ST. LOUIS -- Blues general manager Doug Armstrong cut Alexander Steen loose from a morning press conference announcing his new contract Thursday by saying "he's going to have to get back to work and earn his money."
Steen left for the Blues' morning practice, where the club was tuning up for a much-needed fast start against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
The Blues not only delivered a quality opening act, but they turned in a sound 60-minute performance in a 5-1 win over the Canadiens in front of 17,189 at Scottrade Center.
Steen got back to work quickly, scoring a pair of goals within the first eight minutes of the game. Nos. 23-24 on the season tied his career high, set with the club in 2009-10, and pulled him within four of NHL leader Alex Ovechkin.
Steen's fifth two-goal game of the season, along with goals from Chris Stewart, Jaden Schwartz and Maxim Lapierre, allowed the Blues to snap a two-game losing streak before heading on a road trip that begins Saturday in Edmonton.
Admitting sheepishly that "it was a good day," Steen said the best part was "just the way we came out with a lot of jump. We knew they were a good team that plays physical and has a lot of speed. But it felt like we went out and dictated from the early going.
"We stuck with it and just played the way we should be playing, the way that we played in the early goings in the season. It felt like tonight was a solid effort."
Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak made 25 saves to improve to 4-0 against Montreal since the trade to St. Louis in 2010. In addition, he now has a 0.98 goals-against average and .960 save-percentage versus his old employer.
Noting the netminder's success against Montreal, and hoping for the best on the Blues' upcoming road trip, head coach Ken Hitchcock quipped: "We're going to play the Montreal Oilers and the Montreal Flames."
Halak, who earned his 76th victory as a Blue, tying Brent Johnson for fifth in franchise history, downplayed his success against the Habs. When asked if he had their number, he responded: "For now ... but playing for 60 minutes, that was the key tonight."
The Blues managed 12 shots in the first period, with Steen scoring on both of his opportunities. His first came shorthanded, after a holding penalty on defenseman Roman Polak put the Canadiens on the power play.
The penalty-killing unit had two odd-man rushes on the ensuing man-advantage.
The first, with Schwartz and Patrik Berglund, was snuffed out by Montreal goalie Carey Price. But on the second one, which actually became a 3-on-1 with Steen, T.J. Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo, Price couldn't keep the puck out of the net.
Steen handed the Blues their second shorthanded goal of the season for a 1-0 lead just 4:20 into the game.
"I thought tonight, Bergy's line got us off to a really good start," Steen said.
Perhaps the Blues' PK worked so well that Steen took a holding penalty himself moments later, putting the team down a defender. But seconds after Steen exited the box, Berglund blocked a shot and Derek Roy dropped a pass back to Steen, who ripped another shot past Price.
The Blues led 2-0 on four shots just 7:55 into the game.
Stewart increased the lead to 3-0 with his 10th goal of the season. Brenden Morrow set up the play, passing to a wide-open Stewart in the slot, where he quickly pulled the trigger.
"I'm starting to get some bounces now," Stewart said. "I'm just trying to get to the net and get open. It was a great pass by 'Mo' tonight."
Stewart's goal was his fifth in his last five games, and the assist for Morrow was the 300th of his career.
The club maintained the three-goal lead after 20 minutes, which was just what it needed after a string of sluggish opening acts.
The only aspect of the Blues' game that wasn't clicking Thursday was the power play, which finished zero for six. The time on the man-advantage included a four-minute power play in the first period when Montreal's Brandon Prust was whistled for hooking and roughing on the same shift.
The Canadiens pulled to within 3-1 in the second period when Brendan Gallagher netted his 10th goal of the season, ending Halak's bid for a shutout.
Halak made the initial save, but Gallagher whacked the puck out of mid-air for a two-goal deficit with 7:09 left in the middle period.
The Blues pulled away in the third period as Schwartz and Lapierre scored.
Schwartz, who missed two games with an undisclosed muscle injury, picked up his ninth goal of the season with 7:39 to play.
"Two-goal leads aren't safe enough, especially they were bringing some heat and had a couple of shifts in our end," Schwartz said. "So we had to keep playing."
Lapierre added his third of the year against his former team to wrap up the day -- a good one for the Blues and Steen in particular.
"Yeah, that's one heck of a day," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "A guy gets a new contract and goes out and scores two goals in the first period, it just shows the type of guy he is. He came in the room as if nothing even happened today ... same way on the ice."
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