ST. LOUIS -- After signing Alexander Steen to a three-year contract extension earlier in the day, the St. Louis Blues did not have to wait long before starting to see a return on their investment.
Steen, shifted to center on the Blues' top line because of an injury to captain David Backes, scored two goals in the first 7:55 of the game on Thursday night, about 10 hours after signing the new contract, to lead the Blues to a 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
The two goals increased Steen's season total to 24 in just 34 games, equaling his career high set in the 2009-2010 season, and moved him into second place in the NHL this season behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who has scored 28 goals.
Steen, who had scored only two goals total in his previous nine games, scored his first goal of the night on a 2-on-1 break with right winger T.J. Oshie 4:20 into the game. The short-handed goal came while Blues defenseman Roman Polak was serving a minor holding penalty.
His second goal came only 15 seconds after he returned to the ice after serving a minor holding penalty at 7:55 of the period. It was his fifth two-goal game of the season.
The Blues, who have struggled in the first period in recent games, increased the lead to 3-0 on right winger Chris Stewart's goal off a pass from left winger Brenden Morrow from behind the net at 13:33.
The three goals came on St. Louis' first eight shots on goal against Montreal goaltender Carey Price.
St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak, traded from Montreal to the Blues before the 2010-2011 season, raised his career record against his former team to 4-0. Halak faced only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, allowing Montreal's only goal when right winger Brendan Gallagher knocked in a rebound at 12:51 of the second period.
Halak has allowed only four goals in his four career games against the Canadiens.
The Blues increased the lead to 4-1 on a goal by left winger Jaden Schwartz at 12:21 of the third period and center Maxim Lapierre scored the final St. Louis goal at 17:33.
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.