When these two teams meet, as the adage goes, you can toss the records out the window. But you better hang on to the name tags.
The Blues faced the Montreal Canadiens in back-to-back Stanley Cup finals during the birth of the St. Louis franchise in 1968-69. More recently they have become relative strangers. On Thursday, the Canadiens took the Scottrade Center ice for only the fifth time in the last decade.
And yet there was something in the air, something you sense when rivals meet. It was more than Blues vs. Canadiens, it was the War Between the Pipes, the Selected One vs. the Rejected One, Carey Price against Jaroslav Halak.
In the end, sure, the Canadiens won those Stanley Cups. But Halak and the Blues won the battle of the backstops, defeating their infrequent visitors 4-1.
Halak, whom Montreal traded last summer in return for Lars Eller, kicked aside 27 shots. Price, whom Montreal chose to keep, made 24 saves. And in reality, both played well. More important, for the 35th consecutive Scottrade sellout, the Blues played well, snapping a five-game winning streak by Montreal (37-24-7) and extending their own modest winning run to three.
"It feels great," Halak said, "especially playing against my former team. Everybody was writing about that, but it was the St. Louis Blues against the Montreal Canadiens and it was a great team effort."
The Blues (31-28-9) got goals from David Backes, Andy McDonald, Matt D'Agostini and T.J. Oshie as they improved to 11-4-3 against Eastern Conference teams.
Lost in the attention paid to Halak and Price was D'Agostini's payback. The speedy winger was traded here by the Canadiens late last season. Earlier in the day, he sent Price a text to let him know he would be gunning for him. Sure enough, D'Agostini scored an important insurance goal in the third period.
"Yeah, it was special," said D'Agostini, who deflected a pass out of the air past Price for his 14th goal. "I was kind of chirping at Carey today. I told him I had one. As it turned out, I didn't think I did, but I was fortunate to knock it in."
Among several big stops by the visiting gatekeeper was a diving save on Backes, who drove a one-timer from the dot. Price's spectacular work allowed Montreal to get the jump.
The Canadiens got the Blues running around in their zone. Alexandre Picard had possession along the boards to Halak's right, then rifled a pass to Jeff Halpern at the opposite corner of the crease. Halak had no chance as Halpern tapped in his 11th goal with 7:30 to play.
Price continued to frustrate the Blues late in the period, stopping a hard drive by Kevin Shattenkirk and a point-blank rebound by Patrik Berglund. But if at first you can't beat a goaltender with the fastball, go to the off-speed stuff. McDonald won a face-off to Backes and his knuckleball wrist shot fluttered through traffic into the net, tying the game 1-1 with 1:01 remaining.
The Blues took a 2-1 lead early in the second. D'Agostini slipped a pass to McDonald, who was skating unguarded in front of Price. This time, McDonald maneuvered the disk past the netminder for his 17th goal in 44 games. The Blues finally got 3-1 breathing room with 1:29 to play, as McDonald and D'Agostini broke in two-on-one. McDonald waited, then lifted a pass that D'Agostini bunted past Price. Oshie then added an empty net goal for his eighth of the season.