Perron, Halak lead Blues to fifth straight victory
Sunday, March 11, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An energized Jaroslav Halak carried his tired teammates to another win.
Halak made 33 saves, and David Perron broke a tie early in the third period Sunday night to help the NHL-leading St. Louis Blues beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 for their season-high fifth straight victory.
Patrik Berglund also scored for St. Louis. The Blues, coming off a 4-1 victory Saturday night over Columbus in St. Louis, have won nine of 10 to improve to 45-18-7.
“We had no energy, the goalie found a way,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “That’s five games in nine nights with cross-country travel and we hit the wall. We hit the wall mentally. We hit the wall physically. Our goalie stole the game.”
Mark Letestu scored for Columbus, which had won four straight games before being swept by the Blues in the weekend series.
Columbus interim coach Todd Richards agreed Halak just got better as the game went along.
“I thought we created a lot of chances and Halak was very, very good,” Richards said.
Halak, second in the NHL in goals-against average behind teammate Brain Elliott, who played Saturday, made several key saves with the Blues holding a late one-goal lead.
Halak stretched his right leg pad on near identical plays moments apart late to thwart R.J. Umberger and Dane Byers in alone after a pair of rare defensive miscues by the Blues. Halak then made a diving play on a loose puck about to cross the goal line with players piled in the crease that was ruled no goal and upheld by video review.
“Two 2-on-1’s in the third, probably one breakaway, he just won the game for us,” Perron said.
On another power play in the waning seconds and Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford pulled for an extra attacker, Letestu redirected a point shot that skipped just wide.
Perron gave St. Louis the lead at 3:46 of the third with his 14th goal of the season, skating nearly the length of the ice before beating Sanford — making his second straight start while Steve Mason recovers from a hand laceration — inside the near post with a bad-angle shot.
“It’s probably one I don’t expect to go in,” Perron said. “I had a lot of power behind it. I went high glove couple times over the weekend and he saved all of those.”
Columbus finished 0-for-8 with the man advantage, which included two double minors.
“I think they do a good job of making you play quicker than you want to,” Letestu said about struggling on the power play. “It was a challenge for us.”
After a scoreless first period and another stellar leg pad stop by Halak, and one by Sanford, Berglund put the Blues on the board first, just over a minute into the second period.
Alex Pietrangelo wristed a shot while skating backward inside the blue line Berglund stopped in traffic then snapped past Sanford.
The Blues couldn’t increase their lead on a 4-minute penalty to Vinny Prospal for high-sticking and unsportsmanlike conduct, then Columbus pulled even later in the period.
On a nice rush up the ice, Ryan Johansen dropped the puck to Letestu, who curled to the right dot and ripped a shot past Halak for his eighth at 11:20.
“We made a lot of tired, mental decisions today and we got away with hit,” Hitchcock said. “If it was a playoff team we were playing, we might not have gotten away with it.”
St. Louis, playing the first of a seven-game trip, improved to 16-14-3 away from home.
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