Doug Weight and Dan Hinote each had a goal and an assist and the Blues stopped an 11-game losing streak that was threatening a franchise record, beating the uninspired Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 Tuesday night.
The Blues began the game with an NHL-low seven victories and a losing streak that was two short of last season’s franchise-worst 13 in a row, only to dominate the Penguins for the second season in a row. The Penguins’ dismal 3-0 loss in St. Louis in mid-December a year ago led to former coach Eddie Olczyk’s firing two days later and Michel Therrien’s hiring.
This time, the Blues won for their new coach. They dropped their first four games after Murray replaced Mike Kitchen, including an overtime decision and another in a shootout on successive nights to Nashville last weekend.
“We’ve been so close, it was disappointing the last couple of games,” defenceman Barret Jackman said. “We knew Pittsburgh was a great offensive team and if we played a good defensive team game, we had a chance to win it.”
The Penguins scored 27 goals while winning four of their last five. But they were 1-of-8 on the power play and are only 2-of-25 in their last three games, a low output for a team that often has Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice with a man advantage.
“It’s hard to get anything going on the power play when the work ethic isn’t there,” said Crosby, who had an assist to run his scoring streak to nine games. “We have skill, but when we don’t work hard that isn’t enough.”
The Penguins played so poorly, Therrien couldn’t believe what he was watching.
“It’s unacceptable,” Therrien said. “The building is full, they come and support the team, and to have a performance like this … I’m really disappointed in a lot of guys.”
St. Louis scored in the opening minute for the second time in three games and the sixth time this season when Weight beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from in front with 44 seconds gone. Only this time, the Blues made the lead hold up – something they couldn’t do in their previous four games.
“We didn’t play bashful,” Bill Guerin said. “We wanted to get more goals and we did, and we got a win.”
With the Penguins looking a step slow, failing to catch up to lead passes or shooting the puck an instant after there was an opening, the Blues made it 2-0 on Hinote’s wraparound goal less than six minutes in.
“Our guys have to work hard with the puck and be smart, and I think they did a good job of that,” Murray said.
Fleury was pulled early in the second after Ryan Johnson scored short-handed, outworking Crosby for the puck near the blue-line and lifting a shot under the crossbar. Fleury allowed three goals on 12 shots.
“He has to play better,” Therrien said. “There’s no doubt.”
Blues goalie Manny Legace also was lifted, with flu-like symptoms, after stopping all nine shots he faced. Jason Bacashihua replaced him to start the second period and allowed one goal in 17 shots, Malkin’s 17th of the season early in the third period on a power play.
St. Louis, which had been winless since beating Detroit 3-2 on Nov. 24, answered that goal about 90 seconds later when Guerin scored his 13th. The 36-year-old Guerin needed 32 games to score as many goals as he did in 70 games with Dallas last season.
“I’ve got a clear head and a fresh start over here,” Guerin said. “I’ve got a good opportunity to get my game back together.”
Notes: About a half dozen fan displayed signs promoting the casino chain that will build a new Penguins arena if it is awarded the license for a downtown slots machine parlour. A state panel will decide Wednesday from three casino bidders. … The Blues are 5-0-1 in their last six against Pittsburgh. … Guerin has five goals in nine games. … Crosby has six goals and 15 assists during his scoring streak.