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Blues kick into high gear for road trip, down Oilers 5-2 to stay atop Central

The Canadian Press
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Edmonton Oilers\' Ryan Smyth, front, collects penalties for checking from behind and a game misconduct after a hit on St. Louis Blues\' Roman Polak during second period NHL hockey game action in Edmonton on Wednesday, February 29, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Ulan Author: The Hockey News

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Blues kick into high gear for road trip, down Oilers 5-2 to stay atop Central

The Canadian Press
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EDMONTON - The St. Louis Blues have found their road game just in time to make an assault on the league-leader board.

Andy McDonald scored twice and Kevin Shattenkirk had a goal and two assists as the Blues defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 on Wednesday.

St. Louis moved into a tie with the Detroit Red Wings atop the NHL's Central Division with 87 points and just a point back of the Vancouver Canucks for the overall league lead.

"You have to be able to win on the road to be successful," McDonald said of the Blues improving to 14-13-3 in away games versus the team's impressive 26-4-4 home record. "We know it is going to be tough every night and that we have to play a certain way and on this road trip especially we have stuck to that style.

"It's really paid off for us. Things are going well for us."

Scott Nichol and Chris Stewart also scored for the Blues (40-17-7) who struck for their fourth win in a row to start a six-game road trip. St. Louis has won 10 of its last 13 games.

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said his team responded well to a pretty good push back from the Oilers in the second period.

"We had a little meeting after the second period and were able to come back and take it over again," he said. "We are still a young team that can learn some lessons. The way we played except for five minutes in the second period was terrific and the way we played in the third was excellent.

"We put the foot on the gas again in the third period."

Corey Potter and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins responded for the Oilers (25-32-6) who have lost two of their last three to remain in second-last in the NHL.

"We certainly pushed our way back in the game and good for us," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. "But there are two levels of teams out there, St. Louis and then there is us. We did everything we could to latch on to where they were headed and play with them and we came awfully close but then I thought we beat ourselves."

Down 3-0 the Oilers were able to pull to within one in the game but couldn't dig themselves out of the hole that they had made.

"We had a rough start," said Edmonton defenceman Ryan Whitney. "You give up three to that team and you're not going to get four goals. They hardly ever give up three."

It took just 59 seconds for the Blues to get on the board as Edmonton's Cam Barker was caught pinching, allowing McDonald to come down the right side and score his fourth of the season stick-side past Oilers starter Devan Dubnyk for an early 1-0 lead.

The Blues went up 2-0 two minutes into the second period as Nichol picked the bottom corner on a long shot off the right wing that closely resembled their first goal of the game.

Five minutes later, St. Louis had a three-goal edge as T.J. Oshie made a nice feed in front to McDonald who deked past Edmonton's defence to get in tight and beat Dubnyk for his second of the game.

The Oilers yanked Dubnyk after allowing three goals on 19 shots.

Yann Danis came in to replace Dubnyk because Nikolai Khabibulin, Edmonton's regular starter, is out with a groin injury.

The move seemed to spark the Oilers as they scored just over a minute later when Potter moved in from the point and stepped into a bullet of a shot that blew past Jaroslav Halak to make it 3-1.

Edmonton blitzed Halak for a brief period as Jeff Petry sent a shot off the goalie's mask and Nugent-Hopkins clanged one off the post before Ryan Smyth was assessed a five-minute major for checking Roman Polak into the boards head-first.

The Oilers were able to kill the penalty without allowing a shot.

"We did a pretty good job killing off that power play," smirked Hitchcock.

Edmonton came right back to pull to within a goal as Hall raced to a loose puck to set up Nugent-Hopkins at the side of the net.

It was the 15th of the season for the Edmonton rookie, the first overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft.

Danis did not face a shot in the more than 12 minutes he was in net in the second period.

The Blues finally got some shots again early in the third and got one past Denis on the power play three-and-a-half minutes in. Alex Pietrangelo made a perfect pass to allow Shattenkirk to deflect the puck in for a 4-2 St. Louis lead.

They would make it 5-2 after Stewart was awarded a penalty shot after being hooked on a breakaway attempt by Hall eight minutes into the third. Stewart tucked his 14th of the season between Danis' skate and the post.

The Blues play the fifth game of a six-game road trip in Vancouver on Thursday against the Canucks team they are trying to pass as league-leaders.

"We have four wins on the road on this trip already which is pretty good," Hitchcock said. "We're in the bonus round. We play our best hockey when we are a bit scared and I think we will be a little bit for that game."

Notes: It was the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season. Edmonton won their previous home game 4-2 over the Blues in October. St. Louis then won both of its home dates with the Oilers by one-goal margins. The Blues came into the match with an 8-1-1 record in the last 10 meetings overall…Defenceman Nick Schultz made his debut for the Oilers after being acquired at the trade deadline for fellow blue-liner Tom Gilbert. He earned an assist on Nugent-Hopkins' goal…Oilers winger Magnus Paajarvi has been reassigned to Edmonton's top affiliate in Oklahoma City for the third time this season…The Blues have played well without four key components as Jamie Langenbrunner is out with a broken foot and Kris Russell, Matt D'Agostini and Alexander Steen are all on injured reserve with concussions... The St. Louis goaltending tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot has been superb, both sitting in the top five in the league for goals-against average. Both have six shutouts on the season…The start of the game was originally supposed to be blacked out due to a deal with Canadian broadcaster TSN but they relented and allowed the game to be shown in full on Sportsnet.

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Blues kick into high gear for road trip, down Oilers 5-2 to stay atop Central