Latsch: Three observations from the Blues’ victory in Calgary
ST. LOUIS — Welcome back, Jaroslav Halak.
The St. Louis Blues goaltender returned after missing five games and shut out the host Calgary Flames on Thursday night as five different Blues scored in a 5-0 victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Blues (31-7-5, 67 points), who have now won seven straight games, moved into a first-place tie atop the Western Conference’s Central Division with the Chicago Blackhawks (31-7-5, 67 points). Chicago has played 46 games. St. Louis, which plays in Vancouver on Friday night, has now played 43.
The Flames (15-23-6, 36 points) have now lost 10 of their last 12 games, getting shut out in five of the last seven.
The Blues remembered their last trip to Calgary when the Flames rallied for two third-period goals and then won it 4-3 in overtime back on Dec. 23. This time, St. Louis played three complete periods and never let up.
Here are three observations from the Blues’ impressive road win:
What a return. What a night.
The Flames have struggled to score lately but they were able to put 33 shots on goal against the Blues on Thursday. Halak, who hadn’t played since Dec. 28, didn’t flinch. He turned away each of them to earn his third shutout of the season.
It was the 28th career shutout for Halak (18-6-3) and his team-record 19th with the Blues. Halak, who was selected for the Slovakian Olympic team earlier in the week, needed this kind of rebound performance after missing several games with an illness.
Halak even had an assist on Vladimir Sobotka’s first-period goal. It was the first of the season for the goalie and the third in 249 games over his eight-year NHL career.
The flying Vladimirs, Vladimir Tarasenko and Vladimir Sobotka, each recorded a goal and an assist on Thursday night.
Tarasenko, who was named to the Russian Olympic team on Tuesday, now has a five-game point streak and has two points in three straight games. For the season, the 21-year-old has 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points.
Sobotka, who will represent the Czech Republic at the 2014 Winter Olympics next month, has points in four consecutive games and has two points in three straight games. Since returning to the lineup on Dec. 9, Sobotka has a team-high nine points. He has seven goals and 17 assists for 24 points this season.
Tarasenko and Sobotka have now combined for six points in the last three games. That duo has been on fire lately and is among the reasons that the Blues have kept rolling with leading scorer Alexander Steen on the injured reserve list.
The Blues’ play has been one of the best in the NHL this season and especially productive lately after a bit of a slump. That proficiency continued in Calgary.
St. Louis converted two of its six power-play opportunities — third-period goals from Alex Pietrangelo and Tarasenko — on Thursday, the second game the Blues scored twice on the power play and the fourth such occurrence in the past six games.
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.