VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)—Blues forward David Backes(notes) believes his team plays better when its holding a grudge, which bodes well considering how many games St. Louis has lost in the first third of the season.
Backes scored twice, and Ty Conklin(notes) made 29 saves to help St. Louis beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 on Sunday night. After being swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Canucks last season, the Blues have already beaten them twice this season by a combined score of 9-2.
“There s obviously a little vendetta,” Backes said. “Maybe we should pretend every team kicked our dog before the game. I’m an animal advocate by the way, but it seems like when teams show us up we come back the next time and play a good hard game and get the best of them.”
Backes opened the scoring on an early power-play deflection and put the Blues back ahead 2-1 with a great individual effort with 8:12 left in the second period. He raced around Kevin Bieksa(notes) off the left wing, cut hard to the net and tucked the puck past goalie Roberto Luongo(notes) on the far side.
“It’s the old saying, go to the net,” Backes said. “The first one is just a shot that ends up right in front of me and the high school baseball skills kick in there, and the second one is just try to use my big body and get around the corner and then use a little reach and try to get around Luongo.”
Much like last season, the Blues (15-14-5) have started slowly. Now they’re hoping to replicate last season’s second-half push into the playoffs.
“Maybe that s why we had such a good second half last year is we were vengeful after getting beat a few too many times in the first half,” Backes said.
Luongo made 23 saves for the Canucks, coming off a big win over Washington on Friday night and looking to move into a playoff position in the Western Conference for the first time all season. Instead they fell behind early.
“It’s frustrating that we get a big win the other night and we can’t back it up with another great game,” Luongo said. “We could talk about it until we’re blue in the face in the locker room before the game, but talking about it and going out on the ice and executing are two different things.”
Conklin made a handful of great saves in the first period, robbing Tanner Glass(notes), Ryan Kesler(notes) and Mikeal Samuelsson from in close, and making a sliding stop on Bieksa. O’Brien finally beat him with 2:45 left in the period after a give-and-go play with Samuelsson sent him alone in tight. O’Brien’s quick shot through Conklin’s legs trickled over the goal line for his first goal in 165 games.
“To say I wasn’t thinking about it some days would be a lie,” O’Brien said about his drought. “It was great to get it, but at the same time we play for the two points and unfortunately we came up a little short tonight.”
After Backes put the Blues ahead again, Tkachuk extended the lead after a lucky bounce. Barret Jackman’s(notes) dump-in took a funny hop off the end boards and went right in front to Brad Boyes(notes), who fed Tkachuk for a backdoor tap-in.
Alex Burrows(notes) appeared to pull the Canucks within a goal 5 minutes into the third period, but it was waved off because he redirected Henrik Sedin’s(notes) pass with his back skate, a call that was upheld after a lengthy video review.
“I don’t agree with the decision,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “I looked at the replay and yes, Alex does turn his foot, it goes off his skate and then there is a forward motion. But not on the initial deflection.”
NOTES: Sedin’s points streak was snapped at nine games and 16 points. … Canucks players stayed on the ice after the game to give away their jerseys as part of fan appreciation night. … O’Brien’s goal also was his first in a season and a half and 102 games with the Canucks.