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Power play helps Blues defeat Jets

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- Much is made of the defensive prowess that is a trademark of the St. Louis Blues, but they showed off their power play in a 4-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.

The Blues took advantage of an opponent that began the game having allowed the third-most power plays in the NHL and scored twice on the man advantage in the second period.

The power-play goals from Jaden Schwartz and David Backes erased two Winnipeg leads and set up a goal from Blues forward Ryan Reaves that broke a 2-2 tie 2:25 into the third period.

Reaves grabbed a loose puck and spun around before snapping a shot past Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec for his third goal of the season. Paul Stastny's empty-net goal finished the scoring with 39.3 seconds remaining.

Reaves grew up in Winnipeg and had family and friends watching at MTS Centre.

"I'm sure he was going crazy up there," Reaves said of his father, who attended the game. "I hope all of my friends were celebrating in the crowd. Coming back here and all of my friends and family are here, getting a goal in front of them is special."

The win wrapped up a four-game road trip for St. Louis that finished 2-2-0. The Blues rank third in the League on the power play and first in goals-against per game (2.00). Alexander Steen had two assists.

"We needed it today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the power play. "We told the players that. We were going to get our chances. We needed it, and it came through both times."

The Blues (14-6-1) played without defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who sustained a lower-body injury in the third period of a 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

Bouwmeester's absence ended his streak of 737 consecutive games played that dated to back to the 2003-04 season, when he was with the Florida Panthers. The streak was the fifth longest in League history. Chris Butler made his season debut in place of Bouwmeester.

"[Bouwmeester] felt terrible," Hitchcock said. "We all felt terrible that he couldn't go today. That's really emotionally tough for him to break that streak."

Defenseman Barret Jackman played his 744th game with St. Louis, tying Brett Hull for third in Blues history.

Bryan Little and Jim Slater scored for the Jets (10-9-3), who finished their three-game homestand 1-2-0.

Jets coach Paul Maurice disputed that discipline was not an issue for the Jets. The Winnipeg penalty kill has allowed goals in the past four games, and St. Louis had five power-play opportunities.

"Nothing," Maurice said. "Not even a remote chance. We're learning how to play a really aggressive game, and we're going to get better at it."

Hitchcock has been rotating starts among goaltenders Jake Allen and Brian Elliott. Allen started Sunday and made 28 saves and had his first NHL assist.

"Two huge wins after two tough losses at the start of the trip," Allen said. "To be able to be back winning and head home was crucial for us."

Pavelec stopped 25 shots and moved into second in the League in playing his 19th game of the season.

The Jets challenged the Blues, who were playing their third game in the past four days. Winnipeg had the first seven shots of the game.

Little gave the Jets a 1-0 lead 9:04 into the game, pushing a rebound past Allen for his sixth goal of the season. The goal broke a 13-game goalless streak for Little that dated back to Oct. 26. Before the scoring slump, Little had scored five goals in his first eight games of the season.

The St. Louis power play tied the game 5:14 into the second period on its second opportunity of the game. Steen unleashed a long left-point shot through traffic in front of Pavelec that Schwartz tipped through the goaltender's pads for his eighth of the season. Center Jori Lehtera assisted on the goal and has nine assists in his past 11 games.

Winnipeg's fourth line reclaimed the lead when Slater scored his first goal of the season at 9:53 of the second period. Slater lifted a shot off a rebound high off Allen's right shoulder. Before the goal, the line of Slater, Matt Halischuk and Chris Thorburn had combined for one assist this season.

Steen helped set up another tying goal with the Blues back on the power play. Steen's outlet pass from deep within the St. Louis defensive zone reached Backes, who beat Pavelec with a high shot with 2:03 left in the second period. Five of the six goals that Backes has scored this season have been on the power play, good for second in the League.

"We're just playing a really good team game, a sound team game," Steen said. "A lot of us benefit from other lines pushing teams back and getting matchups."

The Blues host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, and they head home led by a happy coach.

"This is a very tough schedule," Hitchcock said. "To come out with wins [in back-to-back games] and at the end of the [road trip], I'm really impressed with the way we competed [Saturday] and today."

Seeing St. Louis up close provided a glimpse of the Central Division standard that will be needed for the Jets, who begin a three-game road trip on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"They have a tremendous amount of depth," Jets left wing Adam Lowry said. "Their top three lines are as good as any in the League, and they play a pretty structured game. They don't give a lot, and they're able to capitalize on our mistakes."

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