Blues edge Blackhawks for division lead

The St. Louis Blues took over the top spot in the Central with a 2-1 win over the Blackhawks. The two teams face off again before the season ends.

CHICAGO — Olli Jokinen and David Backes scored in the second period as the St. Louis Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 on Sunday night for their third straight win to move into first place in the Central Division.

The Blues improved to 105 points, one more than idle Nashville, with three games remaining for both teams.

Chicago’s Kris Versteeg scored to end a 16-game drought without a goal, but the Blackhawks’ four-game winning streak ended and they remained two points behind Nashville in third place in the rugged Central.

Jake Allen made 38 saves for St. Louis and Corey Crawford stopped 31 shots for Chicago in a physical game between division rivals that had ample chippy moments.

Jokinen’s tiebreaking goal with 4:48 left in the second was his first score with the Blues since coming to St. Louis in a trade-deadline deal from Toronto last month.

Both teams were coming off momentum-building victories.

The Blackhawks won 4-3 at Buffalo on Friday when captain Jonathan Toews scored twice in the in the final 1:43 of the third period. The Blues scored four straight goals at Dallas to erase a two-goal deficit and beat the Stars 7-5.

The Blues skated without top forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen, who are out day-to-day with lower-body injuries. Tarasenko, who missed his third game, leads the Blues with 36 goals and 71 points. Steen, who sat out his fourth, is tied for second on the team in points with 62.

The Blackhawks led 1-0 after the first on Versteeg’s goal at with 5:48 left in the period. Marian Hossa, closing in at full speed, picked off T.J. Oshie’s weak clearing attempt just inside the right point. The Chicago forward then cut across the slot, motored down the left side and flicked a perfect feed to Versteeg, who was alone at the right edge of the crease.

Crawford had to be sharp — making close-in saves during several flurries — to keep the Blues off the board. He denied Jokinen three times in the first, including on a point-blank rebound attempt of Ty Rattie’s shot with just under 3 minutes left.

Backes tied it 1-all when he swatted in a power-play goal from the right edge of the crease on the Blues 20th shot at 6:07 of the second. Backes pounced on a puck that was dished by Jaden Schwartz through a goalmouth scrum with Crawford down on the ice.

Crawford stopped Paul Stastny’s initial shot shot and a rebound on Stastny’s breakaway just over 9 minutes into the second.

Although the Blackhawks outshot the Blues 12-5 in the scoreless third, St. Louis limited Chicago’s chances.

NOTES: Blackhawks D Kimmo Timonen left the game in the first period after only three shifts with an undisclosed injury after being hit by the Blues’ Ryan Reaves. … St. Louis D Robert Bortuzzo suffered an upper body injury in the first and didn’t return. … Injured Chicago star Patrick Kane, who suffered a broken collarbone against Florida on Feb. 24, and was not projected to return for 12 weeks following surgery, participated in the Blackhawks’ morning skate on Sunday.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.