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Blackhawks’ Offense Sputters In 5-1 Loss To Blues

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David Backes #42 of the St. Louis Blues knocks Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks off the puck at the Scottrade Center  on March 6, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

David Backes #42 of the St. Louis Blues knocks Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks off the puck at the Scottrade Center on March 6, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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ST. LOUIS (AP) – Jaroslav Halak won his sixth straight start to match a career best and St. Louis’ penalty killers ran their streak to 32 stops in a row, lifting the Blues to the top of the NHL with a 5-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

Andy McDonald scored two goals and Vladimir Sobotka had a short-handed score for the Blues, who are tied with the New York Rangers with a league-best 91 points pending Vancouver’s late home game against Dallas. St. Louis is 27-4-4 at home for an NHL-best 58 points and retained momentum from a season-best 5-1 trip that established it’s now a road presence, too.

Andrew Brunette scored his 10th goal and first since Jan. 2 for the Blackhawks, who had won their previous three games but failed to get off a shot during three of their power plays. Goalie Ray Emery lost to the Blues for the first time in four career starts.

Halak has seized the starting role after a season-long job share with All-Star Brian Elliott. He has started six of the last seven games.

The Blues took a 2-0 lead in the first on goals by T.J. Oshie and McDonald.

Oshie’s long-distance deflection from the left circle went between David Backes’ legs before trickling between Emery’s pads early in the game. The Blues then scored on the power play for the sixth time in 15 games with 38 seconds to go on a bad-angled backhander by McDonald that deflected off defenseman Dylan Olsen’s skate.

Scott Nichol stole the puck and set up Sobotka’s backhander at 1:46 of the second, extending the lead to 3-0.

Chicago got on the board early in the third when Carlo Colaiacovo failed to clear the puck, with Brunette deflecting a wrist shot from the point by Brent Seabrook. St. Louis restored its three-goal gap on McDonald’s fifth goal in four games, on a rush with Alex Pietrangelo, with 4:44 to go and Jason Arnott scored in the final minute.

Halak got lucky on the Blackhawks’ best chance in the first. Patrick Sharp’s shot hit the left post and instead of banking off the goalie’s backside and into the net the puck got trapped under Halak’s body and eventually squirted out.

The Blues have outscored the opposition 29-13 in the first period over the last 13 games.

NOTES: The Blues are 34-0 when scoring three or more goals. … Blackhawks C Jonathon Toews missed his eighth straight game with concussion-like symptoms. … Pietrangelo had two assists, giving him 29 points in his last 29 games, including five goals. Fellow defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk also had two assists.

(© 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)

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