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Steen earns money in Blues win over Habs

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- At the end of the press conference when Alexander Steen signed a three-year contract extension Thursday morning, St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Steen "had to get back to work and earn his money."

About 10 hours later, Steen started doing exactly that.

Steen, temporarily shifted from left wing to center because of an injury to team captain David Backes, scored twice in the first eight minutes of the game to lead the Blues to a 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

"It was a good day," said the understated Steen, who equaled his career high of 24 goals, set in the 2009-10 season in just 34 games. Steen ranks second in goals in the NHL to Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who has 28.

The new contract for the 29-year-old Steen, who had been eligible to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, has a cap hit of $5.8 million per season.

Steen scored a short-handed goal 4:20 into the game on a 2-on-1 break with right winger T.J. Oshie, then added his second goal 3:35 later, just 15 seconds after he got back on the ice after serving a minor holding penalty.

It was Steen's fifth two-goal game of the season. He had two more shots on goal later in the game but could not get a third goal. Steen, who only scored two goals in his previous nine games, only had one hat trick in his career, on Jan. 4, 2007, when he was playing for Toronto.

"That's one heck of a day," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. "It would have been nice if he could have gotten the third one to top it off. The guy gets a new contract, goes out and scores two goals in the first period, that's the type of guy he is. We're going to expect more of that I guess.

"It doesn't faze him. He came in the room as if nothing had happened today. He's the same way on the ice. With Backes being out he's kind of stepped up and been a voice in the room and his play continues to be fantastic on the ice. I've been telling people all day it's the stuff behind the scenes, the way he leads himself in the weight room, off the ice and the way he carries himself as a professional. He's a great person to learn from."

Steen, who has not been comfortable talking about himself all season, preferred to talk about the Blues' overall game, which included a third first-period goal by right winger Chris Stewart as the Blues took the commanding 3-0 lead after struggling in the first period of recent games. The three goals came on only eight shots against Montreal goaltender Carey Price.

"It was nice for a change to come in for the intermission (after the first period) with a lead," Steen said. "I thought we played a solid game for the full 60 minutes. We came out with a lot of jump. It was a good game for us."

Montreal coach Michel Therrien was not happy with his team's performance.

"We didn't show up tonight," he said. "It's pretty simple. Our work ethic wasn't there. I'm really disappointed about our performance. The only time we were working hard was when guys were on the ice to kill penalties. Besides that, nothing, no effort. This was a bad game for us."

St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak, who was traded from Montreal to the Blues before the 2010-11 season, had to face only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods as he raised his career record against his former team to 4-0. The Canadiens' only goal came off a rebound by right winger Brendan Gallagher in the second period.

Halak allowed a total of four goals in those four games against Montreal.

"We didn't challenge him or have any sustained pressure with second or third chances," said Montreal right winger Brian Gionta. "There's no secret. It (the first period) was a period we were not ready for and we made mistakes we shouldn't be making."

After Montreal cut the lead to 3-1, the Blues put the game away with third-period goals from left winger Jaden Schwartz, moved to the top line with Steen and Oshie, and center Maxim Lapierre.

NOTES: LW Jaden Schwartz returned to the Blues' lineup after missing the previous two games with an upper-body injury. St. Louis C David Backes, however, was held out of for a second consecutive game with apparent concussion-like symptoms. Blues C Vladimir Sobotka (upper-body injury) sat out his third game in a row. ... C Ryan White, who missed five of the Canadiens' previous 10 games, was in the lineup. Montreal C Daniel Briere was a healthy scratch. ... The game was the opener of a six-game road trip for the Canadiens, their longest of the season. They won't play at home until Jan. 4. Next up is a Saturday game against the Nashville Predators. ... The Blues play the Oilers in Edmonton on Saturday and the Flames in Calgary on Monday.
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