A couple of weeks off appear to have done St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak a world of good.
Halak entered Saturday's game against the host Edmonton Oilers not having played in 13 days -- and having allowed 15 goals while going 1-3-0 in his last four decisions. But with a little help from his teammates, who limited the Oilers to just 19 shots, Halak earned his third shutout of the season with a 3-0 victory at Rexall Place.
"The guys did a heck of a job coming back and not giving them many opportunities to create odd-man rushes," Halak said. "I think that was the key tonight."
Halak's 16th shutout with St. Louis tied the franchise record set by Glenn Hall in the early years of the franchise. Halak needed just 115 games; Hall got his in 140 games.
Halak hadn't played since Feb. 10; rookie Jake Allen has usurped a lot of the playing time. He said it took a while to shake off the rust.
"The first period I was kind of off my game, especially playing the puck behind the net," he said. "But as the game went on, I was feeling more comfortable. It was a great job by our guys -- a team effort."
Chris Stewart, Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie scored as the Blues rebounded from a 3-2 loss at Vancouver on Tuesday to improve to 17-11-2 and move into fifth place in the Western Conference. They've won five in a row against Edmonton and are 11-1-1 in the last 13.
This one was the kind of 60-minute effort the Blues had in abundance last season, but have struggled to produce this season.
"I thought we played well," Steen said. "We did a good job from the goalie out. "Our D was snapping it pretty good back there, the forwards were getting in quick -- we were getting available, getting open in the neutral zone, and that created a lot of speed for us. Once we chipped pucks into the zone, not only did we forecheck but we put them in spots where we were able to get them back. That's been a problem in recent games, even the ones we've been winning."
Edmonton fell to 11-12-7 and remained 13th in the Western Conference. The Oilers saw their five-game points streak end despite 22 saves by Nikolai Khabibulin.
"Give it to them, they took it to us," Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff said. "But we didn't have enough intensity, and that's unacceptable in the situation we're in."
Stewart opened the scoring just 3:20 after the opening faceoff when he fired from the top of the left circle and beat Khabibulin for his 15th goal of the season and sixth in five games. Stewart's 15 goals in 30 games this season match his total in 79 games in 2011-12.
Aside from Stewart's goal, chances were few and far between in the opening period, in which the Blues outshot the Oilers 6-4.
After a scoreless second period, Steen made it 2-0 at 2:55 of the third by picking up the carom of his own blast from the left wing off the end boards and rifling a shot past Khabibulin, who had overcommitted on the original shot. It was his sixth of the season.
The Blues nearly made it a three-goal game less than a minute later when Andy McDonald fired from the right side and beat Khabibulin but rang a shot off the crossbar.
Halak had to be strong just after the five-minute mark of the third period to deny Ryan Smyth's wraparound try at his left post. He barely got his pad down and was able to keep the puck out of the net during a pileup before the whistle finally blew.
It was one of the few times that the Oilers were able to generate a solid forecheck.
"They pushed us around and we didn't react the way we should have," Oilers forward Taylor Hall said. It's not good for us and not good for our fans."
Oshie capped the scoring at 11:09 with his first goal in 12 games. He cut to the net and was left all alone to take McDonald's pass and go forehand-backhand to beat Khabibulin.
"When you have a one-goal game, there's no room for mistakes," Halak said. "It was great to get the second and third ones. It was a relief for me and for the guys.
The game was a cold dose of reality for the Oilers, who travel to face the Nashville Predators on Monday and visit St. Louis on Tuesday after the Blues visit the Calgary Flames on Sunday.
"This was unacceptable for the kind of team we want to be," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said. "We need to react to this as quick as possible by winning the next game."
Material from team media was used in this report.
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