Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blues embarrassed in 6-0 loss to Flames

Calgary blows game open with
five-goal third; Steen calls effort "immature"

ST. LOUIS -- Win or lose, the Blues have always prided themselves on competing for 60 minutes even though sometimes the results aren't what they're looking for.

It was like that for 40 minutes Tuesday night against Calgary in a game with playoff implications for both teams.

But somewhere between the locker room and the ice, the Blues left their compete level, their battle level, their fight, their spirit ...

The Blues left all things good tucked somewhere in their locker stalls, and a one-goal game turned into an embarrassing 6-0 laugher for the Flames at Scottrade Center.

The score was almost as laughable as the announced crowd of 19,150 when all was said and done, and the Flames (33-23-9) blanked the Blues for the second time in three days, with Miikka Kiprusoff notching another victory against the Blues (28-26-9), his 18th career win against them. Oh by the way, he carried a 132-minute, 11-second shutout string against the Blues into the teams' next meeting: April 1st here at Scottrade.

For a game that resembled much like the teams' meeting Sunday in Calgary, a 1-0 Flames win, it sure went sour on the Blues in a hurry. And the result was no laughing matter to them or their disgruntled fans.

"Yeah, I think so. I think that's fair to say," winger Alex Steen said when asked if the team stopped competing. "It's an immature way of playing the third period.

"I thought for sure even when they got that second one, we were still right there and it just deflates us. We can't allow that to happen. There's still a lot of hockey left to be played. For us to do that in the third is just unacceptable. We need to be better."

Blues killer Jarome Iginla paved the way for the Flames with three more points (two goals), Brendan Morrison added three assists and Alex Tanguay tallied a goal and two assists.

All-in-all, the Flames' top line torched the Blues for nine points as the Blues' fans jeered by game's end, even though the Blues were playing with a makeshift lineup after dealing away five regulars in an 11-day span.

"Six-nothing's never pretty," a somber David Backes said. "It was a 1-0 game going into the third period and then ... I don't know, Iginla really made us look bad on a few plays. A couple times they got odd-man rushes, a couple times we just failed to grab assignments and transition defensive zone and they made us pay."

The Flames lit up goalie Ben Bishop, who came in having stopped 58 of 59 shots, for five goals on eight third-period shots, including the first three fired on goal.

Bishop was pretty much made the sacrificial lamb on a game that did nothing to a young goalie's confidence level when the team played so poorly in front of him.

"We were definitely embarrassed, when it's 6-0 at home," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "We didn't compete well enough for Bish with the effort he's put in the last two games. For us to do that, it's disrespectful. It's not Blues hockey that we played. We're not proud of it. We'll be a lot better.

"The third period, we fell off. We were running around, we weren't playing as five guys. We were maybe trying to do too much and it cost us. I've been here a long time and the work ethic has been here night in, night out. It's been addressed. We'll come out in Washington and be a much better team."

The Blues, now nine points out of eighth place and for all intents and purposes out of the playoff race, certainly had issues channeling their desperation into a 20-minute period when a hockey game was there for the taking, turned into one of the more egregious results in some time.

"We stopped playing after a while," Steen said. "It's just not a mature third period on our part. Bish has played so solid for us, especially these last two games. We come out like that in the third ... it's a terrible way to finish a hockey game.

"No, there's no excuses."

Blues coach Davis Payne said, "There was some solid play out of our team in the first 40. But for our intent on getting to the top of the crease and making sure we stopped there, we knew there was going to be second-chance situations to get us on the board.

"Coming out for the third period, I thought the direction was good. We stopped ourselves at their blue line, we stopped ourselves at the top of the circles a couple times. You have to make sure you grind your way into a scoring chance sometimes."

The Blues found out the hard way the Flames, who jumped into fifth place in the Western Conference, were not about to relinquish a one-goal lead in a game that means so much as far as points are concerned.

"They make diving, desperation plays, sticks in lanes, they blocked a ton of shots tonight," Backes said of the Flames. "We didn't bear down and really have that extra drive and initiative to make plays, to bury pucks, to win our battles when we needed it. The result ends up (6-0) against a team fighting for their lives just like we are. They brought it tonight and they got the better of us and made us look pretty bad at the end."

Should the Blues be talking about playing desperate this time of the year?

"It's something we've got to channel, find, do something," Backes said. "It's not one guy. It's a full team effort. We win as a team, we lose as a team.

"Tonight, we're all going to be thinking about this. It should be tough for guys to sleep tonight, no question about it after the result and the way we played in the third."

It is a bit stunning for a team that prides itself on working hard.

"I think we're a hard-working team. We're a pretty structured team," Steen said. "When we get away from it, this is what happens. For us, if we work hard every night and stick to our structure and we get beat ... those are tough to swallow, but at least we know we gave it our all. It's nights like this that take you off. I think we beat ourselves tonight."

* NOTES -- Blues general manager Doug Armstrong announced Tuesday that forward Vladimir Sobotka has a cracked bone in his left foot and was placed on injured-reserve. Sobotka will miss at least four weeks, then be reevaluated. Also, Armstrong said that goalie Jaroslav Halak has a cracked bone in his right hand but is day-to-day. Armstrong said Halak wouldn't be ready for Thursday's game at Washington but could be available for Saturday at the New York Islanders. Center Philip McRae (knee) was also placed on IR for two weeks. Armstrong also said David Perron is back from visiting doctor in Vancouver and that Perron is feeling "somewhat the same," and that no real progress has been made. ... The Blues recalled Adam Cracknell from Peoria to replace Sobotka in the lineup. ... Defenseman Nikita Nikitin (lower-body) missed his third consecutive game. ... Kiprusoff has allowed one goal on 81 shots in three games against the Blues this season. He has a 0.34 goals-against average and .988 save percentage on the season against the Blues. ... After going 111 games without being shut out, the Blues have been blanked in back-to-back games. ... The Blues have gone 122:07 without a goal. Their last goal was Matt D'Agostini's goal in Edmonton with 2:07 remaining in the game. ... Iginla has 24 goals and 40 assists in 55 career games against the Blues.

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