By Jerry Brown | NHL.com Correspondent
GLENDALE -- The St. Louis Blues came into town sputtering and their first 23 minutes didn't indicate much improvement. But they can always rely on their suffocating defense and their power play is humming pretty well too right now, and those two facets were more than enough to plow over the dog-tired Coyotes.
Alex Pietrangelo and David Backes scored power-play goals, Kevin Shattenkirk notched three assists and goalie Brian Elliott did the rest with 20 saves as the Blues steamrolled the Coyotes, 4-0, at Jobing.com Arena on Sunday night to jump ahead of the idle New York Rangers in the race for the Presidents' Trophy.
It was a bitter loss for the Coyotes (37-27-13), who remain in seventh in the Western Conference with 87 points. Phoenix has now played 77 games – two more than three other teams (Dallas, Los Angeles and San Jose) slugging it out for the Pacific Division title and two other playoff spots with Colorado.
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Backup goalie Jason LaBarbera fell to 3-9-3 on the season with 25 saves, but he didn't get any help on the other end. Shane Doan sat out of the final game of his suspension while four other regulars including leading scorer Radim Vrbata remain injured.
"It's not easy when you have your top guys out, but you can't make excuses. It gives everybody else a chance to step up," said LaBarbera, who is 0-6-3 since last winning Dec. 21 in Carolina. "I had a chance to do that tonight and I wasn't able to."
The Coyotes have scored just three goals in three losses to the Blues this season and still have to go to St. Louis on April 6 needing points desperately to hold on to a playoff spot.
Patrik Berglund and Ryan Reaves piled on goals late for the Blues, who were 1-2-2 in their previous five games but took it to the shorthanded Coyotes – who played their third game in four nights without four regular skaters and starting goalie Mike Smith.
The Blues (47-20-9) recorded their 14th shutout this season – eight by Elliott and six by Jaroslav Halak – to set a new St. Louis franchise record.
"The guys do a lot of the work and if you make a couple of saves you have a good chance to win," said Elliott, who had lost five of his last six starts. "They didn't have many chances tonight. Guys were throwing their bodies in front of pucks and giving me a lot of help."
The Blues have now allowed just 147 goals in 76 games this season – a total that includes eight goals credited to them for shootout losses. That's 10 fewer than the 1968-69 Blues allowed in a 76-games season to set the NHL record at the time. The 2003-04 New Jersey Devils hold the 82-game standard, allowing 164 goals – a mark that is certainly appears to be in serious jeopardy.
St. Louis fashioned another goose egg despite a very sloppy first 23 minutes, taking five penalties – including delay-of-game penalties by Barrett Jackman, Vladmir Sobotka and Backes and a too many men on the ice call. But the Coyotes, last in the NHL on the power play and without Vrbata and Doan – managed only four shots in more than five minutes with the man advantage, hardly testing St. Louis.
Meanwhile the Blues – approaching 25 percent efficiency on the power play since the All-Star break – didn't waste their chances and took a 1-0 lead early in the first period (see KEY MOMENT below).
It stayed that way until the third period, when the Coyotes had a glorious chance to tie the score in the first two minutes. But on a quickly developing two-on-zero rush, Elliott made a brilliant pad save on Lauri Korpikoski and the Blues salted the game away soon after when Phoenix's Martin Hanzal took a high-sticking penalty.
|Photo by Getty Images.
Backes parked himself in the slot and tipped Shattenkirk’s shot from the point down and under LaBarbera at 4:09 for his 23rd goal. Shattenkirk added a third assist on Berglund’s 18th goal at 13:16 and the Coyotes were in a deep hole.
"We gave up that early one in the second period, and giving up the lead and having to chase tonight wasn’t going to be a good recipe for success with two games in less than 24 hours and the travel," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "We gave up those first two and it was downhill from there.”
Elliott needed one more big save, gloving a Mikkel Boedker bid with four minutes left.
The Blues are also getting healthy. They welcomed back both Alexander Steen and Kris Russell to the lineup – both for the first time since suffering concussions. Steen had missed 39 games while Russell was down for 14. Steen, who played 14 minutes, left the game late after taking a skate from Phoenix's Alexandre Bolduc in the mouth. He lost some teeth but didn't appear to suffer any other ill-effects.
► EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com edited this story and compiled this recap.
St. Louis needed just 33 seconds opening the second period for Kevin Shattenkirk to slide a pass across the blue line to Alex Pietrangelo, who put a hard wrister by Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera
for his 12th goal.
It was the first goal for the Blues with Brian Elliott in their net in a span of 158 minutes and 22 seconds, dating to a March 10 win over Columbus.
► Click here
to see the KEY MOMENT
• Defenseman Derek Morris
became the 277th player to play in 1,000 NHL games. He took two shots on goal, blocked three shots and was a minus-2. Click here
to watch Morris speak about reaching the milestone.
• Center Martin Hanzal
delivered a game-high 10 hits.
• Goalie Jason LaBarbera
made his first start since March 8 at home against Minnesota.
• The Coyotes were shut out for the sixth time this season but for the first time since Jan. 5 vs. Los Angeles.
• The NHL on Sunday fined center Alexandre Bolduc
$2,500 for slew-footing Sharks forward Ryane Clowe in Saturday's game.
• The Coyotes scratched Scott Arnold
, Adrian Aucoin
(lower-body injury), Shane Doan
(suspension), Marc-Antoine Pouliot
, Taylor Pyatt
(upper-body injury), Michael Stone
, Chris Summers
and Radim Vrbata
• The Coyotes' next game is Thursday vs. the San Jose Sharks at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).