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With new contract, Steen scores two more for Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Alexander Steen may want to renegotiate the three-year contract extension he signed with the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.

Steen scored two more goals to help the Blues to a 5-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens.

They increased his team-leading total to 24, tying a career high and putting him second to Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin's 28 for the NHL lead. The Blues snapped a two-game winless streak.

Earlier Thursday, Steen put the finishing touches on a $17.4 million contract extension that will keep him with the Blues through the 2016-17 season. He went out and led St. Louis (23-7-4) to victory despite the absence of forwards David Backes and Vladimir Sobotka, who each have an upper-body injury.

"It's a good day," Steen said. "We came out with a lot of jump. We knew they were a good team that plays physical, has a lot of speed, but it felt like we went out and dictated from the early going."

Steen's teammates were impressed.

"That's one heck of a day," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "It would have been nice if he got the third one there to top it off.

"Guy gets a new contract, goes out and scores two goals [in] the first period just shows the type of guy he is. We're going to expect more of that from him, I guess. That's one heck of a game for him."

The Blues are 48-0-1 in the past 49 home games when they've scored three goals or more, and they set the tempo with a three-goal first period.

"The start was an indication that we were engaged physically," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We were checking. Four of our five goals were because we were checking people off the puck. I think this had a resemblance of a team that we envisioned and the way we needed to play. It's a good sendoff on the road trip here.

"Our whole team was hard on the puck. We needed to be. We needed to get back to that game and start paying the price and start getting physically involved and that's what we did. I thought we had heavy sticks; we really were whacking and hacking on loose pucks."

Chris Stewart scored his fifth goal in five games, Jaden Schwartz scored in his return to the lineup, and Maxim Lapierre had the final goal for the Blues. Jaroslav Halak was able to beat the team that drafted him in 2003 for the fourth time in as many starts, stopping 25 shots. Halak is 4-0-0 against the Canadiens with an 0.98 goals-against average and .960 save percentage.

"We only meet with them two times a year, once a year," Halak said. "I'm glad we won the game [Thursday]. Playing for 60 minutes, that was the key [Thursday]."

The Canadiens (21-13-3), who began a six-game trip, got a goal from Brendan Gallagher, and Carey Price stopped 24 shots.

"We didn’t show up tonight, it's pretty simple," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "Our work ethic wasn’t there. Really disappointed about our performance. Only time we were working hard was guys were on the ice to kill penalties. Beside that, nothing ... no effort.

"When your work ethic is there and pay attention to detail, you might have a chance. It was pretty tough because I didn’t like our effort [Thursday]. This was a bad game for us."

Steen put the Blues on top 4:20 into the game with a shorthanded goal when he took a T.J. Oshie pass off a 3-on-1 break and beat Price high to the stick side.

"That first shift, [Patrik Berglund's] line jump-started everything, got us going, good shift offensively, got everybody going in the game," Steen said.

The 29-year-old struck again in the first period, this time coming out of the box. Steen took Derek Roy's drop pass and used Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin as a screen to beat Price high to the short side at 7:55 for a 2-0 lead.

Stewart put the Blues on top 3-0 at 13:33 off Brenden Morrow's 300th career assist. Morrow fed Stewart in the slot from behind the net for a one-timer from the right circle.

"There's a lot of ugly ones in there," said Morrow, who played in his 878th NHL game. "[Thursday night] was actually a decent [assist].

"If you hang around as long as I have, I guess you find a way to get some in there."

The Blues were able to put their first-period woes behind them for one night, a sore spot in recent games. The Canadiens were obviously not into the game early.

"There's no secret it was a period we weren't ready for, made mistakes we shouldn’t be making," Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said. "We've had slow starts. I don’t know if it's preparation. Once we were in a hole, we seemed to make a push, but [we've] got to start that right from the start. We need to be desperate off the bat."

The Canadiens scored in the second period on Gallagher's 10th of the season, first in 12 games. He batted in a puck from in close past Halak when David Desharnais got it to the net at 12:51.

Schwartz, who missed the past two games with an upper-body injury, took Oshie's pass and snapped a shot from the top of the right circle over Price's stick hand 12:21 into the third period to give the Blues a 4-1 lead. Schwartz has 13 points in his past 13 games, and Oshie's two assists snapped a streak of four games without a point.

Lapierre scored his first goal in 18 games, against the team that drafted him in the second round in 2003, with 2:27 remaining on a slap shot from the slot to make it 5-1.

"We stuck with it and just played the way we should be playing, played the way we were playing in the early goings of the season and what we got away from a little bit a couple weeks ago," Steen said. "I felt like [Thursday] was a solid effort. Jaro played really well in the net, we were moving the puck really crisp, quick."

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