EDMONTON – Jaroslav Halak couldn’t have asked for a much better return to the St. Louis net.
Halak, making his first start since March 10, only needed to make 19 saves to record his third shutout of the season as the Blues came away with a 3-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
“It’s always good to get back in action in a game,” said Halak, who had only played in three of the Blues’ previous 10 games. “It’s a big win for me and for the team. Looking at the shots it may have seemed easy, but if you ask any goalie around the league, they want to face more shots as they can. But I’ll take it. A shutout is a shutout.”
Chris Stewart, Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie scored for the Blues (17-11-2), who have won six of their last eight games.
“We checked very well and managed the puck the right way,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “We got better as the game went on, too. Our best period was our third period. We used four lines right to the end of the hockey game. It was a very effective game for us. We did a lot of very good things today.”
The Oilers (11-12-7) have lost three of their last four, although two of those were in extra time.
Edmonton head coach Ralph Krueger admitted it was not the kind of performance he wanted to see as his team fights to stay in the playoff hunt.
“It was definitely our weakest performance in a long time,” he said. “It was very disappointing when you realize what we had here on the table and how we needed to compete against St Louis, to then end up coming out flat. We played into their hands. We didn’t get any energy or compete into that first period.”
The Blues took a 1-0 lead just over three minutes into the game as Stewart elected to shoot on a three-on-two, beating Oilers starter Nikolai Khabibulin with a long wrist shot from the top of the circle for his 15th of the season.
There were very few other chances in a rather sedate first period as the Blues had six shots and the Oilers only four on Halak.
The second period was just as snooze-inducing as the first with no scoring.
Khabibulin had to deal with the tougher chances of the two goalies, needing to make a kick save on a shot by Stewart and another heads-up save on a tip by T.J. Oshie.
The shots favoured the Blues 19-12 after 40 minutes.
The Blues went up by two goals three minutes into the third period as Steen took a shot that went off the end boards, but was able to swat in his own rebound before Khabibulin could get back into position.
St. Louis gave themselves a cushion with nine minutes remaining as Oshie took a pass in full flight in front of the net and made a nifty deke before scoring on the backhand to make it 3-0.
The Blues conclude a three-game road trip in Calgary on Sunday. The Oilers hit the road for their next game on Monday in Nashville.
Notes: It was the second of three meetings between the two teams, with the Blues taking the first match-up 4-2 at the beginning of March. They conclude the series in St. Louis when the Oilers visit on Tuesday … The Blues entered the contest with a 10-1-1 overall in their last 12 games against Edmonton … The Blues are in a stretch of playing eight of 11 games on the road … Both starting goalies were making their first appearances in a while as Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak made his first start in goal since March 10. Khabibulin made his first start for Edmonton since Feb. 25 … Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins missed his second straight game with the flu and may be forced to miss his team’s two-game road trip. A decision will be made on Sunday morning. Fellow centre Eric Belanger made his return to the lineup from a groin injury to take his place … Oshie returned to the St. Louis lineup from a rib injury.