Blues’ comeback win puts them in first-place tie in Central Division

Associated Press
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ST. LOUIS (AP) The St. Louis Blues showed up to the rink on short rest only to find out they’d be two players short.

After a rocky start, the team stepped up in a major way.

Vladimir Tarasenko got his 37th goal midway through the third period for the go-ahead score, and the Blues scored five straight goals in a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night to tie for first place in the Western Conference.

“It kind of didn’t start so well, I don’t even know how to describe it,” said goalie Brian Elliott, who gave up two goals in the first period and then stopped the last 16 shots. “We got stronger as the game went on.”

The Blues and Stars each have 105 points, also tied for the Central Division lead, with two games to play. Dallas holds the tiebreaker with more regulation wins.

St. Louis scored five goals for the second straight night and plays at Chicago on Thursday. The regular season ends for the Blues at home Saturday against Washington, which is first overall in the NHL.

“We have a lot at stake right now,” Elliott said. “It’s funny how it always comes down to the last games no matter what.”

Checking line forward Kyle Brodziak scored twice, Troy Brouwer and Patrik Berglund also scored and Elliott, who didn’t make the trip to Colorado for a 5-1 victory on Sunday, won his 10th consecutive decision.

“I think we just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be and sometimes that happens (when) you come home late,” Brodziak said. “I thought the energy in the room after the first was really, really good and we got ourselves re-focused.”

St. Louis is 11-0-1 in its last 12 games against Arizona, including 3-0 this season.

The Blues ruled out captain David Backes and goalie Jake Allen for the rest of the regular season earlier in the day, both with lower-body injuries. Hitchcock said both would be re-evaluated on Monday before the playoffs. Backes’ injury late in Sunday’s victory came as a bit of a surprise.

“I don’t think anybody really knew,” Brodziak said. “It’s unfortunate and hopefully it’s not very bad and we’ll see him soon.”

Antoine Vermette scored his 16th goal and Anthony Duclair got his 20th for the Coyotes, who are out of the playoff race and have dropped three of four.

“You can’t lose momentum and you can’t give a team energy,” forward Alex Tanguay said. “That’s what we did.”

Brouwer started the comeback with a power-play goal in the second and Brodziak’s short-handed goal tied it at 2 early in the third.

Tarasenko went nearly coast to coast before beating goalie Mike Smith unassisted with a quick shot from near the right faceoff dot at 10:42. The goal matched his career high set last season and gave him 17 points in his last 15 games.

Tarasenko assisted on a power-play goal by Berglund 2:18 later to put the Blues ahead by two and Brodziak made it a three-goal gap late. Berglund got his 10th goal with a one-timer.

Coach Ken Hitchcock had been worried before the game about the effects of coming down from altitude and playing the following night. The Blues won 5-1 at Colorado on Sunday night, but Arizona shut out Washington in its last game the day after the Capitals beat the Avalanche on the road.

Arizona is tied for the second-fewest road victories in the NHL, going 13-22-3 on the road.

“We were flat after the first,” Duclair said. “I don’t know if we thought it was going to be easier, but we definitely got away from the things we were doing right.”

Brodziak has seven goals, three of them short-handed.

Tanguay assisted on the first two goals for the Coyotes, giving him five in five games.

Brouwer’s deflection on a power play got past Smith and cut the deficit to one in the second.

NOTES: Duclair leads Arizona with nine road goals. … Arizona rookies entered the game leading the NHL with 50 goals and 132 points. … Brouwer has 14 points in his last 13 games, six of them goals.