Toronto, ON (SportsNetwork.com) - David Backes notched the second hat trick of
his career as the St. Louis Blues held off the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-3, on
Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie each posted a goal and two assists for the
Blues, who have won two straight after dropping their previous two. Ryan
Miller turned away 22 shots in the win.
The win gives St. Louis 105 points on the season, one better than idle Boston
for first overall in the NHL.
Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk, and Carl Gunnarsson each had a goal for the
Maple Leafs, who are one of four Eastern Conference teams with 80 points, but
currently find themselves sitting out of the wild card chase.
Columbus and Detroit currently hold the two wild card spots, with Washington
and Toronto sitting on the outside due to playing more games.
"The whole year we've thought we were a playoff team, and we still believe
that now," said Lupul. "Realistically we're still right there with these other
Jonathan Bernier made 44 saves in a losing effort.
Toronto trailed by three goals entering the third period, but made it a two-
goal game 4:39 in as a turnover in the St. Louis end saw Gunnarsson one-time
it from the slot for his third of the year and a 4-2 game.
The Leafs then cut their deficit to one with 4:06 to play as a sequence in the
St. Louis end saw Phil Kessel send a quick backhand from behind the net to the
front where van Riemsdyk chipped it in for his 28th of the year.
Toronto then pulled Bernier with under two minutes to play for an extra
attacker, but Backes capped the hat trick with a shot down the middle for his
27th of the season.
"I think he doesn't give himself enough credit for how good of a 200-foot
player he is," said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock about Backes. "I think
that's one of the things that has really evolved in his game now. He's a
really good 200-foot player. He's not just a checker, he's a guy that can play
in both ends of the rink."
The Maple Leafs drew first blood and they did so on the power play at 11:30 of
the first period. Jake Gardiner's shot from the high slot was stopped and the
rebound went to the right. Nazem Kadri swatted the puck while it was airborne
over to the left side where Lupul slammed it in.
St. Louis, though, tied the game at 15:55 of the opening period as Roman
Polak's shot from the right point got behind the goalie and Oshie tapped it in
for his 18th of the season.
With just 32.3 seconds left in the first, the Blues made it a 2-1 game as a
turnover near the blueline saw Oshie get it to Backes, who fired a shot on net
from the right circle that trickled between Bernier's pads for a power-play
St. Louis took a 3-1 advantage at 7:32 of the second on Backes' second goal of
the game, and made it a 4-1 contest at 17:35 of the middle stanza courtesy of
Steen's backhander from the slot.
St. Louis hosts Minnesota on Thursday ... Toronto plays at Philadelphia on
Friday ... The Blues have won the past two against the Maple Leafs ... Both
teams were 1-for-3 on the power play.