The Toronto Maple Leafs tried to take it to the St. Louis Blues but were on the wrong end of a 6-1 blowout at the hands of a potential Stanley Cup contender.
"There was no effort," interim coach Peter Horachek said as the Leafs lost for the 28th time in 35 games. "There's no real excuses for it, so I'm not going to make any."
The Blues toyed with the Leafs from the drop of the puck and never seemed to let them have it. Neither starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier (three goals on 17 shots) nor backup James Reimer (three goals on 27 shots) stood a chance.
"That was frustrating," said Leafs winger David Booth, who scored for the second straight game. "If you don't come to compete against a team like that, they'll pick you apart, and that's what they did."
Jaden Schwartz, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Butler, Paul Stastny and David Backes scored for the Blues (41-19-5), who snapped a two-game skid and moved to within two points of the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators. Brian Elliott was barely tested in making 23 saves and allowed just a third-period goal to Booth.
Backes called it the Blues' most complete victory. Coach Ken Hitchcock was satisfied with his team's effort.
"We've played some of our best hockey (lately) and not gotten points, so it was nice to play well again and get points," Hitchcock said. "There was a little bit of a lull at the start of the third period, but I thought we kept our foot on the gas the whole game and made them defend a lot more than they wanted to tonight."
Returning home for their first game after the trade deadline, Leafs players talked about how much they had to play for: some for contracts and jobs and others for teammates, the Leafs logo and whatever else. If they were motivated, it was no match for the relentless Blues' talent and depth.
"They beat us all over the ice. They beat us from the beginning to the end." Horachek said. "They outplayed us, and they outclassed us."
The Leafs (26-35-5) didn't register their first shot on goal until more than halfway through the first period and couldn't get anything going despite Zach Sill beating Steve Ott in a fight and Phaneuf laying out Oshie.
"We were trying to feed off something all night and we couldn't get it going," Sill said.
Phaneuf's textbook shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Oshie drew the ire of Backes in the second period. Everyone involved agreed it was a clean hit and no one seemed to mind the scrum that ensued.
"It's a pretty damn big hit," Backes said. "Whether it's late or it's offside or whatever, we're sticking together, we're standing up for each other. If we've got to be down a man, we've got to be down a man."
It looked all night like the Blues had an extra player on the ice. The result was a shot discrepancy of 44-24 and a score that could have been even more lopsided.
"We've got to be very disappointed in the way that we played," Phaneuf said. "It's not even close to acceptable."
Notes — Canadian Olympic gold-medal-winning defenceman Jay Bouwmeester missed the game for the Blues with an illness, and former Leafs centre Olli Jokinen made his debut after a deadline-day trade. ... The Leafs scratched defenceman Stephane Robidas as Eric Brewer played in career game No. 993.
Follow @SWhyno on Twitter