CHICAGO - Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has seen this Kris Versteeg before. Not last season, when Versteeg was still finding his way after knee surgery, but way back in 2010, when he was an emerging young forward.
Versteeg scored 59 seconds into the third period and had the primary assist on each of Patrick Kane's two goals, leading streaking Chicago to a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.
"Let's compare it (to) 2010. That's more realistic," Quenneville said when asked about Versteeg's game a year ago. "I think he's back where he was, or wanted to be. You know he's coming off that injury, and I can go back to every single guy that had an ACL injury, it takes a year to get back to square one."
Marcus Kruger also scored for Chicago, and Antti Raanta had 40 saves in his first start since Corey Crawford was sidelined by a left foot injury. Back at home after a 5-1 road trip, Chicago killed each of St. Louis' six power plays and won for the seventh time in eight games.
Ian Cole scored in the second for the Blues, who had won four of five. Jake Allen made 29 saves.
"You can blame the power plays all you want and your best players on the power play, but we gave the game away in the third period," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Martin Brodeur was the backup to Allen in St. Louis' first game since the NHL's winningest goalie signed a one-year contract on Tuesday.
The second line of Versteeg, Brad Richards and Kane has played a key role in the Blackhawks' resurgence. Versteeg has four goals and 10 assists in his last eight games, and Kane has eight goals and seven assists in his last nine games.
"I'm just trying to get the puck into great players' hands and let them go to work," Versteeg said. "Those two guys have been helping me out a lot. Just got to keep going and grinding it out."
Versteeg put Chicago in front for good when he one-timed a pass from Jonathan Toews into the lower right side of the net for his eighth of the season. He then made a pair of nice passes to Kane to help the Blackhawks put the game away.
Kane beat Allen to the stick side at 2:47 of the third. He added his 12th goal when he made a terrific move to get past defenceman Barret Jackman before sliding a shot between Allen's legs at 5:19.
"You can't let a team with that skill get those chances, but it was only a five-minute span, and they took advantage of it," Allen said.
Crawford had made 14 consecutive starts, but he hurt his left foot when he missed a step while leaving a recent concert and is expected to be sidelined two to three weeks. Crawford said Wednesday he was embarrassed and frustrated, but declined to reveal any further details about what happened.
Crawford's injury put Raanta in goal for the first time since he had 28 saves in a 3-2 loss at St. Louis on Oct. 25. It was just his fourth appearance of the season.
"I think it was a pretty good 60 minutes," Raanta said. "Maybe the last 50 minutes was even better than the first 10, but I felt very good."
The Blackhawks jumped in front when Brandon Saad stole the puck from Cole near centre ice and started a 2-on-1 rush with a pass to Kruger, who beat Allen for his fourth goal at 15:57 of the first.
St. Louis used a delayed penalty to tie it at 1 in the second. With the Blues enjoying a 6-on-5 skating advantage, Patrik Berglund passed to an open Cole on the right side for his second goal at 12:38. The Blues outshot the Blackhawks 13-7 in the period.
NOTES: Brodeur tops the NHL's career lists for wins (688), games played (1,259), losses (394) and shutouts (124), all with New Jersey. ... Blackhawks D Brent Seabrook played 25 minutes after he missed practice on Tuesday due to an illness.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap