Blues keep on rolling with shutout win over Minnesota

News-DemocratNovember 25, 2013 

— The victory assembly line continued for the St. Louis Blues on Monday at Scottrade Center.

Being paired against one of the NHL's hottest teams did not matter as the Blues blanked the Minnesota Wild 3-0 for their fourth straight win and stretched their franchise-record start to 17-3-3.

"This team's been together for a long time, even when I left they were set up pretty good to be successful," said Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who picked up an assist in his first game back with his old team. "They've added a lot of key pieces over that time and it's created the team that we have.

"When you can roll four lines and play six defensemen in this league, it makes you a really tough team to play against."

Blues winger Alexander Steen scored twice to end a four-game goal drought, collecting his 18th and 19th goals this season in his 23rd game.

He is one behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin in the NHL goal-scoring race.

Steen's second goal was an empty-netter scored from just in front of the Blues' bench at his own blue line with 1 minute, 22 seconds remaining.

The shutout was the franchise-record 18th for Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak (13-3-2), although he was rarely tested until late in the contest.

Minnesota (15-6-4) had an apparent goal waved off 30 seconds into the game when the referee ruled Wild forward Zach Parise deflected it in with a high stick. Video reviews were inconclusive, so the on-ice call stood.

Just 50 seconds later, the Blues took a 1-0 lead on Colaiacovo's first shift back with his old team. As it turned out, that was the game-winner as the Wild were blanked for the first time this season.

"Not giving up a goal like that, it's huge early in a game," Halak said. "It would be a big boost for their team and by disallowing the goal, it was momentum on our side and we were able to score right after."

Vladimir Sobotka scored his second goal in two games on the rebound of a shot from the blue line by Colaiacovo. Jaden Schwartz notched an assist on the play, giving him at least a point for the fourth straight game.

"I'm just trying to get my speed and go to the net," Sobotka said. "That was a good shot by Carlo and I just found the puck in front of the net and put it in."

Playing center recently, Sobotka has been trying to make himself more useful by crashing the goal crease looking for loose pucks and rebounds.

"I'm trying to kind of change my game a little bit, go more in front of the net," he said.

The Blues improved to 11-1-2 at home, including 8-0-3 in their last 11 against the Wild on home ice.

The Blues and the Wild began Monday on franchise-record starts to the season. They also were the NHL's two hottest teams in November, with Minnesota coming in at 9-1-1 this month while the Blues were 9-2-1.

A suffocating Blues defense limited the Wild to just 10 shots in the first two periods before Minnesota applied a bit more pressure in the final 20 minutes to finish with 21.

One of Halak's best saves of the night came late in the third period when he slid across to rob Dany Heatley.

"He made some key saves when we needed him to, he got a big shutout for us," Steen said. "Real solid. Both (goalies) have been playing unreal. They're reading the plays well and getting the right angles quickly; the last one on Heatley, Jaro seems like he's already there reading the pass. They're on top of their game right now."

It was a dominant first period by the Blues, who got goals from Sobotka and Steen and outshot the Wild 13-4.

Steen pounced on the rebound of a shot by Jay Bouwmeester, backhanding a quick shot past Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom for his 18th goal this season.

Steen did not have a goal in his previous four games and was held without a shot in the previous two games.

It was the first of five games against new Central Division rival Minnesota this season for the Blues, who are 8-0-2 in their last 10 against the Wild at Scottrade Center.

"This was one of the best games we've played 5-on-5 for a long time," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team has outscored the opposition by an NHL-leading 32 goals (82-50). "I thought any of the scoring chances they got were pretty much on the power play. I thought 5-on-5, we really competed and we created a lot of pressure and presence, especially in the first two periods."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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