Sunday, January 2, 2011

Five-game win streak snapped in 4-2 loss to Stars

Blues lose all four meetings with Dallas,
the last three with lead heading into third period

ST. LOUIS -- Same team. Same scenario. Same unfortunate result for the Blues.

Another third-period lead against the Dallas Stars. Another lead lost. Another game lost.

For the fourth straight meeting, the Blues scored first against Dallas, and for the third straight meeting, they led by a goal heading into the final 20 minutes. The Blues were 12-2-1 coming into Sunday night's game -- both regulation losses against Dallas.

Make it three.

Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards scored twice early in the third period, and the Stars added a late goal to down the Blues 4-2 at Scottrade Center, winning all four meetings and outscoring the Blues 7-0 in the third period in the last three matchups.

The loss snapped the Blues' winning streak at five games, and did so in ugly fashion.

The Blues (20-13-5) may have led another game against the Stars (23-13-4) but did they deserve to be?

"Three periods of sub-par hockey for our club," Blues coach Davis Payne summed up.

"I don't think it's anything about what Dallas did," Payne added. "It's everything about what we didn't do tonight. We didn't execute, we didn't support, we didn't move to the right areas, we didn't move our feet with the puck, we looked like we couldn't handle it. It was just a poorly executed game on our part. It's a night we'll find a way to put behind us."

The Blues, who lost here to the Stars 2-1 on Nov. 27 in eerily similar fashion, led the game on first-period goals by David Backes and Alex Steen that were sandwiched around a Morrow power play goal.

But the Blues, who finished the regular season 0-3-1 against the Stars after scoring the first goal in all four games, saw Morrow tie it 2 minutes 28 seconds into the third on a rebound, Richards give them the lead on a centering feed that went in off Patrik Berglund's stick back-checking following a 3-on-1 rush and James Neal ice the game on a shot from the high slot.

"I don't know if it's these guys in particular, but we didn't really have our game going through the first two (periods)," said Backes, who gave the Blues a 1-0 lead with 6:06 left in the first. "We may have outshot them, may have had the lead 2-1, but we hadn't gotten to our game yet. The third period was no different. They started making us pay a little bit. We needed a little more push, a little more effort, more solid play from guy one to guy 20 on the ice tonight.

"I don't think you can question whether we're working hard. Whether we're working smart in our structure and working together as one to get a job done is something that when we falter is a lot of the problem."

When Steen redirected Eric Brewer's point shot past Kari Lehtonen, who now is 6-1-0 in his career against the Blues that includes all four wins this season, the Blues felt if they could find a glimmer of their game, maybe they could stretch the lead out.

No such luck.

Morrow backhanded in Jamie Benn's high-slot shot that Jaroslav Halak left a juicy rebound that allowed Morrow to beat Barret Jackman to a puck, and then Richards converted after the Blues got caught in the Dallas zone which resulted in a 3-on-1 break.

"The details in our game that we stress and we strive for never showed up to a point where Dallas was able to score two goals coming out of their own end and a play in the neutral zone that we turn over," Payne said. "That type of execution, that type of work, that type of detail or lack thereof is never going to give you a chance in the hockey game. ... Any team's going to have a chance against you when you're playing like that.

"They played a good, solid road game, they were fore-checking hard, they were skating and bumping into people. When you play that way and you're moving the puck north, it puts a lot of pressure on the opponent and we weren't ready to play at that pace. We never got to the pace that was going to be required of the game. Whether we had a 2-1 lead or not, it was a situation where they were playing to a point that they were controlling the play even though the scoreboard didn't indicate that."

The Blues didn't generate much offensively in the third period either, and once Dallas gained the lead, much of the Blues' attack was contained to the outer edges. Not a lot of interior pressure was there.

"It was one of those games where we didn't have any energy and the puck didn't bounce the right way," Berglund said. "It was a bad team loss. We can only blame ourselves.

"We wanted to keep the streak going. But I think we came out and we moved the puck slow. Forwards didn't get back to support the d-men. We didn't really get anything going and had turnovers in the neutral zone. We only have ourselves to blame."

The Blues will have four days to think about this one, as they don't take the ice again until Thursday in Toronto.

"We had an opportunity to steal a game that we didn't deserve," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "We just weren't able to do that.

"We'll learn from what we didn't do well tonight. We've got three days to think about the next one."

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