading 24th goal, and fourth goal in the past five games against Edmonton, put St. Louis up 1-0. His wrist shot from the left circle trickled past Scrivens at the near post at 13:49.

Backes' 13th point (seventh goal) in the past nine games made it 2-0 on a redirection of Lehtera's backhand feed in the slot at 16:41.

"That was a really nice goal," Lehtera said. "I just threw it there, I closed my eyes and hoped."

Schwartz made it 3-0 with a redirection of Jackman's slap-pass from the left point 5:30 into the second period. Schwartz deflected the puck past Scrivens from the left circle to give him four goals and eight points in five games since returning from a broken foot.

"No, I didn't see him at all," Jackman said of Schwartz. "I was actually just trying to put it on net and it happened to go off an Edmonton forward's stick and [Schwartz] put a good tip on it."

Pouliot ended Allen's shutout with a power-play goal 8:37 into the third period on a tip of Justin Schultz's wrist shot.

Steen's 400th NHL point gave the Blues a 4-1 lead. Backes won a faceoff, and Steen's slap shot beat Scrivens high stick side with 3:34 remaining. Steen extended his point streak to seven games (five goals, eight assists).

Pouliot's second of the game, a wrist shot from the high slot with 1:56 remaining, made it 4-2.

Hitchcock called timeout to reinforce finishing strong.

"He had to say a couple bad words," Lehtera said. "We got the points, that's the most important."

Hitchcock's history with Quinn, who passed away in November, goes back to their international days with Canada.

"Obviously, we had a great friendship," Hitchcock said. "He was a real good friend, so just ... kind of means you're just old.

"He was the best manager of people that I've ever been with in my life. Whether it's the manager or a coach or anything, he's the best manager of people I've ever seen. He was in some highly volatile situations with us with World Cups and Olympics and he handled it perfectly every time. He was amazing."

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