Blues get better of Oilers to grab sixth straight win
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP)
The St. Louis Blues keep finding ways to win, even when they aren't on top of their game.
Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, and the Blues won their season-high sixth straight game by beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 on Tuesday night.
Chris Stewart, Maxim Lapierre, David Backes and Patrick Berglund also scored for the Blues (30-7-5), who are 11-1-2 in their last 14 games. They are two points behind the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks.
''We've got things to work on but we are certainly trending in the right direction,'' Backes said. ''We've done a lot of good things in these last six games. I didn't play for half of those and our best player, Alex Steen, has been out for a little while.
''That left some holes, but guys have really stepped up and shown the responsibility and made the plays. We've had some timely saves from our goalie that certainly haven't hurt.''
Brian Elliott made 16 saves to improve to 13-1-2.
''We got away from our game plan a little bit, but the way we have been playing of late we had the confidence to come back,'' he said.
The Blues beat the Oilers for the seventh time in eight games and 13th in 16. They have also won four straight and seven of nine in Edmonton.
St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock wasn't surprised to see his team look a bit flat, especially after several Olympic team rosters were announced.
''We didn't play well,'' he said. ''I think it had to do with a lot of the drama that goes on. It really affected our players. We didn't have the focus that we have had and we will need to get it back on this road trip.''
Nail Yakupov and Mark Arcobello had goals for the Oilers (14-27-5), who have lost five of six and 11 of 14.
''I thought we competed pretty hard,'' Arcobello said. ''At certain points of the game we got away from what was working, for whatever reason. The penalties and the penalty kills hurt us a little bit.
''If we take those power-play goals away from them, it's a different game.''
The Blues were two for three on the power play. Edmonton had no advantages.
''It's at that point in the year where the cream is starting to rise to the top,'' Oilers forward Taylor Hall said. ''These teams are really good, and we know they're at the top for a reason.
''We have to play our game as best we can. But a loss is a loss, It's getting a little late for the moral victories.''
St. Louis controlled the pace early, outshooting Edmonton 9-1 through the first eight minutes.
Oilers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was forced to make a number of big saves, but Edmonton had the best scoring chance of the opening half of the first period. Jordan Eberle picked up a rebound in the blue paint before Elliott dove across the crease to make a pad save.
The Blues took a 1-0 lead with 7:14 left in the first when Stewart fired a shot from the point on the power play that beat Bryzgalov for his 14th goal.
The Oilers took advantage of a giveaway at the St. Louis blue line 1:36 into the second. David Perron sent Yakupov streaking up the wing, and he put a wrist shot past Elliott.
The Blues responded 42 seconds later when Lapierre pushed rookie Brad Hunt off the puck along the boards, took it to the net, and hooked a shot past Bryzgalov.
It was difficult to tell how the puck went in, but officials checked for a hole in the net. Lapierre played in his 500th NHL game.
''I didn't see a hole in the net,'' Elliott said. ''I haven't seen the replay, but I hear it was a bit of an optical illusion.''
Edmonton kept pace with a goal five minutes into the middle frame to make it 2-2. Luke Gazdic sent a pass from behind the net, and Arcobello chipped it up and over Elliott and into the net.
St. Louis regained the lead with nine minutes left in the second. The Blues' power-play unit kept the Oilers hemmed in their zone before Backes scored his 17th goal.
The Blues made it 4-2 with 6:03 left in the second. A faceoff win allowed Tarasenko to score on a quick shot from the top of the circle.
Blues forward T.J. Oshie had to be helped off the ice late in the third period after a knee-on-knee collision with Hall.
Berglund sealed the win with an empty-net goal.
NOTES: St. Louis has 10 players heading to Sochi for the Winter Olympics. Edmonton has three. One of the Oilers, Anton Belov was picked for the Russian team, despite being a healthy scratch for Edmonton the last three games. ... Blues G Jaroslav Halak returned to the lineup following an illness. D Roman Polak (lower body) and leading scorer Alex Steen (concussion) remained out. ... Oilers D Corey Potter (groin) missed his sixth game. D Philip Larsen (illness) was also out. ... Oilers forward Ales Hemsky left the game after a first-period hit from St. Louis' Ryan Reaves.