EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Jaroslav Halak couldn’t have asked for a better return in his first start in nearly two weeks.
Halak made 19 saves to record his third shutout of the season as the St. Louis Blues beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Saturday night.
“It’s always good to get back in action in a game,” said Halak, who had only played in three of the Blues’ previous 10 games and made his first start since March 10. “It’s a big win for me and for the team. Looking at the shots it may have seemed easy, but if you ask any goalie around the league, they want to face more shots as they can. But I’ll take it. A shutout is a shutout.”
Chris Stewart, Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie scored for the Blues, who have won six of their last eight games.
“We checked very well and managed the puck the right way,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We got better as the game went on, too. Our best period was our third period. We used four lines right to the end of the hockey game. It was a very effective game for us. We did a lot of very good things today.”
The Oilers have lost three of their last four, although two of those went beyond regulation.
Edmonton head coach Ralph Krueger admitted it was not the kind of performance he wanted to see as his team fights to stay in the playoff hunt.
“It was definitely our weakest performance in a long time,” he said. “It was very disappointing when you realize what we had here on the table and how we needed to compete against St Louis, to then end up coming out flat. We played into their hands. We didn’t get any energy or compete into that first period.”
The Blues took a 1-0 lead just over 3 minutes into the game as Stewart took advantage of a 3-on-2, beating Oilers starter Nikolai Khabibulin with a long wrist shot from the top of the circle for his 15th of the season.
There were very few other chances in a rather sedate first period as the Blues had six shots and the Oilers only four on Halak.
A scoreless second period didn’t have much more action.
Khabibulin had to deal with the tougher chances of the two goalies, needing to make a kick save on a shot by Stewart and another on a tip by Oshie.
The Blues went up by two goals 3 minutes into the third period as Steen took a shot that went off the end boards, but was able to swat in his own rebound before Khabibulin could get back into position.
St. Louis made it 3-0 with 9 minutes remaining as Oshie took a pass in full flight in front of the net and made a nifty deke before scoring on the backhand.
The Blues are 11-1-1 in their last 13 games against Edmonton.
NOTES: It was the second of three meetings between the two teams. The Blues took the first 4-2 at the beginning of March. They conclude the series in St. Louis when the Oilers visit Tuesday night. … The Blues are in a stretch of playing eight of 11 games on the road. … Oshie returned to the St. Louis lineup from a rib injury. … Oilers C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins missed his second straight game with the flu and may be forced to miss his team’s two-game road trip. A decision will be made on Sunday morning. Fellow C Eric Belanger made his return to the lineup from a groin injury to take his place …