CALGARY, Alberta -- "O Canada, not home but favorite land."
Forgive the St. Louis Blues for singing that tune these days, their variation of the national anthem in these maple leaf parts. With a 5-0 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night at Scotiabank Saddledome, the Blues are 9-0-4 against teams from the neighboring north and a 5-0-3 mark in Canada proper.
"God keep this land, glorious and free ... and on the schedule."
The victory extended a Blues winning streak to seven games as they headed to Vancouver and the finale of a three-game trip. The Blues have points in 14 of their last 15 games, despite a spat of injuries along the way, and they have points in nine straight road games.
Make no mistake, these are not Al MacInnis' Flames, who were Stanley Cup winners in 1989. They have lost by shutout in five of their last seven and won just 15 of 44 games. But one of those victories came against the Blues, a 4-3 overtime decision on Dec. 23 at Scottrade Center. That represents the last time Ken Hitchcock's Olympian-infested club has been short on the scoreboard.
The Blues sought to avenge that loss by re-introducing goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who had not appeared since playing the shaky first period of a 6-5 shootout victory over Chicago on Dec. 28. Brian Elliott was superb as Halak recovered from flu symptoms.
The Blues didn't miss a beat with Halak at the gate, and they didn't have to wait long to get a reading. Three minutes into the game, Calgary's Paul Byron skated in alone on Halak. But Team Slovakia's netminder staked his territory with an outstanding pad save, and the tone was set.
"We've been getting great goaltending," Hitchcock said. "It's not that we've been out-playing teams, but our goaltending has given us a chance to find our game. They've been really good."
Midway through the first, the Blues found a 1-0 lead. Derek Roy maneuvered behind the net and fed Chris Stewart, who knocked the puck past goaltender Karri Ramo. The goal was Stewart's second in two games, 15th of the season and 11th on the road.
"Maybe it's the extra sleep I'm getting, the extra hour," Stewart joked. "But I don't know, Roysie put it right on my stick right in front. You're not going to miss too many from there."
Brenden Morrow also had an assist and the Blues had a notion. They are 26-1-3 when scoring first.
With 8:23 remaining, Vladimir Sobotka made it 2-0, beating Ramo from the top of the circle for his seventh goal. Barret Jackman and Halak got assists, Halak's third career helper and second as a Blue. With Elliott getting an assist in a 2-1 win at Minnesota, the netminding department has two points in the last five games. As Hitchcock might say, they appear to be managing the puck well.
As for Jackman, he was part of a Blues team that won just 21 games in 2005-06. This Blues team has 31 wins in 43 games. Big difference.
"You feel the life in this room," Jackman said. "We have fun being around each other. That's what winning does. Big difference."
For his part, Sobotka is blossoming at center. He has eight points (two goals, six assists) in six games since returning from an injury. The period ended with the Blues enjoying a 12-6 advantage in shots and the odds heavily in their favor. They are 18-0-2 when leading after the first period.
Halak was terrific in the second period, turning aside 15 shots. The Flames enjoyed five consecutive power plays during the stanza and came close on one, as Jiri Hudler banged a shot off the post. But the Blues got the only goal of the period. Less than seven minutes in, Vladimir Tarasenko dangled with the puck, drew Ramo's attention and then fed Ian Cole coming on the back side. Cole scored his second of the season and Tarasenko's assist extended his points streak to five games.
"Vladdie was looking shot the whole time," Cole said. "I kind of sneaked down and called for it, but it was all him. He drew everyone to him, goalie, players, everybody. Just a great play by him."
Halak wound up with 33 saves and his third shutout of the season. He was named the Star of the Game.
"I'm trying to work my way back," Halak said. "I'm not 100 percent, but I'm trying to battle through it. I had a few chances early and that got me in the game.
"We took too many penalties in the second, and pretty much all of their chances came on the power plays. But the guys played great in front of me and it was a big win for us."
Whatever drama remained dissipated early in the third period as the Blues added two power play goals. Less than two minutes into the segment, Patrik Berglund tipped in a blast from Alex Pietrangelo to make it 4-0. It was Berglund's eighth goal of the season, fourth in the past three games.
Moments later, Tarasenko duplicated Cole's finish by scoring off a back-side feed from Jordan Leopold. Tarasenko has 15 goals on the season and eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last five games.
In attendance, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong marveled at Tarasenko's growth in his second season. "On a nightly basis, I believe he gets more good scoring opportunities than anybody else on our team," Armstrong said. "He just has a knack for the net."
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