TORONTO (AP) All night it seemed the St. Louis Blues had an extra player on the ice.
The Blues toyed with the Maple Leafs from the drop of the puck and never seemed to let them have it. St. Louis swarmed, scored and out-classed Toronto at every turn, with six Blues scoring goals in a 6-1 rout on Saturday night.
”There was no effort,” interim coach Peter Horachek said as the Leafs lost for the 28th time in 35 games. ”There’s no real excuses for it, so I’m not going to make any.”
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Jori Lehtera and Alexander Steen each had three assists for the Blues (41-19-5), who snapped a two-game skid and moved to within two points of the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators.
Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier gave up three goals on 17 shots before being pulled. James Reimer gave up the other three goals on 27 shots.
Jaden Schwartz, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Butler, Paul Stastny and David Backes scored for the Blues.
Backes called it the Blues’ most complete victory and coach Ken Hitchcock seemed satisfied with his team’s effort.
”We’ve played some of our best hockey (lately) and not gotten points, so it was nice to play well again and get points,” Hitchcock said. ”There was a little bit of a lull at the start of the third period, but I thought we kept our foot on the gas the whole game and made them defend a lot more than they wanted to tonight.”
Blues goalie Brian Elliott was barely tested in making 23 saves and allowed just a third-period goal to David Booth to break the shutout. Jake Gardiner and Peter Holland were credited with the assists.
Many of the 19,108 fans in attendance for one of Toronto’s worst routs of the season gave a sarcastic cheer when Richard Panik registered the Leafs’ (26-35-5) first shot more than halfway through the first period. St. Louis had nine at that point, and it didn’t get much better.
The Blues outshot the Leafs 44-24 for the game and the score could have been even more lopsided.
Dion Phaneuf’s thunderous shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Oshie in the second period drew the ire of Backes. But later, everyone involved agreed it was a clean hit and no one seemed to mind the scrum that ensued.
”Whether it’s late or it’s offside or whatever, we’re sticking together, we’re standing up for each other,” Backes said.
Horachek yanked Bernier after the first period. By then, Schwartz had tallied his 22nd goal that deflected off the stick of Leafs’ defenseman Eric Brewer’s stick, Oshie hit a back-hander for his 18th goal and Tarasenko’s wrister through traffic made it through for his 32nd of the season.
By the time Bernier was finished, the Leafs were outshot 17-5. The switch to Reimer did nothing to change the course of the game.
The Blues, not happy with blowing a late lead in a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, didn’t let up. Butler scored a short-handed goal from the point with a second left on a Leafs power play, Stastny was untouched skating through the slot before beating Reimer for his 13th goal of the season, and Backes scored his 22nd off former teammate Roman Polak’s skate.
Notes: Canadian Olympic gold-medal-winning defenseman Jay Bouwmeester missed the game for the Blues with an illness, and former Leafs center Olli Jokinen made his debut after a deadline-day trade. … The Leafs scratched defenseman Stephane Robidas as Brewer played in career game No. 993.