Matt Beleskey was a pugnacious grinder for most of his NHL career until this season, when he has surprised just about everybody by becoming the Anaheim Ducks’ leading goal-scorer.
The Ducks needed every bit of Beleskey’s newfound scoring touch to edge Martin Brodeur and the St. Louis Blues.
Beleskey scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period, while Ryan Kesler and Sami Vatanen had two assists in the Ducks’ 4-3 victory Friday night.
After St. Louis rallied three times to erase a one-goal Anaheim lead in the first two periods, Beleskey beat Brodeur with a vicious wrist shot for his 16th goal with 9:05 to play. The NHL-leading Ducks hung on for their ninth consecutive home victory over St. Louis since October 2009.
"He stopped me a few times early," said Beleskey, who had a goal and an assist in his second multipoint game of the year. "Luckily, I got that one through. I tried his glove a couple of times tonight, and he baits you with the glove. But I’ve scored on his blocker side before."
Beleskey credits his surge to confidence and Kesler, his center on Anaheim’s second line.
"He’s always had a tremendous shot and release, and he’s never had confidence," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It’s just his natural maturation, his growth."
Ryan Getzlaf, Kyle Palmieri and Andrew Cogliano also scored for the Ducks, who are 2-1 on their eight-game homestand. They won a game by one goal for the 16th time in their last 18 victories.
"We’re used to this situation, and we know what we have to do in the third period," Boudreau said.
Frederik Andersen made 39 saves to earn his 41st career victory — just 650 fewer than Brodeur.
Kevin Shattenkirk and Alexander Steen each had a goal and an assist for the Blues, who have lost six of seven despite a lively effort in Anaheim.
"Tonight, we took a step forward despite the loss," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I still think that we were better as a team this game. … We did a good job putting pucks in their zone and establishing our game. We just have to find that goal in the third that puts us ahead."
Brodeur stopped 29 shots and was impressive for long stretches in what could conceivably be his final start for the Blues. The NHL’s career victories leader joined St. Louis and played his way into shape while Brian Elliott was out with an injury, but the Blues have three goalies after Elliott returned this week.
Brodeur was in solid form, even stacking his pads for a couple of saves with a move that looked "a little bit like the old Marty there," he said with a grin.
"I thought we had a great effort and we scored three goals, but I think on the defensive side of the puck, we made a few mistakes that they capitalized on," Brodeur added. "They’re a good hockey team. You just can’t give up anything for free, and we did today."
Getzlaf backhanded home his first power-play goal since Nov. 7 in the opening minutes, ending an 0-for-21 power-play drought for Anaheim.
After T.J. Oshie tied it, Anaheim went back ahead when Kesler put the puck on net despite being on his knees with his back to Brodeur, allowing Palmieri to tip it home.
After Cogliano scored his second goal since Nov. 20, Steen tied it again during a 5-on-3 advantage after Vatanen shot the puck 190 feet over the far glass. Steen finished with 11 shots.
Colin Fraser made his debut for the Blues, who signed the three-time Stanley Cup champion as a free agent before the season. The grinding forward spent the past three seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, getting a championship ring and a playoff share even though he didn’t appear in any postseason games last spring.
NOTES: Palmieri returned to Anaheim’s lineup after a six-game absence with a shoulder injury. … St. Louis F Jaden Schwartz missed his seventh straight game with an injury, but participated in the morning skate. He could return Saturday at San Jose. … Beleskey got his 100th NHL point on Palmieri’s goal.