TORONTO – David Backes enjoys playing in Toronto. The sights. The sounds. And, getting a hat trick isn’t too shabby, either.
Backes scored his third goal of the game into an empty net to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 5-3 victory Tuesday night that sent the Toronto Maple Leafs to their sixth straight loss.
“There’s something about this barn and this stage,” Backes said. “There’s obviously a special thing about being in Toronto. The buzz in the air and everyone’s talking about the Leafs. Every establishment’s got a neon Leafs sign of some sort.
“This is kind of the mecca for hockey here in Toronto.”
T.J. Oshie and former Leafs forward Alex Steen also scored for St. Louis, which passed Boston for the most points in the NHL with 105.
Ryan Miller made 21 saves to improve to 32-15-3 in his career against Toronto. The Blues have won 10 of 13 games since acquiring Miller and forward Steve Ott from Buffalo before the trade deadline.
Joffrey Lupul, Carl Gunnarsson and James van Riemsdyk scored for Toronto, which dropped out of a playoff spot for the first time since Jan. 14, coupled with Washington’s shootout loss to Los Angeles.
“Certainly, we’re afraid of letting it slip away,” Lupul said. “The whole year we’ve thought we were a playoff team, and we still believe that now. . . . There’s reason for concern, but it’s not completely time to panic. We’re still right there.”
The loss ruined the return of Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier, who made 44 saves in his first game since reinjuring his groin on March 13.
“When you get in a slide like this it’s easy to start pin-pointing individuals, which is fair, but as a group we look at it like, if there’s a mistake made by someone, someone else steps up and makes a play for them,” Lupul said. “And we just haven’t been doing quite enough of that right now.”
Bernier helped withstand an early barrage before the Maple Leafs scored first in a game for the first time since March 10 at Anaheim — seven games and six losses ago.
“We have a lot of confidence in our abilities and a belief in ourselves and believe in the guys in the room,” van Riemsdyk said. “This thing is obviously far from over.”
Coyotes 3, Penguins 2
In Pittsburgh, Thomas Greiss stopped 23 shots — including all 15 he faced over the final two periods — as the Coyotes edged the sloppy Penguins.
David Moss, Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker scored for the Coyotes, who never trailed while picking up two vital points in the chase for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Kings 5, Capitals 4
In Washington, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter scored in the shootout as the Kings came back after allowing Alex Ovechkin’s two early power-play goals to beat the Capitals.
The shootout score was 2-0, because Kings goalie Jonathan Quick caught Eric Fehr’s attempt, after rookie forward Evgeny Kuznetsov whiffed on his opening shot for Washington.
Islanders 5, Hurricanes 4
In Raleigh, North Carolina, Colin McDonald had two goals and an assist, and Matt Martin also scored twice for the Islanders.
Canadiens 2, Sabres 0
In Montreal, Carey Price made 24 saves and Max Pacioretty and Daniel Briere scored third-period goals as the Canadiens earned a victory.
Panthers 3, Senators 2 (SO)
In Sunrise, Florida, Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Pirri scored in a shootout.
Blue Jackets 4, Red Wings 2
In Columbus, Cam Atkinson scored a goal confirmed by video replay in the third period, and Ryan Johansen added an empty-netter for his second of the game.
Blackhawks 4, Stars 2
In Chicago, Andrew Shaw and Duncan Keith each had a goal and an assist.
Avalanche 5, Predators 4 (SO)
In Nashville, Gabriel Landeskog scored two goals in regulation and then netted the winner in the shootout.
Sharks 5, Oilers 2
In Edmonton, Joe Pavelski scored three goals and set up another as the Sharks snapped a two-game losing streak with a victory over the struggling Oilers.