VANCOUVER, B.C. – David Backes scored twice Sunday as the St. Louis Blues vacated the Western Conference cellar with a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
Backes, who has five goals in his last five games, gave the Blues 1-0 and 2-1 leads. Keith Tkachuk made it 3-1 in the second period. Shane O’Brien ended a two-year scoring drought by giving the listless Canucks a 1-1 tie after 20 minutes, but after that they couldn’t solve goalie Ty Conklin who finished with 29 saves.
The Blues, who snapped a string of two losses as they look for consistency this season, improved to 15-14-5 and moved into 12th spot in the West.
The Canucks, who left the ice to a smattering of boos, lost for the second time with two starts remaining in a season-long eight-game homestand.
Both losses came against teams last in the West on game day and the Canucks remained out of a playoff position at 20-16-0. They failed to overtake eighth-place Detroit and Dallas and get into a playoff position for the first time this season. Both clubs are a point ahead of Vancouver.
The homestand is crucial to Vancouver’s playoff chances as the Canucks play eight road games prior to the Olympic break and six more away from GM Place when the Winter Games end.
After a boarding penalty to Canuck defenceman Aaron Rome, Backes staked St. Louis to a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal on its second shot 2:59 after the opening face-off.
He was one of two Blues parked in front of goalie Roberto Luongo and tipped in Paul Kariya’s point shot.
O’Brien drew Vancouver even before the period ended with his first regular-season goal as a Canuck and first in 165 games.
The teams were playing four-on-four when Mikael Samuelsson found O’Brien with a no-look backhand pass and the Canuck defenceman’s wrist shot trickled past Conklin.
The goal came after the St. Louis netminder got across his crease to deny defenceman Kevin Bieksa and got a shoulder on a close-in power-play chance by Ryan Kesler.
Two Canucks were caught up-ice when Backes gave the Blues a 2-1 edge with his ninth goal of the season and fifth in five games as St. Louis outshot Vancouver 14-6 in the middle period.
He took Alex Steen’s pass and went around Bieksa to the net. Luongo missed the poke check and Backes slid the puck inside the far post.
Tkachuk took advantage of a bounce off the end boards to forge a two-goal lead one minute 27 seconds later.
The puck caromed to the netting on the side of the goal where Brad Boyes tipped it across the crease to Tkachuk who deposited it in an open net.
The Canucks almost drew to within a goal early in the third period but referee Mike Leggo immediately waived off the apparent score by Alex Burrows.
The on-ice ruling that the puck entered the net because of a distinct kicking motion was upheld by a lengthy review.
Henrik Sedin’s centring pass went off Burrows’ right skate and pinballed into the net off the left skate of Blues defenceman Barrett Jackman.