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Halak helps Blues get revenge against Devils

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues have seen each of their goalies take turns going on a hot streak.

Jaroslav Halak has taken the reins and is playing like someone who doesn't want to go back to the bench.

Halak stopped 23 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, a 3-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday at Scottrade Center.

"There were a lot of weird bounces, especially on our [penalty kill]," Halak said. "We came up big. Our guys blocked a lot of shots. They stood tall."

Alexander Steen, Brenden Morrow and Maxim Lapierre scored for the Blues (36-11-5), who gained a measure of redemption after being blown out 7-1 by the Devils on Jan. 21. Patrik Berglund had two assists.

"I think we just played our style of game," said Steen, whose game-winner was his seventh in 41 games this season. He had six in 83 games during the previous two seasons.

"We got away from that in New Jersey," Steen said. "I think it was a completely different game [Tuesday]."

The Blues' loss at New Jersey was their worst this season. They haven't lost since, winning three straight.

"Both teams went at each other pretty hard," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought the third period was our best period. [New Jersey] play structured, disciplined hockey with a lot of weight. You have to be prepared to dig in from the dots to the boards if you expect to beat them. They control the boards, they control the tempo of the game by controlling the boards. They make you pay for being careless with the puck.

"We had some just-abouts early in the game when we weren't ready for what they were doing, but as the game wore on, we got more and more prepared to skate with the puck. As we started to skate, things really started to open up for us in the third period, which was a good sign."

The victory, combined with the Chicago Blackhawks' 5-4 overtime road loss to the Calgary Flames, moved the Blues into first place in the Central Division. The Blues and Blackhawks each have 77 points, but St. Louis has three games in hand.

The Devils (22-21-11) got 22 saves from Cory Schneider, but New Jersey was shut out for the sixth time this season.

"There's not many silver linings this time of year," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We're in the home stretch here, we've got to find a way to get points. We didn't score. We didn't generate enough offense.

"This was a pretty tight-checking game. It was a 1-0 game through 50 minutes almost. Both goaltenders were very good tonight at both ends. I don't think that was the case last week in New Jersey."

Added Schneider: "A good team like this in St. Louis on the road, it's tough to score goals in this building. We've been doing a pretty job lately of manufacturing and getting some goals. They did a pretty good job of keeping us away, but when we did get inside, Halak made some pretty good saves but we've just got to find somebody to step up and score the big goal or maybe create something out of nothing."

Steen's 27th goal of the season put the Blues up 1-0 on their first shot of the game, a 3-on-2 rush that was set up by David Backes and Jaden Schwartz, who passed to Steen, who beat Schneider with a wrist shot from the slot on the short side 3:25 into the game.

The Blues outshot the Devils 9-8 in the first period, and Halak had to make one key save on Steve Bernier after he skated in alone with 5:48 remaining after a bouncing puck got past defenseman Ian Cole.

Neither team scored in the second period; the Blues had the best chance when Vladimir Sobotka wired a shot off the left post on another odd-man rush. This time, he moved in from the right on a 3-on-1 with 4:48 remaining in the period.

Halak, who has played 36 games with backup Brian Elliott playing 22, was tested a couple times. The Devils outshot the Blues 10-5 in the period; Halak's best save came off a backhand rebound off the stick of Jaromir Jagr.

"Well we didn't have many chances to score but they played great tight defense and we had nothing," Jagr said. "We had chances but not 100 percent chances."

Halak's right-pad stop on Damien Brunner 2:25 into the third period preserved the Blues' lead. Schneider then came up big on a Vladimir Tarasenko one-timer with 7:36 left in the game to keep the Devils within one goal.

Each team had three power plays, and the Blues scored on their third when Morrow's 560th career point gave St. Louis a 2-0 lead. Jay Bouwmeester stepped into a slap shot from the right point, and Morrow deflected it past Schneider from the low slot 9:22 into the third period.

The Devils pulled Schneider, and Lapierre scored an empty-net goal with 2:08 remaining.

The timeliness of Morrow's goal was crucial for the Blues, who would have had a tough time fending off the Devils with a one-goal lead.

"They've won a lot of hockey games and they've had some players roll through there, but [Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello] got his guys that he believes in. They've got some guys that have been there a long time. They're not going to crack. You can play them as hard as you want. They're going to stay with their structure. A one-goal game on them is pretty tough."

Halak took care of the rest with his 29th career shutout. He holds the Blues franchise record with 20.

"It's always nice to get a shutout, but I always say that two points is two points and it's always a team effort," Halak said. "Without my teammates blocking the shots and doing the little things in front, I wouldn't be able to get it."

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