ST. LOUIS — Paul Stastny's new look gave him a new lease on life.
That’s how the St. Louis Blues center described his switch from the full face cage that he wore for two games after suffering a gash on his check to the visor he sported on Monday night.
The proof was on the scoresheet. Stastny scored once and added three assists as the Blues beat the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 before a sellout crowd at Scottrade Center.
“I felt like I could see so much more and not playing so hesitant,” Stastny said. “I had to switch right away. It’s a little different, but it’s so much more clear you can see. … The game moves so fast that every split second makes a difference.”
“We talked a little bit before the game that the last three few games we’ve been a little bit stagnant,” Brouwer said, “so we wanted to be a difference-maker tonight and we were.”
Brian Elliott followed up his career-high 46-save performance on Saturday against Montreal by stopping 36 shots against Pittsburgh.
“He's competing at a very, very high level now,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said of Elliott. “He's taking advantage of a situation that was thrust upon him, but his competitive level's as high as I've seen it right now. It's really good to see.”
Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz scored, and Kris Letang had two assists for the Penguins (21-17-7, 49 points). They have lost three of four and five of their last seven. Jeff Zatkoff, making his first start since Dec. 31, stopped 20 shots.
Steen scored first, with 8 minutes left in the opening period, after Zatkoff left the crease to challenge Brouwer for a puck. Paul Stastny then fed a pass in front and Steen, who hit the post earlier, buried it for his 14th of the season.
The Penguins tied it with Kunitz’s eighth of the season, on a breakaway after a spring pass from Letang with 1:57 remaining in the first. Sidney Crosby picked up the secondary assist, giving him six points (two goals, four assists) in four games.
Malkin and Tarasenko traded highlight-worthy goals late in the second.
Malkin netted his 20th of the season with 4:04 left in the period after taking a pass from Carl Hagelin, skating past Jay Bouwmeester and beating Elliott with a wrist shot. Letang earned another assist.
With that goal, Malkin reached the 20-goal mark for the third consecutive season and eighth time in 10 seasons.
Tarasenko then answered with his 25th, assisted by rookies Joel Edmundson and Robby Fabbri, with 2:46 remaining in the period after skating around Ben Lovejoy and slipping a shot past Zatkoff to tie the score.
“The battle of the Russians there,” Stastny said. “I think once Malkin had that nice goal, then Vladi got upset. He took it in his own end and basically did the same thing a little nicer, a little more power move and a nice shot. I think that was a big response.”
The Blues took control with three goals in the third period.
“We knew St Louis was going to push back in the third period,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We dominated the second period and they’re a proud team, a good team. We new they were going to push back. We’ve just got to find a way match the urgency through that stretch and control that momentum and we didn't do that.”
Brouwer scored the go-ahead tally just 2:10 into the period on a one-timer from the slot after taking a pass from Stastny.
Stastny scored, with an assist from Brouwer, with 8:22 remaining.
Then Shattenkirk added an empty-net goal, assisted by Steen and Stastny, with 15.1 seconds left.
The Blues, who are now 18-2-4 when scoring three or more goals this season, have played better of late but still have room to improve.
“We’re not there yet,” Hitchcock said. “We have some of our best players who are playing at a high level. We need to have more. We have to get more of our top players showing us the way. We had some people do it today.
“Tarasenko's goal was, again, as timely as it could be, because we were being outplayed, our goalie was standing on his head and to score that goal, that's a great sign for us. But we quite frankly need more players playing at a higher level for us to have success.”