Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and two assists Thursday night to lead the Blues to a 5-2 win over the Devils at Scottrade Center. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

By Rob Rains

For the second consecutive game the St. Louis Blues switched their forward lines on Thursday night, trying to find an offensive spark.

No matter how much the lines change, however, it always seems that Vladimir Tarasenko is leading the attack.

He did it again on Thursday night, scoring a power-play goal and assisting on two other goals to lead the Blues to a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils at Scottrade Center.

The three-point game gave Tarasenko 10 points in his last five games, on two goals and eight assists. He has 15 goals and 22 assists this season, and his 37 points (in 31 games) is the second highest total in the NHL.

In the opinion of his coach, Ken Hitchcock, Tarasenko is close to becoming the best player in the league.

“He has the ability to be that because he has five tools,” Hitchcock said. “He’s one of the best passers in the game; he doesn’t get enough credit for it. He’s in a position where if he continues to progress like he is now, from an all-around play standpoint, he’s got a real chance to be the top guy.

“His all-around game offensively is starting to show up now. He makes as many good plays as he does shooting opportunities. The part that was good for me was in the third period he competed defensively. That’s a big step. He was willing to work for his next goal if it came and I think that’s just the maturity in the player. That’s a really good sign.”

Tarasenko was on the ice for both of New Jersey’s goals in the first period, which gave the Devils a 2-0 lead. The first was a shorthanded goal by Adam Henrique which came after Tarasenko whiffed on a shot, sending the Devils in the other direction. A goal by Miles Wood then made it 2-0.

“He was not feeling great, but to get one back on the power-play kind of brought us back,” Hitchcock said. “We were off and running after that goal. It brought him back into the game and made him feel good about himself.”

The power-play goal, with 2:54 left in the period, cut the lead to 2-1 and the Blues tied the game when Jori Lehtera deflected a shot by Robby Fabbri into the net at 2:05 of the second period. A pass from Tarasenko to Fabbri earned him his first assist of the night.

Tarasenko then earned his second assist with a perfect pass to defenseman Alex Pietrangelo at the side of the net for the go-ahead goal 7:45 into the second period.

“We have really good players like Alex and he can read the game well so if he gets open it’s easier to get the puck to him,” Tarasenko said.

Pietrangelo was expecting the pass, but still almost messed up the play.

“Great pass,” Pietrangelo said. “I almost missed the net. Shocked that he passed it that hard. I had to shoot it as hard as I could to make sure it went in.

“When you shoot the way he does, goalies and D-men have to respect it and it really opens up a lot of seams. Not many guys can score like he did tonight, that’s just a prime example of what he can do. He’s one of the best in the world.”

Devils’ coach John Hynes agreed. He has seen Tarasenko earn five assists in his last two games against his team in the last week.

“He’s a world-class player and I think you see that,” Hynes said. “Tonight he made some great plays and he was definitely a factor in the game.”

Added New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider, “I think he's got the best shot in the league. He can hold his stick up high, He can look you off or just shoot it at a moment's notice without any windup or anything like that. He's always been a tough guy to play against and to read and he's obviously one of the premier players in the league and there's a reason why.

“You can't really cheat on him because if you give him an inch he'll find a spot so maybe I was a little too locked in on him but he's got the puck in that area and you don't want to be beat by him so he made a nice play. He understands when guys key on him he can make passes and make plays and that's what he did.”

The Blues carried the 3-2 lead into the third period, then got an insurance goal from Nail Yakupov and an empty-net goal from Patrik Berglund as they improved their home record to 11-0-3 in their last 14 games. The defeated the Devils for the seventh consecutive time.

The loss was the fourth in a row for the Devils, who have been outscored 19-5 over that stretch.