ST. LOUIS - It's only a four-game stretch in the middle of a long year, but what the Anaheim Ducks accomplished in those games could say a lot about how the rest of this season will go.
The Ducks completed that tough stretch against four of the better teams in the Western Conference on Saturday night with a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues, who had only lost once in regulation in 16 home games this season.
The win followed a shootout victory at Chicago on Friday night after the Ducks lost shootout games to San Jose and the Los Angeles Kings.
"What we've proved is that at this stage of the year we can play with the big boys and compete with them," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "Maybe we got outplayed by San Jose and Los Angeles but we got away with a point. We played really well in Chicago and I thought we were in good control tonight. The guys should feel good about themselves."
The Ducks jumped to a quick 3-0 lead in the first 7:29 of the game, chasing St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halk with the three goals on only eight shots. The flurry started just 1:10 into the game when a shot by defenseman Andrew Cogliano deflected off the skate of Blues defenseman Barret Jackman past Halak.
"We watched the warmup and I thought Halak looked out of sorts," Boudreau said. "When a goal goes in like that, it's tough to recover. We had two good shots after that and got the lead and that silenced the crowd for a long period of time."
Center Ryan Getzlaf assisted on the second Anaheim goal, a power-play goal by right wing Corey Perry, his 18th goal of the year, at 5:36 of the first period and 1:53 later, he stole a pass from Blues center David Backes and fired the puck past Halak for his 16th goal of the season.
The two points gave Getzlaf at least one point in the last 13 games he has played, scoring 10 goals and adding 10 assists. He missed three games during that stretch with an upper-body injury, so his scoring streak is officially 11 games, the longest active streak in the NHL.
Getslaf said especially after playing just 24 hours earlier, the team was determined to come out skating hard at the beginning of the game.
"That was our mentality," he said. "When we are the team on the back-to-back we know they are going to make a big push at the start. We consider ourselves an elite team and we need to prove that every night when we play great teams. This four game stretch has been good for us."
The Blues' last four-game stretch has not been good, with opponents taking at least a three-goal lead in three of the four games, all ending in losses.
"The execution of the game plan in the first five, 10 minutes is unacceptable," said Jackman. "The first one they got a bounce and we didn't respond. They got a power play goal and we were down 2-0 pretty quick. That's not the way this team is built. We're been on strong starts and we have not been doing that.
"We've got to search within the room on how to get everybody involved right off the bat. You can't spot teams like that two, three goal leads. I don't know what it is, but we will search every avenue and we'll change things around... We can't wait until the third period to have our best hockey."
Coach Ken Hitchcock has been frustrated by the Blues' slow starts, which included falling behind San Jose 4-0, the Kings 3-0 and now 4-0 to the Ducks.
"When your mindset is something other than checking to start with, that affects everything," Hitchcock said. "We're just chasing the game. We're not starting with the puck, we're not keeping the puck, we're not determined. You play slow, and then we speed up as the game goes on.
"We're allowing the other team to dictate the checking tempo and it affects every part of our game. It's a collective mindset. In order to win in this league that's what the good teams do."
The Blues had two four-minute power plays, one in each of the first and second periods, and could not get the puck past Anaheim rookie goalie Frederik Andersen, who won his eighth game, the most among NHL rookie goaltenders. Andersen lost his bid for his first career shutout when the Blues scored twice in the third period.
"When you can stop these guys on five power plays in a game you are doing something," Boudreau said.
NOTES: LW Alexander Steen, the second-leading scorer in the league with 20 goals, was in the St. Louis lineup despite having to miss the morning skate because he was sick. ... Ducks RW Teemu Selanne did not play. He has only been in the lineup once this season on the second half of back-to-back games. Anaheim won a shootout in Chicago on Friday night, the Ducks' third consecutive game decided in a shootout. ... LW Patrick Maroon was in the Anaheim lineup. The St. Louis native played his first game at the Scottrade Center in his hometown since the 2005 Missouri state high school championship game. He had about 200 friends and family in attendance. ... The game was Anaheim's 20th on the road this season, two more than any other team in the league. ... The Ducks return home to host the New York Islanders on Monday night while the Blues travel to Winnipeg for their next game Tuesday night.