A few days in the sun proved to be all St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak needed.
Halak stopped 22 shots and Jamie Langenbrunner scored in the second period Friday night to lead the Blues to a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings.
Fresh off a four-day vacation in Jamaica with his girlfriend, Halak stopped Justin Williams from point-blank range with just over five minutes left in the third period to preserve the shutout. He also made big pad saves on Dustin Brown and Colin Fraser in the second period.
Halak was concerned that he might come out rusty after the Blues’ nine-day layoff.
”To be honest, I was a little worried at the start of the game,” Halak said. ”I didn’t know if I was going to come out strong. The first five minutes, we came out a little rusty. But after that we settled down and started playing our game.”
Halak said the mini-vacation helped him clear his mind and get set for the second half of the season.
”It was fun and relaxing, a little sun is always good,” Halak said. ”I just wish I could have stayed longer.”
Halak recorded his fifth shutout of the season and 21st of his career. He improved to 15-8-5 and has four shutouts in his last seven starts. The Blues have a league-best 10 shutouts.
St. Louis improved to an NHL-best 22-3-4 at home and has not lost a regulation game at home since dropping a 5-2 decision to Chicago on Dec. 3.
The Blues moved into a tie with Vancouver for second in the Western Conference with 67 points.
Halak is 12-1-3 in his last 16 starts, one of the hottest streaks of his five-year career. He has a 1.53 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage over that 16-game stretch.
”Our guy was really great late, three great saves in the third period,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. ”I’m really happy with the way we competed. I thought the first period was as good as we’ve played in a month.”
St. Louis held the Kings without a shot over the final 11:13 of the opening period and recorded the last nine shots on goal.
”The defense was great, it always is,” Halak said. ”Some nights I need our guys to step up and score some goals, but that wasn’t the case. The defense came up strong.”
Langenbrunner provide the offensive support with his fourth goal of the season, at 8:38 of the second period. He scored on a 2-on-1 off a cross-ice pass from Matt D’Agostini. It was the 57th game-winning goal of his career.
”I was just able to get open,” Langenbrunner said. ”(D’Agostini) laid it on my stick. It was a pretty easy one. He did a great job skating and getting by the defense. I didn’t have much to do but put it in.”
Halak did the rest stopping eight shots in each of the last two periods.
”We had some good chances there but he made some good saves,” Los Angeles center Jarret Stoll said. ”He just played better.”
Jonathan Quick made 32 saves for the Kings. He has allowed two goals or less in 12 of his last 14 starts.
The Kings, who fell to 10-6-6 on the road, had a two-game winning streak snapped.
St. Louis was the last team to play following the All-Star break. The nine-day layoff is their longest of the season.
”I thought we got into it pretty good right away,” Langenbrunner said. ”It was a battle all night. I think considering that we hadn’t played in nine days, we didn’t waste a lot of time getting back to the way we needed to play.”
The Kings won the first two meetings between the teams this season including a 3-2 win Oct. 22 in St. Louis.
”St. Louis has the best home record in the league for a good reason,” Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. ”They came out and physically established themselves.”