Friday, December 13, 2013
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Backes, Schwartz guide Blues past Leafs

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[December 13, 2013]  ST. LOUIS  David Backes can see teammate Jaden Schwartz's confidence growing with every game. Nights like Thursday only make it more obvious to everybody else.

Schwartz, a 21-year-old left winger, scored a goal and added two assists to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the second time this season and in his career Schwartz registered a three-point game.

"I think he's finally feeling confident and comfortable in his role," Backes, the Blues captain and center, said of Schwartz, a former first-round draft pick who has 12 points in his past 11 games. "He's got as good a shot as anyone and works his butt off. As short and stout as he is, he goes up against the biggest guys and comes out of the corners with pucks. It's inspiring the way those guys play."

Led by Backes and Schwartz, the Blues raced to a 3-0 lead over the Maple Leafs, who pulled goalie James Reimer just 16:10 into the game after the third St. Louis goal of the opening period.

It was the seventh time in 30 games this season the Blues chased a starting goalie.


Schwartz led the effort, which came after a series of recent bad first periods by the Blues.

"We jumped on them early and got a lot of second-chance opportunities," said Schwartz, who scored the second St. Louis goal when he knocked his own rebound past Reimer, who lost his stick on the play. "When you're working hard, good things are going to happen most nights. We've had a few games with bad starts against good teams. They played last night, so we wanted to make sure we got on them early."

Toronto coach Randy Carlyle knew that was going to be the Blues' strategy after the Maple Leafs had a tough home game Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings, but he said his team was not ready for it.

"Tonight looked like we were totally brain dead in a lot of areas," Carlyle said. "I don't know any other way to describe it. We didn't win enough of the down-low confrontations. They had a lot of freedom. Look where they scored the goals from.

"They scored three goals on 15 shots. I'm not blaming the goaltending specifically; it was just part and parcel with our entire hockey club. The back-to-back (set of games) is going to be tough. We didn't get here until 3 in the morning, and we were playing a good hockey club, but we definitely were short on emotion and energy. We didn't have much of a defense for them."

The loss extended the Maple Leafs' streak to 12 consecutive games without a win in regulation.


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"Last night it looked like we had something to build on, and tonight it was all gone," Toronto defenseman Carl Gunnarsson said Thursday. "Coming in from the game last night, we know our legs probably were not going to be there, and we were going to be tired, but what we did looked like we were more mentally tired. We can always deal with the body being tired, shorter shifts or whatever, but it looked like we weren't there mentally."

Backes scored two goals for the Blues, including one into an empty net, to help the Blues improve their record to 47-0-1 in their past 48 home games when they score three or more goals. The streak dates back to March 12, 2011.

Left winger Alexander Steen scored his 22nd goal for the Blues, who also got goals from right wing Chris Stewart and center Derek Roy. The line of center Vladimir Sobotka, Schwartz and Stewart totaled seven points in the game.

"That line is able to play one-on-one; all three guys can play one-on-one hockey," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They can get away and get open. When you are able to play one-on-one hockey and get some spacing, it's very hard to defend."

The Blues built a 5-1 lead before Toronto scored two late goals. Center Nazem Kadri and left wingers Nikolai Kulemin and James van Riemsdyk were the Maple Leafs' goal-scorers.

St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott made 19 saves for the win. Reimer stopped 12 of 15 shots before he was replaced by Jonathan Bernier, who allowed two goals on 20 shots.


NOTES: Blues LW Alexander Steen was a first-round pick of the Maple Leafs in 2002 and played for Toronto from 2005 to 2008 before he was traded to St. Louis. ... Toronto played its second consecutive game without its captain, D Dion Phaneuf, who was completing a two-game suspension for a hit from behind on Boston D Kevan Miller during Sunday's game. ... Blues G Brian Elliott started his second consecutive game and played in his third straight. ... Before Thursday, the Blues were one of four teams that Toronto G James Reimer never faced in his career. The remaining three are the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets. ... Toronto will return home to play the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. The Blues' next game will be Saturday at Columbus.

[ 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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