Ducks fall to Blues to start road trip
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jaroslav Halak couldn’t wait to open the newspaper in the morning.
He made 24 saves and posted a career-best seventh straight win to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night. The Blues have a league-leading 93 points, marking the first time they have led the NHL in points this late in the season since March 9, 2000.
“It’s always nice to look at the standings when you are first,” Halak said. “More fun that way. This was important for us.”
David Backes scored twice and Patrik Berglund had the go-ahead goal for the Blues, who improved to a league-best 28-4-4 at home with their seventh win in eight games.
St. Louis is 20-1-3 in its last 24 home games, and Halak is one of the reasons the Blues have the most points in the NHL. They lead Vancouver by three points in the Western Conference and hold a two-point lead over the New York Rangers in the battle for the President’s Trophy.
Halak sports a 1.40 goals against average and a .943 save percentage during his 7-0 run. He has stopped 167 of 177 shots in the last seven games. Halak also won six successive games from Jan. 3-21.
“I’m just trying to have fun out there and keep the guys in the game,” Halak said. “It’s always great to win a few games in a row. It’s a team effort. I wouldn’t be able to do it without the guys.”
The Blues were 30th and last in the NHL after the 2005-06 season, which has made their climb to the top even more enjoyable.
“This feels good,” forward David Perron said. “It’s a lot different from five years ago. We’re enjoying this, but there’s still a lot more work to be done.”
Perron added two assists against Anaheim.
“It’s an accomplishment and it shows that we’ve come a long way,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s exciting, especially given everything we’ve gone through to get to this point with a couple (bad) years that we had there.”
Berglund broke a 14-game scoring drought with the winner.
Halak, who improved to 23-10-5, has triggered the rise to the top. His last loss was a 2-1 setback at Columbus on Feb. 14.
“We’re not the most talented team in the National Hockey League,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We just find ways to win. That’s what this team is about.”
The Blues used third-period goals from Berglund and Backes in a span of 2:01 to break a 1-1 tie. Berglund gave his club a 2-1 lead at 4:47 of the third period. He scored from in front of the net off a pass from Andy McDonald, who has 12 points in his last 14 games.
Backes then pushed the lead to 3-1 just over two minutes later with his team-high 21st goal of the season.
Corey Perry scored his 34th of the season for the Ducks, who kicked off a three-game road trip. He converted on wrist shot from the face-off circle at 4:18 of the second period for his 11th goal in the last 14 games.
Backes tied it at 1 with a power-play goal midway through the second period. He deflected in a shot by Perron.
The Blues killed off their 35th successive power play in the third period. They have not allowed a power-play goal in the last 12 games.
St. Louis converted on two of four power-play chances and killed off three penalties.
“Five-on-five, we were just as good as they were,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But the special teams, which have been our Achilles heel for the last month, snuck up on us again and killed us.”
Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller made 24 saves in his franchise-record 27th successive start.
“I felt pretty good, but it wasn’t good enough tonight,” Hiller said. “We lost the special teams battle again and we lost the game again. We took too many penalties.”
NOTES: St. Louis has a league-leading 46 points since Jan. 1. … The Blues are 35-0 when scoring at least three goals. … Anaheim C Nick Bonino suffered a lower-body injury in the second period and did not return. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow,” Boudreau said. … Anaheim has scored two goals or less in the last nine road games. … St. Louis had a 6-7 record when Ken Hitchcock took over for Davis Payne on Nov. 6. … Boudreau is 22-16-6 since taking over for Randy Carlyle on Nov. 30.