TORONTO -- David Backes enjoys playing in Toronto. The sights. The sounds. And, getting a hat trick isn't too shabby, either.
"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."
"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."
With Brenden Morrow in the box for high-sticking, the Leafs' second power-play unit cashed in. After getting robbed by Miller at the side of the net, Nazem Kadri batted the puck out of the air and right to Lupul at the side of the net at 11:30 of the first period.
The Leafs' lead didn't last long, as Oshie tipped a shot from Roman Polak down and dived to knock the puck in at 15:55.
Had the Leafs been able to keep the score tied at 1 by the first intermission, they might've been able to make it a game. Instead, van Riemsdyk took an ill-advised interference penalty in the final minute to set up a memorable miscue by Phaneuf.
With a chance to send the puck down the ice on the penalty kill, Phaneuf wound up twice and held onto it just long enough for Oshie to poke it away. Seconds after the turnover, Backes beat Bernier clean with 32.3 seconds left.
The Blues' 23 first-period shots were the most the Leafs have given up this season.
"I don't know," Lupul said. "We couldn't break their cycle, we couldn't get the puck."
Considering that, their second period was a strong improvement. Unlike the first, when they were hemmed in their own zone and needed Bernier to make big save after big save, the Leafs opened things up on the Blues and traded some chances.
They couldn't cash in, but the Blues did, as Backes scored his second of the night at 7:32 after a brilliant pass from Alex Pietrangelo.
At 17:35, Steen beat Phaneuf in a net-front battle and then flipped a back-hand shot past Bernier for his 31st goal.
"If we're missing motivation, at this time of the year everyone should have some," Bernier said. "Obviously, we knew it was not going to be easy. That's a good team out there -- they're first and they showed it tonight."
Down 4-1, Pietrangelo turned the puck over to Gunnarsson, who blasted a shot by Miller to cut the deficit to two.
Van Riemsdyk added a goal at 15:54 to make it 4-3, Backes' empty-netter sealed it for St. Louis.
"It was a 5-3 game where I think we could've scored 10 goals tonight," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said in a nod to Bernier. "We had so many scoring opportunities, and I thought for the most part until we got careless and started to get fancy around the net instead of burying it that we were really playing one of our top games."