Detroit scores twice late to take 5-3 victory; Datsyuk nets game-winner
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues simply went to the well one too many times this week.
It's difficult enough to come from behind in the NHL on a nightly basis, but the Blues prevailed twice this week when trailing.
Not just trail, but trail by multiple goals.
The Blues trailed again against Detroit. Down by two with 20 minutes to go, the Blues were able to get a push and pull even, but Pavel Datsyuk was opportunistic in scoring late in the game, and Justin Abdelkader added an insurance goal for good measure in Detroit's 5-3 victory over the Blues Saturday night.
The Wings (41-20-8) blitzed the Blues (31-29-9), who saw their three-game winning streak come to an end, with goals 16 seconds apart in the first period and two more 1:20 apart in the third period to take control of a game the Blues were trying to win for the third time this week when trailing by two goals.
"That's definitely not a position that we want to start getting ourselves into," said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who assisted on Matt D'Agostini's tying goal in the third. "It's great to know obviously that we have that resiliency and we can fight back, but when we're on top like we were against Montreal (Thursday), I think we've showed that we can handle the lead. Especially against teams like this, you really have to bear down coming down the stretch."
The Blues failed this time down the stretch, and Datsyuk took advantage of a puck that was rimmed around the boards. Blues defenseman Ian Cole was on the play. Instead of maybe gaining control of the puck, Cole tried to swipe at it and clear the zone. He missed, Datsyuk collected a tipped puck and split Cole and T.J. Oshie before getting Roman Polak to go down on the play and beat Jaroslav Halak with a shot high to the blocker side with 6:47 to play.
"It was a tough play for me, but it was two guys in front of me, so I was just trying to take the space on the ice," said Halak, who stopped 22 shots in the game. "(Datsyuk) made a good play. He made the right play. Usually when you give turnovers to players like that usually end up in our net.
"Tonight it seemed like every time we made a turnover, they scored a goal. It's tough, but it was a learning game for us. Let's not get distracted or anything. Just get ready for the next one."
Added Blues coach Davis Payne, "Defensively, it's a puck that's on the outside wall. They get the contact they need and enough of a loose puck that comes to him. The right play would be to stay on the defensive side of that situation. It's a great player making a great play as well."
The Blues were down 3-1 and got goals from David Backes and D'Agostini 2:31 apart and got another sellout crowd of 19,150 re-energized.
"We felt the third period was going to be again about effort," Payne said. "I thought for the most part, we worked consistently through that game. Games are going to go back and forth, especially against a good team like that.
"We shot some pucks, we attacked from the weak side with some stuff-opportunities. Now all of the sudden, possessions started to get a little bit longer. We were fortunate to push a couple of them in."
Detroit called its timeout to regroup, then began to push back. Soon thereafter, Payne used his timeout in a 3-3 game.
"That was just fatigue," Payne said of the time out. "We had a tired group on the ice. We had five defensemen going for the better part of that hockey game. It was simply to give those guys a breath. They had fresh guys coming over their boards. For us to even up that energy, the advantage was the only thing we were looking for there. We won the faceoff, got ourselves to the right spot.
"We got it back tied. We knew they were going to push. I didn't think that the plays that went in were necessarily the type of push that were going to cause a bend and then a brake. It was a couple puck touches on some key plays that needed to be handled differently."
The Blues went ahead in the game on Adam Cracknell's first NHL goal after a shot caught Jimmy Howard by surprise.
"It was a dream-come-true," Cracknell said. "I don't know how many times I pretended to be on the driveway back home and pretending to be an NHL player scoring your first goal. It's definitely a great feeling. It's just too bad we didn't get the win.
"I was just thinking shot the whole time. I wasn't trying to be fancy or anything like that. I just caught (Howard) off-guard and got it."
Cracknell converted Ryan Reaves' feed into the left circle and quickly whipped a shot past Howard to give the Blues a 1-0 lead 9:17 into the first period.
But that lead was short-lived as the Wings struck twice within a 16-second span on goals by Ruslan Salei and Darren Helm.
Salei picked off an errant Alex Pietrangelo pass and beat Halak high glove side at 11:51 before Helm converted a rebound in tight at 12:07.
Berglund nearly tied it for the Blues on the power play with six seconds remaining in the period, but Howard came up with a big save on a shot from the high slot following McDonald's feed from behind the net.
The Blues, the top team on the power play since the All-Star break, could not get anything charged up with the man-advantage, while Detroit converted on their only one in the period. The Blues had four straight power play opportunities -- three in the second period.
Niklas Kronwall's shot from the blue line found its way in with Tomas Holmstrom screening Halak for a 3-1 lead with 1:25 to play in the second period.
"Their penalty kill out-efforted, out-worked our power play in situations," Payne said. "We didn't make very clean decisions. In contact situations, they won most of them, either physically or with the stick and that allowed them to extend the lead on their power play."
Added Shattenkirk, "Our main problem right now is breaking the puck into the zone. Our zone entries are kind of all over the place. Once we started simplifying it there at the end and rimming pucks in and just trying to win battles, we kind of gained possession that way. Sometimes that's what you need to do when it's not working out."
The Blues, who trailed 3-1 Monday to Columbus before winning 5-4 in a shootout, then trailed 3-0 at Columbus Wednesday before winning 4-3 in overtime, were looking for a trifecta.
"They're an experienced team obviously," Shattenkirk said about Detroit. "They called that time out there (after the Blues tied it). They have guys who have been there before and they kind of righted the ship there and kind of grabbed the momentum back from us there. It's something that we have to definitely learn from. You have to tip your hat to a team like that. They don't quit."
* NOTES -- Defenseman Nikita Nikitin left the game early in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return. ... Pietrangelo played a game-high 27:27. His career-high was 27:56 on Oct. 30 against Atlanta. ... D'Agostini has four points in two games. ... With an assist, Andy McDonald now has 22 points in 20 games, including eight in the last five. ... Datsyuk has 62 points in 52 career games against the Blues after a goal and an assist Saturday.