Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wild snaps eight-game slide with shootout win over Blues

Two goals from Stewart not enough; Oshie sits first of two games

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Stewart had just scored his second goal of the game to give the Blues a lead in the third period. But instead of doing the things that are typically a recipe for success, the Blues lost an edge.

It led to a 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota, snapping the Wild's eight-game winless skid Tuesday night at Scottrade Center as the Blues played without forward T.J. Oshie, who was scratched earlier in the day for an unexcused team absence.

Stewart, who has 26 goals on the season, four goals in three games, now has five multi-goal games and 13 goals in 20 games with the Blues, put his team ahead 2-1 just a minute and 19 seconds into the third period.

But the Blues quickly lost that lead when Pierre-Marc Bouchard tied it at 3:47 of the final period and the Wild scored on two of three chances against Jaroslav Halak to win in the shootout here for the second time this season.

"The disappointing thing for me is a 2-1 lead and our puck decisions at that point weren't what they needed to be," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "We've talked a lot about these things for a while now.

"That's as off as we've been in quite some time as far as our discipline with puck decisions. We get ourselves to a lead, two scoring chances, faceoff in our own zone and the puck's in our net."

The Blues (34-32-10), who play in Detroit tonight, agreed.

"I think after we scored that goal, the shift after, we did some things that put us in bad areas, put us in tough positions," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "Unfortunately, they got a lucky bounce off a stick and it went in.

"Throughout the game, any time there's a goal scored for or against you, I think the next shift is the most important one. If you score the goal, you want to continue the momentum in their end, if you get scored against, you want to change the momentum."

The Blues, who got a shootout goal from Andy McDonald, never would have gotten to that point had it not been for their penalty killers.

They needed to kill off the last minute of regulation after Matt D'Agostini was whistled for flipping the puck over the glass, and it turned into a two-man advantage when Vladimir Sobotka, who returned to the lineup after missing 12 games with a broken foot, went off for tripping.

In overtime, instead of playing 4-on-2, which is not allowed, the Blues played with three players and Minnesota was given access to a fifth skater since overtime is a 4-on-4 game. When the Blues first player came out of the box, the teams played 5-on-4 until there is a whistle for stoppage in play.

But the Blues were up to the challenge despite being outshot 8-1 in the overtime period.

"They did a great job as far as me seeing the puck and clearing guys for me in front of the net," goalie Jaroslav Halak said of his PK unit. "I had good view on the pucks."

Said Payne, "Great job by the killers. I'm not taking away from that, but to me it should have been a 6-on-5 situation (at the end of the game, with Minnesota playing with an extra attacker and down 2-1) instead of a 4-on-3, 5-on-3, 5-on-4 situation (in overtime)."

After Eric Nystrom gave the Wild (36-32-8) a 1-0 lead just 1:43 into the game, Stewart tied it up on the power play after nifty passing from McDonald and Patrik Berglund, who tied his career-high in points with 47.

The Blues missed out on a golden opportunity in the first when they had 55 seconds of a two-man advantage and generated only two shots.

"I wrestled with the timeout there, probably could have used one to get the first unit back out there," Payne said. "... We had a low situation where we had possession, but they take away high stuff. You can't just tee it up in the shin pads. You've got to execute to what the next play is.

"I thought we got it there a time or two, just not with enough sustained pressure, not enough shot-lane situations. That one could have gone differently, certainly, if I had called a timeout there."

Stewart's second of the game came after he saw Ryan Reaves crashing the net. Stewart flipped a backhand pass towards the goal and it caromed in off Jose Theodore's right skate.

"That first one, Berglund made an unbelievable pass," Stewart said. "That second one, I was just trying to throw it on net. I saw Reaver there ... the puck had eyes."

But the Blues couldn't generate what they needed after grabbing that third-period lead, which is often the case so crucial in the league.

"You look at our second period, we had some puck possessions, but we never forced them to go all the way back to their net," Payne said of the Wild. "We were always looking for that next pass. You have to be disciplined in that area.

"You get yourself out into a third period, you get yourself a lead, every puck's got to go behind d-men, every puck has to be put in a situation where they have to go 200 feet and work through your structure. We didn't do that. I have a pretty good feeling the team tomorrow night will take full advantage if we don't clean that up."

The Blues, who beat Minnesota 6-3 on Saturday and outshot them 47-16 in that game, saw a much different team here Tuesday.

"That's usually the case in this league," Stewart said. "Teams respond well, especially with them not playing well in their building. We knew they were going to come out and have a little zip in their game."

"I think for the most part, we did a lot of things well in that game," Colaiacovo said. "I think we got away from shooting the puck as good as we normally do. Unfortunately, we came up short. We've got to put this one behind us and focus on a Detroit team tomorrow that's going to bring a lot more."

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