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Halak, Blues shut out Wild; Steen scores twice

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues offense had things going early, then turned to their goalie to finish off another victory.

Jaroslav Halak didn't have much work early, but the Blues goaltender saved his best for last, turning aside all 22 shots he saw in a 3-0 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Monday night.

It was Halak's 27th career shutout, a franchise-record 18th as a member of the Blues and his second this season.

Halak, who is 13-3-2 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .911 save percentage, was busiest in the third period when Minnesota outshot the Blues 12-1. He turned aside a couple of high-percentage looks the final period.

"The first two periods, it was no shots again, no action for me, just a couple shots," Halak said. "I just needed to stay focused tonight. It wasn't easy, but going into the third and having the lead, that's what we wanted."

Wild forward Zach Parise missed most of the second period and all of the third after blocking an Alexander Steen shot in the first period. The team described his injury as day-to-day.

"We'll find out more tomorrow," Parise said.

Steen's 18th and 19th goals pulled him within one of the Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead, and Vladimir Sobotka scored his second in as many games.

The Blues are now a League-best plus-32 in goal differential.

"I just thought our 5-on-5 play was really good today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought this was one of the best games we've played 5-on-5 for a long time. I thought any of the scoring chances they got were on the power play. I thought 5-on-5, we really competed, and I thought we created a lot of pressure and presence, especially in the first two periods."

Minnesota thought it had a 1-0 lead 30 seconds into the game when Parise tipped Ryan Suter's shot from the left point past Halak. But the goal was immediately waved off, the call being that Parise's stick was above the crossbar, and after a lengthy review, it was determined video was inconclusive.

"To me, it was clear it was a good goal," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "The call on the ice impacts it. Fair to say we came unraveled for a few minutes after that. It was a big moment in the game.

"It’s bad enough we should be up 1-0 and now all of a sudden we’re down 1-0. But we still had plenty of game in front of us and not going to make excuses, but it was very disappointing."

Added Halak: "It was luck on our side tonight, on my side. If it was probably a little bit lower, it would be a goal. Giving up a goal from the first shot, that's not how we want to start a game. I'm glad it was no goal, and after that, we kept playing. It didn't bother us."

Taking advantage of the review ruling going in their favor, the Blues jumped out a 1-0 lead on Sobotka’s goal 50 seconds later.

Sobotka collected the rebound off Carlo Colaiacovo’s shot from inside the blue line and beat Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom.

"I'm just trying to get my speed and go to the net," Sobotka said. "It was a good shot by Carlo and I just found the puck in front of the net and I put it in."

It was Colaiacovo's first point in his first shift since signing with St. Louis as a free agent Nov. 12. He played since defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was out with the flu.

The Blues were doing a solid job getting shots from the point and putting bodies in front of Backstrom early in the game, and Steen benefited with his first goal in five games when he took in Jay Bouwmeester's shot from the left point and beat Backstrom with a backhand upstairs at 13:38 of the first period. Steen’s first goal gave the Blues a 2-0 lead.

After a 13-game point streak, Steen had only one assist in the past four games.

"Our D did a good job of getting pucks through," Steen said. "The first two (goals) were a result of that."

The middle period saw no scoring, but Halak made a key point-blank stop on Zenon Konopka with 1:49 left off a rebound at the top of the crease, and the Blues' Jaden Schwartz -- off a 3-on-2 rush -- rang a shot off the left post with 15 seconds remaining.

Chris Stewart had a big chance to extend the Blues' 2-0 lead 2:15 into the third period, but he pushed his backhand breakaway high and wide.

Steen's empty-netter with 1:22 remaining sealed the Blues' victory. It moved him within two points of Sidney Crosby for the overall League-lead in points. It was St. Louis' only shot of the third period after the Wild applied ample amount of pressure.

"We got behind the eight-ball and it's tough to come back in this league," Wild forward Jason Pominville said. "They're a tough team to play against anyway, but when they get the lead, it makes it even tougher."

The Blues kept their franchise-best start to a season going, improving to 17-3-3. They are 11-1-2 on home ice, and they're 9-1-1 in their past 11 games and 12-2-1 in the past 15.

The Blues have won six in a row against the Wild, outscoring Minnesota 19-7 over that span. They are 8-0-3 in the past 11 against Minnesota at Scottrade Center, dating back to the Wild's most-recent regulation win there Oct. 20, 2007.

Backstrom stopped 18 shots for the Wild, who were shut out for the first time this season. Minnesota (15-6-4) came in 6-1-0 in its past seven and 9-1-1 in November.

"When you can roll four lines and six defensemen in this League, it makes yourself a very tough team to play against," Colaiacovo said. "I believe that's what we are. We've just got to keep it going."

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