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Miller leads Canucks past Blues in return to St. Louis

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Ryan Miller didn't gloat. All the Vancouver Canucks goalie cared about Thursday was getting the win and the two points that came with it.

Miller helped his new team defeat his former team when he stopped 31 shots in the Canucks' 4-1 victory against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.

Having played for the Buffalo Sabres his entire 11-year career before being traded to the Blues last season, Miller had never faced a former team until Thursday.

"It was interesting," Miller said. "I've never done that before. I've never had a chance to play against a former team like that. ... A lot of good guys on the [Blues]; it was one that I was actually really looking forward to, especially here in St. Louis. It was fun."

Miller, who was traded from the Sabres to the Blues on Feb. 28, less than a week before the NHL Trade Deadline, rebounded from a tough outing Tuesday, when he was pulled in the second period of a 6-3 loss to the Dallas Stars in which he allowed five goals on 13 shots.

It was his first game in St. Louis since the Blues were eliminated in the Western Conference First Round by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.

"Well, I got yanked out of the last game and coming to a place where we bowed out of the playoffs early ... some good memories but a tough ending," Miller said. "So, it ended up being a little bit of an emotional game. I wanted to get myself ready. I was looking forward to the challenge. I gotta say that the guys responded well. We skated well in that game and it felt good."

Nick Bonino broke a 1-1 tie with a third-period goal, Chris Higgins had a goal and an assist, and Alexandre Burrows had two assists to help the Canucks snap a two-game losing streak.

Miller played a hand in the game-winner when he robbed Blues center Jori Lehtera from the right circle with a left-pad save. Bonino countered off a 3-on-1 and beat Blues goalie Jake Allen with a wrist shot from the left circle at 4:54 of the third period.

"I think [Vladimir] Tarasenko set it up," Miller said. "He was moving to the slot. He's always a dangerous shooter. I just had a feeling that he might try and go back, just the way the play develops. He's also a smart playmaker, so I just kept my weight on the right a little bit longer and luckily [Lehtera] didn't get it up high enough. I got my pad on it."

And when the Canucks countered, Bonino beat Allen off one of many odd-man rushes the Canucks had in the game.

Canucks coach Willie Desjardins called the Miller save on Lehtera the play of the game.

"He played real well," Desjardins said of his goalie. "The save he made in the third, that was the game. If they score there, it's 2-1 for them, and you know they were opening up in their counterattack.

"[MIller] made the big save, we went down and scored, and that changed the game."

The Canucks scored three third-period goals on four shots. Linden Vey scored from the slot at 11:57 for a 3-1 Vancouver lead, and Jannik Hansen scored an empty-net goal to seal the game for the Canucks.

Kevin Shattenkirk scored for the Blues, who lost their second straight and have a number of players dealing with the flu bug. Allen stopped 19 shots.

The Blues (2-3-1) didn't lose their third game in regulation last season until Nov. 17. And with the Chicago Blackhawks coming into town Saturday, it was time to take a hard look in the mirror as to what's ailing this team in the early stages of the season.

"We're not playing the right way," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who indicated the Blues had at least 20 turnovers between the blue lines. "We've made a heck of a run here playing the right way; no odd-man rushes, no forced offense, don't give the puck away and make hope-for plays offensively. We've had a shoot-first mentality that's allowed us to be top-five in the League in scoring goals, but we don't want to play the right way. We want to play a different game right now, so until we buy into that, we're going to have some rough water we're going to have to go through, and that's what we're in right now. We're in rough water."

Shattenkirk said the time for meetings is over.

"We've been having a lot of meetings, and now it's enough time for talk and just getting to it and doing it," Shattenkirk said. "It's a matter of taking actions now and going out there and setting examples, especially as leaders. We're not doing it, and unfortunately we have to realize when our top guys are having an off night, which is going to happen, we all have to stand by them and other guys have to step up. That's something that we need to work on and get better at."

The Canucks pounced on an early Blues turnover in the neutral zone, and Higgins converted after Allen initially stopped Burrows' shot after a 2-on-1. Allen made the first save, but Higgins was on the doorstep to score on the rebound 41 seconds into the first period to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead.

The Blues finally equalized on their third power play. Shattenkirk scored when he took a cross-ice feed from David Backes and fired a wrist shot from above the left faceoff dot. He beat Miller high short side 7:38 into the second period.

Both goalies came up with big saves late in the second period.

Allen stopped Higgins twice, the first coming after a Blues turnover that resulted in a breakaway with a little more than 10 minutes remaining in the period, and Miller was able to stop a pair of Patrik Berglund shots after the Blues center stole a puck along the left boards.

Vey's power-play goal took the wind out of the Blues' sails after they had controlled the puck in the Canucks zone but failed to beat Miller. Berglund took a holding penalty, and the Canucks capitalized when Vey converted a pass from behind the Blues goal by Henrik Sedin.

The Blues pulled Allen with 3:32 remaining for the extra attacker, and Hansen scored from the faceoff circle in the Canucks zone with 3:01 remaining.

"It's huge," Bonino said of the win. "You know a good team can't lose two in a row and especially can't lose three in a row, so we needed to stop the bleeding there. And for us to come into a building like St. Louis against a good playoff team like them and get a win, it was big."

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