VANCOUVER (CP) — The St. Louis Blues put a damper on Brock Boeser’s milestone night.
Kyle Brodziak scored the winner and added an assist as St. Louis snapped a three-game losing streak with Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the slumping Vancouver Canucks.
Patrik Berglund and Alex Steen, into an empty net, had the other goals for St. Louis (23-13-2), which got 30 saves from Jake Allen.
Boeser, with his team-leading 20th of the season, replied for Vancouver (15-17-5), which has lost four in a row (0-3-1), and is just 1-7-1 over its last nine.
The 20-year-old Boeser leads all NHL rookies in goals, and became the fastest Canucks rookie to reach the 20-goal mark, doing it in just his 34th game.
“It means a lot, but it’s obviously a lot better if we’re getting the results we want,” said Boeser, who has 24 goals in 43 career games after his cameo at the tail end of last season. ”It’s a tough stretch right now. This (Christmas) break will be nice to regroup.”
It took Pavel Bure 49 games to reach 20 goals in his rookie season with Vancouver in 1991-92. To put Boeser’s impressive start another way, Canucks No. 1 centre Bo Horvat — currently out with a broken foot — led the team with 20 goals in 81 games last season.
Boeser is also fifth in the NHL in goals so far in 2017-18, trailing just Nikita Kucherov (24), Alex Ovechkin (23), Anders Lee (22) and John Tavares (21).
“It’s impressive,” said Vancouver head coach Travis Green. ”His details away from the puck are a big part of why he’s having success.”
Jacob Markstrom stopped 31 shots for the Canucks, but allowed suspect goals to Berglund and Brodziak — a trend that’s plagued the club during its current slide.
“It’s tough when you lose a game … and you want both goals back,” said Markstrom. ”I’ve got to be better.”
The Blues, meanwhile, head into the break with a much-needed win after dropping three straight in regulation on a road trip through Western Canada.
“We knew we weren’t far off,” said St. Louis head coach Mike Yeo. ”It’s been a grind. I’m glad the guys get a little time to rest up physically and mentally.”
Tied 1-1 late in the second, Brodziak put the Blues ahead after firing a puck from the bottom of the face-off circle that somehow slipped past Markstrom shortside with 90 seconds left in the period for his sixth.
“He had a couple that he’d like to have back,” Green said of his goalie. “He’s played really well at times this year. He’s fighting that one goal here and there.”
Markstrom was stellar for most of the period otherwise, stopping both Steen and Paul Stastny on breakaways before again thwarting Steen with a nice save moments after his gaffe on Brodziak.
St. Louis hit the post three times in third period, while Boeser had two good chances off the rush that had Rogers Arena buzzing, but Allen was there to make the save both times — including the second one where the Blues netminder just got a piece of the puck with his left shoulder.
“Watching some tape, he’s got such a hard and good release that I don’t think it’s a reactionary save,” said Allen. “It’s a positional save. If you try to wave your glove at it, he’s probably going to beat you most of the time.
“There are guys like that in the league that you more or less have to be positioned, and he’s one of those guys. He’s got a bunch of goals for a reason. He’s got a great shot.”
The Canucks continued to push, but couldn’t find a way through before Steen scored into an empty net with 52.3 seconds left as St. Louis improved to 19-0-0 this season when leading after 40 minutes.
Down 1-0 after the first, Boeser evened things at 1:46 of the second on a slick passing play where Sam Gagner fed Thomas Vanek, who went back against the grain to find the wide-open phenom.
“(Vanek) is such a good playmaker,” said Boeser. ”I knew he was going to pass it to me there because I skate with him in the summers.
“I’ve just got to learn from him now and make some of those passes.”
The Blues opened the scoring at 11:17 of a sleepy first when Berglund wheeled out of the corner and let go a fluttering backhand from the high slot that beat Markstrom for his fifth.
“I just kind of fanned on it,” said Markstrom. ”It’s on me.”
Vancouver had another great opportunity later in the period, but Alex Biega found iron on a shot from the point, and Markus Granlund hit the other post on the rebound before Allen smothered the puck on the goal line.
“It’s a fine line between winning and losing,” said Green. “That was a hard-fought game.
“(It) probably could have gone either way, and we’re on the wrong side of it.”
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press