Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blues blow another lead to Stars, fall 2-1

Dallas sweeps home-and-home after scoring
twice in final period for second night in a row

ST. LOUIS -- After losing a third-period lead against the Dallas Stars 24 hours earlier, one would think the Blues learned their lesson.

It couldn't happen again, could it?

Unfortunately, it was the same scenario for the Blues: a one-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

Not only did the leads vanish, so did the would-be victories.

The Stars got third-period goals from Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson five-plus minutes into the third period and stunned the Blues once again, this time 2-1 Saturday night before 19,150 at Scottrade Center, the Blues' first home loss in regulation this season.

The Blues (12-7-3), who led 2-1 Friday night in Dallas before losing 3-2, were in the same position with a 1-0 lead on B.J. Crombeen's first career goal against his former team. But the Stars (13-8-1) found that gear that they used against the Blues in Dallas the previous night and brought it with them on the flight north to St. Louis and used it once again.

"It got away from us in the fact that we didn't expend the lead," said Blues coach Davis Payne, whose squad outshot Dallas once again by a 36-23 count. "I think in the second period and at the start of the third, we got ourselves to the outside; not enough internal pressure, not enough internal options as far as the offensive zone play went. That allowed that one mistake to matter.

"We have to execute for a full 60 minutes into the spaces that we did in the first period. We got ourselves to the right spot. We had the right possessions, but we came off of that and even if it was a little, it was too much."

Crombeen, who scored his third of the season by banging in Patrik Berglund's shot that squirted through the pads of Kari Lehtonen with one minute, 11 seconds remaining in the second, was paired on the Berglund line with Brad Winchester and the trio created some buzz in the game.

But the Blues, who came into the weekend home-and-home set with Dallas 7-0-1 with the lead going into the third period, saw two of them slip away.

"It's kind of a tough thing to pin down," said Crombeen, who was waived by the Stars in 2008 and claimed by the Blues. "I think if we knew, we would have made the adjustment and fixed it. They're an opportunistic team. We, for whatever reason, let up off the gas a little bit both nights for about five or 10 minutes and they found a way to put some pucks in the net. It cost us two points in both games.

"Playing against your former team, you want to do well, but the bigger picture, we lost the last two games, so that kind of stings more than any personal success."

Jaroslav Halak, who played for the third time in four nights, allowed both goals in high short side.

Benn, who scored a shorthanded goal against the Blues Friday that tied the score 2-2, beat Halak with a snap shot from the right circle 1:05 into the third on a shot that seemed to handcuff the Blues' netminder.

"No, I wasn't surprised," said Halak, who allowed two goals on 23 shots after giving up three goals on 24 shots Friday. "I need to stop shots like that."

Eriksson, who also beat Halak from the slot 5:30 into the third period with a high shot near side, took a pass from Brad Richards after Halak stopped Stephane Robidas' initial shot from the point.

The power play goal snapped a streak of 31 consecutive road power plays the Stars failed to score on. They were 1-for-31 on the season coming into Saturday's game with the power play on the road.

"It was a broken play. It was a rebound," Halak said. "(Eriksson) shot it high and it went over me. It was a good shot, but at the same time, I need to make the big saves for our team and I didn't tonight.

"We played them last night and the same thing happened. We had the lead going into the third and we blew it. ... Tonight, I need to make the stops."

The Blues, 0-2-1 against the Stars this season, have scored the first goal in each game, only to see Dallas come back in all three.

On Oct. 16, the Blues grabbed a 2-0 lead less than four minutes into the game, but the Stars scored twice in the second and won the game 3-2 in a shootout. Friday night, the Blues led 1-0 and 2-1 before Dallas won it with two in the third. And Saturday, it was two more third-period goals that doomed the Blues.

"You look at the first game, we doubled them in shots," Payne said. "We got off to the 2-0 lead and weren't able to extend it. We had a ton of chances in that hockey game. It was a little bit different.

"Then (Friday) night, we are in a position to take a lead into the third period but weren't able to sustain, weren't able to generate the chances that against a skilled group, you're going to have to find a way to get that next one. Tonight was a perfect example of that. We found ourselves with a 1-0 lead and played to some perimeter space in the offensive zone. We stopped taking that stride and we allowed one play to sit out there and have the potential to make a difference in the hockey game. We have to be more direct. It's not just sitting back relying on the Backes line to win us hockey games. We need everybody playing in the right spaces."

The Blues, who did not get their first shot on goal until roughly midway through the third period, were relegated to the perimeter in the offensive zone.

"It was a pretty hard-fought game, especially around the net," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We've got to put a few more pucks to the net there and bang and crash. Obviously, look what happens when Beener goes to the net hard, it's a goal. Little things go a hard way right now."

The Blues, 8-1-1 on home ice, were not going to go unbeaten here, but losing in this fashion is what bothers them.

"It would be nice if we won all 82 (games)," Pietrangelo said. "It's a tough one to lose whether we've lost all (nine) at home or not. It's a tough one to give away, especially going through the same thing last night.

"These are games you've got to win, especially when you've got the lead 1-0. We have to start closing those teams (out). It's a tough one to lose, but you've got to learn from it and move forward here."

The Blues had a golden opportunity in the first -- when they outshot the Stars 13-4 -- to grab a one-goal lead, but Chris Porter slid a rebound across the goal crease with a wide open net.

It was that kind of weekend for the Blues.

* NOTES -- Coming into the game, the Blues' top line of David Backes, Andy McDonald and Brad Boyes combined for 28 points in the last eight games. McDonald had 12 points (six goals, six assists), Backes (two goals, six assists) and Boyes (four goals, four assists) each had eight. ... Forward Matt D'Agostini, who had 6 goals in 14 games, is now goalless in last eight. ... Forward Alex Steen is now pointless in six straight games. ... Defenseman Erik Johnson has played 20 minutes or more in 21 of the Blues' 22 games. He leads the team in average ice time per game (23:32).

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