Tarasenko's hat trick leads Blues past Kings

ST. LOUIS — The Blues finally solved the riddle that is Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings. All it took was a hat trick from Vladimir Tarasenko and four goals in the third period.

The Blues continued their winning ways on Tuesday night at Scottrade Center when they overcame a two-goal deficit in the second period with five unanswered goals in a 5-2 victory for their fifth consecutive victory.

“It was time to sink or swim,” Blues captain David Backes said. “Our guys responded really well. … Enough of taking a back seat to these guys, we can play with them when we're all in on the effort."

The Blues (21-8-2, 44 points) had been dominated by Quick and the Kings over the past few seasons, with Los Angeles winning seven of the last eight meetings during the regular season and 17 of the last 21 including the playoffs.

But these Blues, who improved to 12-3-1 at home this season, showed again on Tuesday that they can play with anybody on any given night.

“Hopefully we can build on this momentum,” Hitchcock said. “I think any time you play against good teams and you prove that you can play with them or you can beat them, it gives us another level of confidence.”

The Kings (15-11-6, 36 points), who host the Blues on Thursday, will be happy to return to Los Angeles after a rough road trip saw them lose three straight and go 1-3-1 over five games.

“They’re really tough,” Tarasenko said of the reigning Stanley Cup champions. “They have a really good team and they won last year, so this is good motivation for us and a good challenge.”

The 23-year-old Russian forward continued his scorching start with his second hat trick of the season and a four-point night.

Tarasenko now has 20 goals and 36 points in 31 games this season after scoring 21 goals and racking up 43 points in 64 games a year ago, his first full NHL season after his lockout-shortened rookie campaign a year earlier.

“Vladdy shoots the puck so incredibly well that you just tip your hat,” Backes said. “He's got 20 goals already. He's the real deal.”

The Kings found that out on Tuesday if they didn’t already know.

Los Angeles took a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals from Marian Gaborik in the second period before Tarasenko answered with his 18th goal of the season, assisted by Steve Ott and Chris Butler, when he beat Quick with a wicked wrister from the slot.

The Blues, who were playing without forward T.J. Oshie (family reasons), took their game to another level in the third period after penalties by Dustin Brown and Robyn Regehr precipitated a three-goal outburst in a span of 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

Jaden Schwartz scored his 11th goal of the season when he tipped in a Kevin Shattenkirk shot on a five-on-three power play to tie it 2-2 at the 11:20 mark.

Then Tarasenko gave the Blues the lead with a 5-on-4 goal just 40 seconds later, and Alexander Steen scored his eighth of the season at the 13:50 mark.

Tarasenko scored his 20th goal of the season, which ranks second in the NHL, into an empty net with 1:24 remaining.

“One thing about Vladdy is if he gets one (goal), he’s hungry,” Hitchcock said. “He plays but then when he gets one he gets real hungry and he gets his game to another level, which is what he did in the third period.”

Tarasenko finished with a game-high four points, which tied his career high. Schwartz, whose 11 goals rank second on St. Louis, had two points and is now tied with Shattenkirk for second on the Blues in scoring with 27 points in 31 games.

Goalie Jake Allen saved 21 of 23 shots to improve to 11-3-1 on the season. The rookie has now won three straight starts since he was pulled after one period against the New York Islanders.

The Blues will try to continue their winning ways on their three-game road trip, which begins on Thursday in Los Angeles and then continues Saturday in San Jose and Tuesday in Colorado.

“We were happy we were able to compete at a high level,” Tarasenko said. “We just have to keep up the good work.”

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com

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