Blues general manager Doug Armstrong cut Alexander Steen loose from a morning press conference announcing his new contract Thursday by saying "he's going to have to get back to work and earn his money." Steen left for the Blues' morning practice, where the club was tuning up for a much-needed fast start against the visiting Montreal Canadiens. The Blues not only delivered a quality opening act, but they turned in a sound 60-minute performance in a 5-1 win over the Canadiens in front of a crowd of 17,189 at Scottrade Center. Steen got back to work quickly, scoring a pair of goals within the first eight minutes of the game. Nos. 23-24 on the season tied his career high, set with the club in 2009-10, and pulled him within four of NHL leader Alex Ovechkin. Steen's fifth two-goal game of the season, along with goals from Chris Stewart, Jaden Schwartz and Maxim Lapierre, allowed the Blues to snap a two-game losing streak before heading on a road trip that begins Saturday in Edmonton. Admitting sheepishly that "it was a good day," Steen said the best part was "just the way we came out with a lot of jump. We knew they were a good team that plays physical and has a lot of speed. But it felt like we went out and dictated from the early going. "We stuck with it and just played the way we should be playing, the way that we played in the early goings in the season. It felt like tonight was a solid effort." Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak made 25 saves to improve to 4-0 against Montreal, which traded him to St. Louis. In addition, he now has a 0.98 goals-against average and .960 save-percentage versus his old employer. Noting the netminder's success against Montreal, and hoping for the best on the Blues' upcoming road trip, head coach Ken Hitchcock quipped: "We're going to play the Montreal Oilers and the Montreal Flames." Halak, who earned his 76th victory as a Blue, tying Brent Johnson for fifth in franchise history, downplayed his success against the Habs. When asked if he had their number, he responded: "For now...but playing for 60 minutes, that was the key tonight." The Blues managed 12 shots in the first period, with Steen scoring on both of his opportunities. His first came shorthanded, after a holding penalty on denseman Roman Polak put the Canadiens on the power play. The penalty-killing unit had two odd-man rushes on the ensuing man-advantage. The first, with Schwartz and Patrik Berglund, was snuffed out by Montreal goalie Carey Price. But on the second one, which actually became a 3-on-1 with Steen, T.J. Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo, Price couldn't keep the puck out of the net.
Blues beat down Habs, 5-1
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Dec 20