Saturday, December 18, 2010

Blues fall flat in 4-1 loss to Sharks

St. Louis outplayed in every facet in
dropping third regulation home game

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues can look back on many games this season and even when they go down in defeat, they can skate away knowing they did not get outworked.

Saturday was one of those few exceptions to the rule.

The best way to describe the Blues' 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks Saturday night: flat.

Rookie Logan Couture scored twice and the Sharks smothered the Blues at both ends of the ice and held them to one of their lowest shot outputs of the season at 22.

"We didn't pass that test. We got outworked tonight," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "It started in the first period for sure, outworked to the puck, outworked at the puck and it was a pretty flat start for our hockey club."

The Blues fell behind 2-0 in the first on goals by Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, then fell behind 3-0 after Couture's second of the game before David Backes injected some life into the sellout crowd of 19,150 with a penalty shot goal.

But the little momentum the Blues gained off the Backes goal in the final 10 minutes of the second period was certainly gone by the third when the Sharks (17-11-5) outshot the Blues (15-11-5) by a 16-7 count.

"It's one of those games you want to stop thinking about because we play Monday," Backes said. "There's a lesson to be learned that we didn't get to our game much, if at all. They get credit for playing hard and creating turnovers and capitalizing on their chances, but we didn't make it nearly hard enough for them to have success tonight and make them work for every inch they got.

"I think if you went over there (in the Sharks locker room), they're probably all smiles because they had a pretty easy game tonight."

The whole stage was set in the game for backlash at Sharks center Joe Thornton, who was responsible for knocking Blues forward David Perron to the sidelines, giving Perron a concussion when the teams met on Nov. 4.

Perron has not seen the ice since, missing his 21st game Saturday, and the Blues did get involved in three first-period fights.

But they had nothing to do with the Blues' anger towards Thornton. They were maybe there for pick-me-ups after the paltry first period.

"We didn't have one of our better games," defenseman Eric Brewer said. "... They came out and had a really good first period. We just were holding onto the puck for too long and moving it as fast as we should have been."

"They play a physical game and I thought we stood our ground early," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of the Blues. "We really had a lot of jump in the first period and that established our game and then when they did have some pressure, the goaltender (Antero Niittymaki) made some good saves. Specialty teams were good so overall, it was a pretty good night for us."

Even down by two, the Blues could have jumped back into the game with a goal. But the third goal put the Blues in a quandary as Couture may have gotten away with a bit of a shove from behind on the Blues' Ian Cole, sending the defenseman face-first into the corner boards.

The puck eventually got back to the right point and Dan Boyle's shot hit Couture in the slot and got past Jaroslav Halak 8 minutes 21 seconds into the second.

"I thought Cole got a little bit of a shove from behind to create that turnover," Payne said. "It was something that kind of sucked the wind out of that momentum that we had built up."

Backes was able to make a play, getting slashed by the Sharks' Jason Demers as he went crashing into the goal breaking in alone.

Backes would snap a shot, trying to beat Niittymaki five-hole and he did just that. But Niittymaki got a piece of the puck with both pads and wound up knocking the puck in to give the Blues a pulse.

"I don't know if I'm the guy to choose to take a penalty shot, but somehow, I willed it to the back of the net," Backes said. "It was a two-goal deficit at that time and we got right back to playing our hockey after that and had a little bit of momentum in our favor. We didn't stay at it long enough to create more chances, create more shots, get more traffic to the net and bury a few."

The Blues attacked the Sharks' net to no avail.

"Even when we had opportunities, we slowed ourselves down at the blue line and we slowed ourselves down through the neutral zone," Payne said. "We were out of sync with the decisions we were making, we were out of sync with the momentum we created through our neutral zone play. We've got to get that collected back and put on the right track for Monday.

"These are areas that we take a lot of pride in. We didn't meet our standard tonight. We'll address that. We'll address it here tonight. We'll address it again tomorrow and make sure on Monday when Vancouver shows up, we're back where we need to be."

* NOTES -- Blues defenseman Erik Johnson (knee) returned to the lineup after missing one game. He played a game-high 26:50. To make room for Johnson, the Blues optioned defenseman Nikita Nikitin to Peoria. ... Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (upper-body) sat out his third consecutive game. ... The Blues' last penalty shot was April 7, 2010 in Chicago, a goal by Brad Boyes off current Sharks goalie Antti Niemi. ... Backes had eight hits in the game and ranks 15th in the NHL with 90. ... Center Dave Scatchard (lower-body) left the game in the first period and did not return. ... Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo appeared to take an elbow from the Sharks' Devin Setoguchi in the first period but returned to finish the game.

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