ST. LOUIS -- The Toronto Maple Leafs were in town on Thursday, first time in more than two years.
They should visit more often.
The Blues put more distance between their recent slump with a dominant 6-3 victory over the visiting Leafs in front of 16,073 holiday shoppers at Scottrade Center.
There were several curiosities about the date with the Eastern Conference Leafs, who so generously sent Alexander Steen (and Carlo Colaiacovo) over for Lee Stempniak in November, 2008. Steen, who had his 22nd goal and an assist in the game, is currently a Blues thoroughbred. Stempniak is in Calgary.
Oddly enough, the Blues had not beaten Toronto since Feb. 12, 2010, when goaltender Chris Mason got the shutout at Scottrade. Mind you, there had been just two meetings in between.
The Blues once shared occupancy with Toronto in the Norris Division days -- when the Maple Leafs often played like the Make Believes. The adversaries associate infrequently in today's NHL.
That said, the Blues have had a Fritz Von Erich "Claw" hold on the East in recent seasons. They are an NHL-best 34-9-5 in inter-conference play since 2010-11, including 8-3-3 at home. This season, the Local Six is 10-2-0 against the East, with Columbus up next on the schedule.
The warped record is undeniable, but somewhat trivial to Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.
"This has nothing to do with East vs West," Hitchcock said. "This has to do with Los Angeles (2012 Stanley Cup champs) and Chicago (2013 Stanley Cup champs). Those are the teams everybody is trying to catch."
For the second game in a row, the Blues refocused the pursuit. For the second game in a row, they got the first goal, which is usually a good sign -- they are 18-1-2 with a goal in hand.
And the jump was vital against an opponent that played the previous night in Toronto.
"We created turnovers, got them standing still, probably gave them tired legs early and took advantage of it," Hitchcock said.
David Backes converted a table-setting pass from Steen to provide a 1-0 lead, four minutes 48 seconds into the game. The goal was No. 14 for Captain Backes, who would later get his 15th.
Remember, this is the author of six goals in 48 games last season. He now has 29 points, one more than last season.
"You guys figure all that stuff out," Backes said. "I'm more concerned about how our team is playing and whether we're winning games. We've been through a little rough stretch lately and we need to learn a lesson from that.
"On a personal note, I've got to give a lot of credit to the guys I'm playing with. They're working their butts off, creating a lot of room, getting me pucks, and burying pucks when I give it to them. It's definitely a team effort."
Finding plenty of skating room, the Blues did some additional burying. In the midst of a roll of 12 points in 11 games, Jaden Schwartz made it 2-0 with seven minutes remaining in the first.
Toronto goalie James Reimer inadvertently lost his stick and before he could retrieve it, the Blues rushed in. Up a creek without his paddle, Reimer made the save on Schwartz' initial try, but the Blues' sophomore put the rebound between the goaltender's legs.
"I thought the whole team did a good job and jumped on them early," Schwartz, 21, said. "We threw all pucks on the net and got some second-chance opportunities. Everybody worked hard."
Backes describes Schwartz in teapot terms: "He's short and stout," Backes said.
The goal was the eighth for Schwartz, his 20th point. And he was just getting started.
Moments after helping kill a penalty, Schwartz fed Chris Stewart and the burly winger slid a pass to Derek Roy, who converted his eighth goal. With still 3:30 to play, it was 3-0.
Reimer was pulled in favor of goalie Jonathan Bernier, the seventh time the Blues have chased a starting netminder this season. But the dye was cast.
The Blues are 47-0-1 in their last 48 home games in which they score at least three goals.
The outcome became more apparent 29 seconds into the second period. Vladimir Sobotka took a stretch pass from Schwartz, created an opportunity for Stewart, and "Stewball" scored his sixth of the season, making it 4-0.
The assist gave Schwartz a three-point night, matching his career-best night Oct. 5 at Florida.
Hitchcock has a different description for the surging Schwartz. "A good player," the Blues' mentor said.
"This is the evolution of a really good player ... He's a great 200-foot player. I think if you have enough of those guys, that's what wins you championships.
"He's going to be a good player on this team for a long time."
The Leafs demonstrated a feint pulse with a goal by Nazem Kadri less then two minutes into the second. But the Blues continued to apply a submission hold.
Before the period ended, Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Pietrangelo rang goalpost bells and the Blues had a 26-13 shots advantage.
Steen rubbed salt in old wounds with a goal some seven minutes into the third. Working his way into the slot, he sniped a wrist shot through traffic. Steen is second in the NHL in goals and his two-point night gave him 35 points.
Nikolai Kulemin added a late Toronto goal and things got more interesting when Pietrangelo deflected a puck past netminder Brian Elliott. The score was 5-3 with 3:08 remaining.
But one weird goal deserved another. With 30 seconds to play, Backes banked a puck off the glass in his end and it caromed down and slid into the empty net at the other end to produce the final score.
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