Thursday, November 11, 2010

Blues much better 24 hours later in shootout loss

After 8-1 loss at Columbus, team earns point in 3-2 defeat to Nashville

ST. LOUIS -- Twenty-four hours later, the Blues were not pleased with the final result but felt much better about the effort.

A night after being thoroughly drubbed in an 8-1 loss at Columbus which saw the Blues lose leading scorer T.J. Oshie for at least three months with a fractured left ankle, the Blues sought retribution not only in the end result but in their play as well.

The Nashville Predators, who were desperately seeking a victory themselves since they came into Scottrade Center losers of five straight, gained the 3-2 victory in the shootout Thursday night after Marcel Goc scored in the fourth round before 19,150 anxious fans.

It was the Blues' first loss at home this season (6-0-1) that snapped a franchise-best 12 in a row dating back to last season.

Despite the loss, the Blues (9-2-3) had a complete understanding that they had to overcome major flaws that exposed their great start this season after the debacle at Columbus. They picked up a point in the process and now move on to the next phase.

Consider the loss in Columbus dead and buried.

"We got our game to the right place tonight," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "I think we were much quicker through the neutral zone but most importantly, we handled their forecheck early. When you play against Nashville, a real strong forechecking team, we had to make a difference back there. ... I thought it was a big key for our club to handle what we didn't handle (Wednesday) night."

David Backes, who hadn't scored since Oct. 11, and Matt D'Agostini netted goals for the Blues, and it was D'Agostini -- who leads the team with six goals -- as the lone shooter that was able to beat Pekka Rinne in four shootout attempts.

"A lot better effort, yeah," said D'Agostini, who gave the Blues a 2-1 lead 5 minutes, 54 seconds into the third period. "We obviously had to come out and show that we made some adjustments, and I think we did that for the most part. Two points would have been nice, but we made some good adjustments."

It was a game the Blues led by a goal twice, with Backes ripping a shot into the net in the first period and D'Agostini scoring in the third period. But Nashville (6-5-3) countered each time, with Cal O'Reilly scoring in the second period and J.P. Dumont tying the game with 6:52 to play.

"A much better effort is a gross understatement," said Backes, who scored for the first time in 13 games. "We got to our team game, we played a lot better, goals around the net. ... They're a gritty team that doesn't give you anything and you've got to work for everything you get. Fittingly, 2-2 into a shootout and anything can happen in those shootouts. We'll move on, take our point, but obviously we've got to get a little more hunger to get two out of this game."

Added center Patrik Berglund, who assisted on the D'Agostini go-ahead goal, "We played a whole lot better than last night. We wanted to get two points, we didn't get them but we'll get back on the horse and move on to Phoenix."

The Blues were forced to mix and match lines with the departure of Oshie, as Payne moved Vladimir Sobotka up to center the first line and move Backes -- who arguably played his best game -- to the wing with Andy McDonald. D'Agostini and Steen were wingers to Berglund's line, and then there was Chris Porter and Nick Drazenovic, Peoria recalls that were pressed into action playing on the third and fourth lines, respectively.

"We have to mix and match a little bit now with a lot of injuries, but we've got to stay strong and stay positive," Berglund said. "Take it one day at a time and move forward."

The downside once again as has been the case in many games was a Blues power play that gets more and more futile by the second.

The Blues were 0-for-4 once again and now are 0-for-25 in the last six games. They are 3-for-42 since Oct. 16 and it seems there is no end in sight right now to the drought with the man advantage.

"Execution. We can talk about dealing with pressure, but there's an execution element to it," Payne said. "... Right now, teams have got their ears pinned back and they're coming after us. Until we break that with good, firm plays, until we break that with clean decisions be it protect the puck and make the next play or to put the puck in an area where we can create some space for ourselves or attack out of those situations, they're going to keep coming at us. We've got prescribed areas that we want to go to and there's just a hesitancy on our part to make the right play."

The Blues even had the man advantage in overtime for 1:19 but could generate nothing with the 4-on-3 advantage.

"We're talking about what plays we want to run, to set up where we feel we can go," Payne said regarding the overtime power play. "The disappointing part is we didn't execute any part of that. We'll certainly have to address the execution or the personnel in those situations.

"The disappointing part of the 4-on-3 is we didn't take what was available and we never got it set to that point."

The Blues' best chance in the overtime came off the stick of Sobotka, who was robbed on the doorstep by Rinne after Backes' saucered a backhand pass from behind the net.

"I was trying to drive wide and (Sobotka's) giving me a yell to kind of just throw it to the front," said Backes. "He got a lot on it and when he came back to the bench, he said he can't believe (Rinne) saved that.

"I think (Sobotka) should have shot it harder and pushed (Rinne) into the net with the puck," Backes joked. "It's all in fun. We were making plays all over the ice to try and get that game-winner."

D'Agostini, who took Oshie's spot as the opening shooter in the shootout, beat Rinne short side, but the Nashville goalie was up to the challenge on Brad Boyes, Andy McDonald and Berglund, whose backhand gave the Blues the chance to go ahead in the sudden death shootout.

"I haven't really done a whole lot of shootouts, but I wanted to put it up high (on the) backhand," said Berglund, who now is 0-for-3 in career shootouts. "I kind of fanned on it a little bit, so I didn't get it up."

Goc, who along with O'Reilly scored shootout goals off Jaroslav Halak, deked Halak to the backhand before swiping a forehand into the near side for the winner.

* NOTES -- Besides Oshie, the Blues were without defensemen Roman Polak (wrist), Barret Jackman (knee) and Carlo Colaiacovo (concussion) along with forwards David Perron (concussion) and Brad Winchester (knee). ... This was the third meeting between the Central Division rivals already. They split the first two meetings, with Nashville winning 4-3 Oct. 14 and the Blues winning 3-0 on Oct. 28, both in Nashville. ... The Predators went 117:18 between goals against the Blues this season on O'Reilly's goal.

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