VANCOUVER, B.C. – The St. Louis Blues are learning from their losses, and they’re motivated to avenge them.
Right-winger David Backes scored twice Sunday as St. Louis earned a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks, the team that knocked the Blues out of last season’s playoffs. The Blues are exacting some payback after they put together a solid second half last season only to be swept by the Canucks in the first round of the post-season.
St. Louis has now responded with two victories against the Canucks including their lopsided win of the season – a 6-1 home win on Nov. 10.
“Maybe that’s the way it is, maybe that’s why we had such a good second half last year is we were vengeful after getting beat a few too many times in the first half,” Backes said.
“Maybe we should pretend every team kicked our dog or something like that before the game – I’m an animal advocate by the way – but it seems like when teams show us up we come back the next time and play a good hard game and get the best of them.”
That means the Oilers should be wary Monday night in Edmonton as the Blues remember seeing a 3-0 lead turn into a 5-3 loss in St. Louis in their last meeting earlier this month.
The next thing St. Louis has to do is figure out how to win in their own rink. They’re 9-3-3 on the road but only 6-11-2 at home.
“I think we’re the same team but we sure don’t play the same way for whatever reason,” said goaltender Ty Conklin who backstopped the Blues with a solid 29-save effort.
“If we had the answers we’d have changed it by now. We’ve bounced back from tough losses at home on the road but we just need to build some confidence in our team.
“Right now we just need to get points so maybe being on the road’s a good thing.”
The Blues, who got an insurance goal from Keith Tkachuk, snapped a string of two losses as they improved to 15-14-5 and moved into 12th spot in the West.
The Canucks, who left the ice to a smattering of boos, lost for the second time with two starts remaining in a season-long eight-game homestand.
Both losses came against teams last in the West on game day and the Canucks remained out of a playoff position at 20-16-0.
Defenceman Shane O’Brien gave Vancouver a 1-1 tie after 20 minutes with his first goal in two years but the Canucks failed to overtake eighth-place Detroit and Dallas.
Both clubs are a point ahead of Vancouver, which hasn’t been in a playoff position all season.
The homestand is crucial to Vancouver’s playoff chances as the Canucks play eight road games prior to the Olympic break and six more away from GM Place when the Winter Games end.
St. Louis has the league’s worst power play but Backes’ first goal was scored on a deflection with the man advantage.
His second saw two Canucks caught up-ice. He went around Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa before tucking the puck in the net when goalie Roberto Luongo missed a poke check.
“The first one was a blocked shot that ends up right in front of me and my high-school baseball skills kicked in a little bit,” said Backes who has nine goals this season and five in his last five games.
“The second one was just trying to use my big body and get around the corner and use a little reach and try and get around Luongo.”
Backes had only one goal in his first 21 games and that has coach Andy Murray scratching his head.
“You kind of wonder where David was the first 20 games of the season and he’s done that every year since he’s been with us but we’ll take it right now,” Murray said.
The Canucks almost drew to within a goal early in the third period but referee Mike Leggo immediately waived off the apparent score by Alex Burrows.
The on-ice ruling that the puck entered the net because of a distinct kicking motion was upheld by a lengthy video review.
Henrik Sedin’s centring pass went off Burrows’ right skate and pinballed into the net off the left skate of Blues defenceman Barrett Jackman.
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said he disagreed with the decision.
“I looked at the replay and yes, Alex does turn his foot, it goes off his skate and then there is a forward motion, but not on the initial deflection,” Vigneault said.
Luongo, whose club was outshot 14-6 in the pivotal second period, said the loss was frustrating after the Canucks beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Friday night.
“We could talk about it until we’re blue in the face in the locker-room before the game, but talking about it and going out on the ice and executing are two different things,” Luongo said.
O’Brien, who scored for the first time in 165 regular-season games, was happy with his goal but disappointed with the result.
“To say I wasn’t thinking about it some days would be a lie,” he said. “It was great to get it, but at the same time we play for the two points … for some reason teams that are below us we let them off the hook.”
Notes: O’Brien’s last goal came Nov. 8, 2007 … the Canucks announced the addition of former players Dave Babych and Glen Hanlon to their operations staff … Babych is a player development consultant while Hanlon, a former coach of the Capitals, works as a goaltending scout … winger B.J. Crombeen played his 100th game for St. Louis … the Canucks reassigned rookie Michael Grabner to AHL Manitoba Moose after his rehab from a broken ankle suffered in a pre-game soccer kick-around.