Blues regain NHL points lead behind a strong night from their No. 1 line
David Backes scored a hat trick to help the St. Louis Blues finish off their road trip on the right note with a 5-3 win in Toronto on Tuesday night.
"Some great plays by my teammates," Backes told FOX Sports Midwest’s Darren Pang on the "Blues Live" postgame show. "They deserve a lot of credit. When you put 50 shots on the net it shows what kind of team effort we had. It seemed like line after line would get in the offensive zone, keep it in there, get a couple guys off and change, get some fresh legs on there and you sustain that O-zone pressure. Third period wasn’t ideal with a couple-goal lead, but they made a good push and we found a way to hold on long enough and found a way to get two points."
The Blues (49-16-7, 105 points in 72 games) moved back ahead of the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the NHL. After beginning the four-game road trip with losses in Chicago and Philadelphia, and being outscored 8-1 in those two games, the Blues rallied to win in Pittsburgh and Toronto.
The Blues now come back to St. Louis for a five-game homestand, beginning Thursday against Minnesota, and will have seven of their final 10 regular-season games at Scottrade Center. The Blues are 25-5-4 at home this season, compared with 24-11-3 on the road.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CHANCES
The Maple Leafs (36-30-8, 80 points in 74 games) entered the night with a five-game losing streak and ranking 26th in the NHL in goals against at three goals per game. In their previous seven contests, when they went 1-6, the Leafs allowed an average of 3.85 goals per game.
Toronto allows a league-high 36 shots on goal per game. It was apparent early that the Blues should be able to get shots on net, and before long they were able to do that.
St. Louis recorded 49 shots on goal against the Maple Leafs, which was its season high for a game that ended in regulation. The Blues had 50 shots on goal in a shootout loss to the Senators on Feb. 4 at Scottrade Center.
STRONG FIRST PERIOD
The Blues set the tone early with a dominant first period, despite giving up the first goal of the night.
They used the forecheck to force turnovers and keep the puck in the Maple Leafs’ end of the ice and keep the pressure on Toronto. They pelted goalie Jonathan Bernier with 23 shots on goal, and T.J. Oshie and Backes were able to capitalize with two tallies.
"We came out with a lot of jump," Alexander Steen told Andy Strickland on the postgame show. "That’s something that we discussed in the room before. We want to start each period good. We did the first and second. Third was a little sloppier. We got the win in the end."
Backes’ goal, which was assisted by Oshie, was the Blues’ first on the power play in four games. St. Louis did not score on 11 opportunities with the advantage in its previous three contests.
NO. 1 LINE STEPS UP
The Blues got the kind of production they’ve been looking for from their first line.
In the first period it was the goals from Oshie and Backes, the 18th for Oshie this season and 25th for Backes. Oshie’s goal gave him a new career high of 55 points, but he quickly added to his total with the assist on the Backes goal.
The No. 1 line struck again for two more goals in the second period.
Backes scored again, his 26th of the season, off assists from Steen and Alex Pietrangelo.
Then Steen scored a short-handed goal, his 31st of season, 10 minutes later to give St. Louis a commanding 4-1 lead going into the third period.
Backes added his third goal, and 27th of the year, on an empty-netter late in the third period with Oshie and Steen assisting.
So Backes, Oshie and Steen combined for five goals and four assists and nine total points. Steen had a plus-4 rating for the game, playing 23:37 of ice time, while Backes was plus-3 in 23:12 and Oshie was plus-2 in 16:28.
"We’ve been playing together pretty much the whole season," Steen told Strickland. "There have been some injuries here and there where we split up, but for the most part we’ve been together the whole time and it’s been working."
That No. 1 line also accounted for the lone goal — Backes scored on assists from Steen and Pietrangelo — in the 1-0 win in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.