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Jets play better but still lose

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ST. LOUIS—David Backes wasn’t sure what to expect from the St. Louis Blues’ new-look top line.

It turned out to be a winning combination last night.

Backes had two goals, and assisted on Vladimir Tarasenko’s score, to lead the Blues to a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.

“I think Vladi’s been here three years and I don’t know if I’ve started a game with him, played a full game with him,” Backes noted.

“You don’t know what that’s going to be like, and then you’re out there he makes a lot of time and space,” he added.

“[Alexander Steen] was fantastic tonight, creating plays and making plays happen, and I was the beneficiary of a few of them,” stressed Backes.

Jake Allen made 16 saves while Kevin Shattenkirk added two assists as the Blues (12-5-1) snapped a two-game losing skid.

Tarasenko, who now has goals in three-straight games, also had an assist.

Blues’ coach Ken Hitchcock moved Backes up to the first line with wingers Tarasenko and Steen last night—and the trio accounted for three goals and three assists.

“I think the big thing is we win the game and that’s really what matters,” Backes said.

“The shake-up, being able to score a couple, it feels good, but if we don’t win the game it’s all for naught,” he stressed.

“Great efforts by a lot of guys tonight allowed us to win this game.”

Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little scored while Michael Hutchinson finished with 25 saves for the Jets, who now have lost six-straight.

They were coming off a 7-0 road loss at Nashville on Saturday night.

Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice saw a lot of things he liked last night.

“We made plays, moved the puck, had some quickness, had some chances, and played a darn good road game in here,” said Maurice.

“That was a long way to come from that [Nashville] game and it wasn’t easy for them to do.

“So you got to give those players credit to be able to come out and get moving again, and make plays and try and have some confidence in their game, and they found it and looked good doing it,” Maurice added.

“So it was absolutely the bounce back we needed; a better result to feel good about it but certainly we know it’s there.”

The Blues scored twice in the first period. Tarasenko got his 11th of the season on a wrister from the slot, assisted by Colton Parayko and Backes, just 5:33 into the game.

Backes then scored on a power play, assisted by Shattenkirk and Tarasenko, with 5:47 left in the period.

“It was a good start,” Hitchcock said. “I think we’re still trying to learn how to keep up the level of intensity for 60 minutes.

“That’s the challenge for us right now, to take a team and bury them,” he admitted.

“We had it 2-0 in our building, we kind of give it back pretty quickly there.

“There’s a feeling there’s these emotional swings and they’re very draining, and I think we’re doing that to ourselves,” Hitchcock added.

The Jets answered with two goals early in the second period.

Byfluglien scored on a long shot that appeared to ricochet off teammate Anthony Peluso and into the net at 2:16.

Little then scored from the slot just 36 seconds later after a nice pass from Mathieu Perreault.

St. Louis took back the lead late in the period when Backes scored his second of the game on a little backhanded flip after a give-and-go with Steen.

The Jets pulled Hutchinson late in the third period for an extra attacker but weren’t able to tie the game in the final minutes.

Elsewhere in the NHL, Montreal edged Vancouver 4-3 (OT), Detroit nipped Ottawa 4-3 (OT), the N.Y. Islanders beat Arizona 5-2, Anaheim downed Carolina 4-1, and Florida blanked Tampa Bay 1-0.

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