Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blues gain point, fall in overtime to Blue Jackets

Russell nets game-winner after McDonald denied at other end

ST. LOUIS -- How often does it happen: a key save at one end of the ice in overtime turning into a game-winner at the other end?

That was the case against the Blues Saturday night in their encounter with the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team they have owned here at Scottrade Center -- one they haven't lost to here since 2007.

But for the Blues, it was the wrong goalie making the save.

Mathieu Garon, who had thwarted the Blues for most of 60 minutes before Andy McDonald penetrated the Jackets goalie's barrier late, deflected the Blues away one more time. It led to an odd-man rush and resulted in the game-winner for his squad.

Kris Russell snapped a shot from the left circle 1:32 into overtime -- 13 seconds after Garon kicked out his left pad to rob McDonald -- to give the Blue Jackets a 3-2 win over the Blues Saturday night, a tough blow for a team looking to gain points against teams below them in the standings.

One point is nice, but the Blues (24-22-9) need two points, and with three games against Chicago (twice) and San Jose -- the Western Conference's best -- the Blues were certainly looking for more than four points against the West's worst (Edmonton and Columbus).

Russell and teammate Derick Brassard skated into the Blues zone 2-on-3, but somehow, Russell was able to weave untouched across the ice and fire a shot that Chris Mason got a piece of but found its way into the net.

Just seconds earlier, McDonald was looking to send the 19,150 -- or 20th sellout of the season -- home happy campers.

"It seems to be the way those overtimes end, a chance for one team that's not capitalized on and the other team ends up with an odd-man rush and a play down at the other end and they score," said forward David Backes, who got the Blues on the board with 1.9 seconds left in the first to tie the game 1-1. "It wasn't for a lack of effort. (McDonald's) made plays for us all year, scored the tying goal. It obviously shows the character to score with a couple minutes left and then have the few chances in overtime."

The Blues deserved a better fate in the first but came out of it tied 1-1, after Backes deflected T.J. Oshie's point shot through his legs and through Garon's five-hole.

But in the second period, the team that has played 11 games in 18 days didn't get the necessary push to overtime a team that had lost six of its previous nine games.

The Blues reverted back to some old habits of not forechecking and misreading a lot of plays. They were outshot 9-3 in the period and gave up the go-ahead goal on Fedor Tyutin's power play goal with 1:35 remaining and the Blues two men down.

"I liked our first period. I didn't think we created enough momentum in the second period," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "... (We had) some misreads on our forecheck. You've got to establish about 125 feet of ice to start your forecheck. Some of our routes allowed them out of the zone early. Some of them were decent plays by them, but I thought we could have sustained a little better offensive zone time with some better reads where the puck was going. We kind of pushed past some situations and some easy outs occurred.

"We ended up with the too many men on the ice penalty and the 5-on-3 goal, and all of the sudden, we're forced to backcheck the game a little bit. It took a little bit of time to kind of get our feet moving again after that goal."

The Blues thought they may have been victimized by another questionable call, this time by referee Dan O'Rourke, who whistled defenseman Roman Polak for a roughing penalty with the Blues already a man down and a scrum ensuing in front of Mason. The team wasn't going to fault the loss on the situation.

It appeared that Columbus' Raffi Torres got involved in front of the Blues' net with Oshie but went unpunished for his actions, and Polak was the lone player called out of the entire fray.

"We put ourselves in that one man down by taking the two-many-men," Mason said. "... It's kind of questionable when you know there's a big scrum like that and they take one guy."

Payne said, "I've thoughts on it, but we've got to make sure that we understand that these things ... eventually you feel one go your way. Again, it's not something we're going to hang an outcome on."

The third period saw the Blues revert to the things that were good for them throughout much of the first period, and it was a late penalty kill that really got the ball rolling for McDonald to eventually get the equalizer.

With Rick Nash off for interference -- for firing a stray glove at the Blues' Keith Tkachuk, who had possession of the puck -- McDonald took Erik Johnson's feed and fired a shot from the right circle off Garon's glove for his team-leading 17th goal of the season.

The Blues nearly won it in the waning seconds of regulation with a couple chances after winning a faceoff in the Columbus zone.

"We had quite a few chances," Payne said. "We had to grind out way in the third to get one to go and also had one there in the last few seconds (of regulation) after we won the faceoff. We had a chance right on the doorstep there."

And then came the most glorious chance of all, when Paul Kariya sent McDonald streaking in along the left side. McDonald cut in the front of the net and slid a backhand that Garon kept out of the goal. Seconds later, the Blues were walking off with a loss.

"Andy had a great opportunity going in," Payne said. "A save at one end and unfortunately, the one goes in (for Columbus). But we had a pretty good push in the third period. This team has played a lot of hockey.

"Even with some of the possessions we had in the third period took some time to get to the offensive zone, but we stuck with it. We got the power play and were able to connect on that one. We're certainly happy to get the push at the back end of a busy week, but we got the one and needed the two."

Mason said the shot handcuffed him a bit.

"He cut across and was trying to go back over my shoulder and he just went off the heel of my stick and kind of handcuffed me a little bit," Mason said. "It hit the bottom of my arm and went in."
"It was kind of weird. We had a good chance down there and they came back down to our end. He cut across and got a shot there."

The Blues felt like the play never should have developed in the first place.

"We've just got to have that, we've got to play that better. It's unfortunate," said defenseman Mike Weaver, who along with partner Darryl Sydor were on the ice. "I saw the guy come down the wing, he passed it off, he drove by Sydor. Obviously, he was going to the net, so I kind of backed off. The guy kind of came across there. I don't know if Paul had a chance to get the puck or not. After that, everybody was kind of scrambling.

"We can't give up those opportunities. We've got to be better next time. We've got a couple days to kind of get away from everything. We've had a long couple weeks here. We've got to think about it for an hour and forget about it. It's easy to want it, tough to earn it."

* NOTES -- Left winger Alex Steen (lower-body) did not play the third period. Payne said he will be evaluated today. ... Center Keith Tkachuk became the fourth player in league history to record 2,200 penalty minutes and 1,000 points when he was whistled for high-sticking in the second period. ... Defenseman Erik Johnson (upper-body) returned to the lineup after missing one game. Johnson jammed his thumb during a fight with Vancouver's Rick Rypien Wednesday and did not play Thursday in Edmonton after taking the pre-game warm-up. ... Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who has not played since a lower-body injury Jan. 21 at Ottawa, skated Saturday morning and deemed himself ready to play but was not in the lineup. ... The Blues recalled forward D.J. King (broken hand) from a conditioning stint in Peoria but he and fellow enforcer Cam Janssen were healthy scratches.

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