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Jake Allen's turnaround powering Blues

Goaltender's rebound from slump fueling St. Louis' drive toward playoffs

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- Jake Allen was getting well-meaning advice from all directions during what he called the worst month of his professional career.

The St. Louis Blues goaltender emerged from his career crisis in January and pulled himself out of the freefall. His turnaround has been nothing short of extraordinary and worth examining after the Blues' 3-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Monday. It was a statement effort for the Blues, who have won five consecutive games after losing five straight.

Allen's 38-save performance helped solidify the Blues' grip on the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Los Angeles trails St. Louis by five points. Each team has 14 games remaining. 

Video: STL@LAK: Allen knocks away multiple shots

St. Louis trails the Nashville Predators by two points for third place in the Central Division.

The numbers illustrate the story of Allen's total turnaround. From Dec. 8 to Jan 31, he was 4-10-0 with a 3.50 goals-against average and .876 save percentage. The Blues made major changes in the organization on Feb. 1, firing longtime coach Ken Hitchcock and goalie coach Jim Corsi. Mike Yeo replaced Hitchcock and Martin Brodeur took over Corsi's duties.  

[Related: Allen credits 5-year-old boy with save]

Since Feb. 2, Allen is 9-5-0 with a .941 save percentage. He's 4-0-0 in his past four starts, allowing five goals in that span.

The hard times made Allen stronger.

"You have no choice or you're going to lose your position in the League," Allen said. "Those are the toughest three weeks I've ever had in hockey. On and off the ice. 

"They took a toll on me. I found my way out of it. Everyone was trying to give me advice. But you always got to lean back on yourself. You're the person that's going to dig your way out of it."

The experience and winning pedigree of Brodeur is invaluable.  

"He gives the goalies a reason why things are working and whey they're not," Yeo said. 

There were other factors contributing to Allen's three lost weeks in January.

"It was not all on him," Yeo said. "As a group, collectively, we were all not good enough. We had a strong feeling if we could tighten up our game and play a little bit better in front of him, then we'd give him a chance to find his game. He's certainly done that."

For Allen, the win at Los Angeles was his 26th victory, tying the NHL career-high he set last season. Dustin Brown ended Allen's bid for a shutout with 2:55 remaining, but Allen was hardly bothered. 

Video: STL@LAK: Allen steers away Kempe's backhander

"I could care less about shutouts," Allen said. "As long as we're winning. If I don't get a shutout the rest of my career, but I get 30 wins a year, then there you go."

It was the first loss in regulation for Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick since he returned in late February from his long injury layoff. Seven weeks ago, the Kings were one point behind the Calgary Flames and now trail the Flames by 10 points in the Pacific Division. A win against St. Louis could have cut the Blues' lead to one point.

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said the loss "stung," considering the implications.

The game had many of the usual trademarks of the Kings-Blues rivalry, and the intensity picked up as it went along. St. Louis forward David Perron, who scored the Blues' first goal at 13:37 of the second period, had his usual game-within-a-game battle against Quick. 

Perron talked about how difficult it used to be for him to score against Quick. It started to change when Perron joined the Anaheim Ducks during last season. 

"There's something about him," said Perron, who has 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 68 games. "He's definitely the most fun goalie to score on, for me. First, he's the top goalie in the league, top five easily.

Video: STL@LAK: Perron pokes home loose puck to open scoring

"We've had a little bit of history in playoffs [in St. Louis] and even more last year with Anaheim. I was finally able to score a few on him in a row. I felt like every time I shot before, he would save it.

"But right now it's kind of going the other way."

For the players, this is the time of the season they particularly embrace and relish. Perron is even having fun with the verbal battles with Quick.

"He's chirping me," Perron said. "I'm chirping him. In the end, for me, there's no hard feelings."

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