CALGARY -- The St. Louis Blues' latest hot streak has carried them to the top of the Western Conference.
Alexander Steen scored twice and Brian Elliott made 25 saves to lift the Blues to a 4-0 victory against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday. Jori Lehtera and David Backes also scored for the Blues (45-20-5), who have won five of their past six games, including two straight and three of the past four via shutout, to jump into first place in the West. The Blues and Anaheim Ducks each have 95 points, but the Blues have played one fewer game.
One year ago, St. Louis limped into the Stanley Cup Playoffs having lost six straight games to close out the regular season, then lost in the conference quarterfinals to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. They want to make sure there's no repeat
"[Coach Ken Hitchcock] talks a lot about 'I don't care if you win or lose, it's how you win or lose,' " said Elliott, who improved to 24-11-2. "If you play your game, the wins will take care of themselves eventually. We definitely want to be playing that St. Louis Blues hockey, grinding down low, really taking care of business in the offensive zone, and that's usually our best defense. We potted some goals tonight, so that's an example of how you kind of wear teams down."
The shutout was Elliott's 21st with the Blues, breaking a tie with Jaroslav Halak for the franchise record. The Blues haven't allowed a goal in 126 minutes, 16 seconds.
"It's pretty cool," Elliott said. "Looking back right now on my career … I'm not here for that long and I never thought I'd be in St. Louis. It's pretty cool to be at the top there right now. It has a lot to do with how our team plays the past four years. Great attention to detail and guys sacrificing in front of me, blocking shots like you saw tonight."
The second straight regulation loss for the Flames (38-27-5), coupled with a win by the Winnipeg Jets, knocked Calgary from the third place in the Pacific Division to the outside looking in. They are one point behind the Jets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the West. The Flames and Los Angeles Kings each have 81 points, but the Kings own third place in the division because they've played one fewer game.
"At the end, all you can do is win as many games as you can until the end," said Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller, who made 22 saves. "I think that has to be the goal, no matter if you look at the standings or not. We know if you want to have a chance to be in, we have to win our fair share. I don't think the answer is looking at the standings every day and worrying about it. We have to come and be ready to play. I thought we played an OK game, but they were just better."
After a tight-checking first period that featured a combined 14 shots, including six in the final 11 minutes, Steen put the Blues on the board midway through the second.
After taking a pass from T.J. Oshie in the neutral zone, Steen weaved his way over the Calgary blue line before firing a shot from the top of the faceoff circle that went past the glove of Hiller at 11:32 to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead.
"I kind of made up my mind when I cut behind [Oshie]," Steen said. "I was going to let it go right after I cut behind him, use him as a little bit of a screen."
Elliott ensured that lead would make it to the third period thanks in part to some luck. On a scramble in the crease one shift after Steen's goal, TJ Brodie couldn't poke a loose puck in the slot by the downed Blues goalie and, with 5:39 remaining, Elliott stopped David Jones' initial slap shot and a trio of attempts from Mikael Backlund on the doorstep.
The Blues, now 28-2-2 when leading after 40 minutes, went up by two early in the third when Brodie's behind-the-net pass was picked off by Jaden Schwartz to start a tic-tac-toe play that featured Vladimir Tarasenko before Lehtera beat a surprised Hiller at 1:18.
Steen made it 3-0 at 9:38. Oshie tapped a faceoff win by Backes back to Steen, who stepped into a shot that beat Hiller to the stick side for his second of the night and 22nd of the season.
Steen had a shot to complete the hat trick with 7:35 remaining in regulation with Calgary on the power play and Hiller on the bench for the extra attacker, but he couldn't get his shot past Kris Russell, who leads the NHL with 241 blocked shots.
But with Hiller on the bench a second time, Backes found the back of the empty net from his own zone at 14:25 to complete the scoring.