St. Louis misses out on chance of jumping into
fourth in West; finishes with six of eight points on trip
By LOUIE KORAC
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blues' season-best six-game came to a screeching halt here at Nationwide Arena Friday night.
After having the early jump, even grabbing an early lead, the Blues could get nothing else past Sergei Bobrovsky, and the Columbus Blue Jackets, playing like a desperate team trying to creep back into the playoff picture, scored four unanswered goals en route to a 4-1 victory over the Blues, beating St. Louis for the first time in four games this season.
The Blues, who were riding the record shutout streak by Brian Elliott and the entire team, turned to Jake Allen Friday night after blanking the Minnesota Wild 2-0 Thursday in St. Paul, the third straight shutout the team and Elliott have earned.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Vladimir Sobotka (17) battles with Blue Jackets
defenseman Dalton Prout for the puck Friday in Columbus.
They came into the game with some gaudy shutout numbers but saw all of them go by the wayside.
The loss saw the Blues (23-15-2) miss out on a golden opportunity to jump into fourth place in the Western Conference ahead of idle San Jose (in fifth) and Los Angeles (in fourth). Instead, the Blues will remain in sixth place and after finishing the trip 3-1-0, they end the season with seven of their remaining eight games on home ice.
"You can't be disappointed, but we'd like to have a better effort tonight," said defenseman Jordan Leopold, who lost for the first time as a member of the Blues. "Sometimes it doesn't work out that way. As professionals that we are, we've got to come out ready to play here on Sunday."
The Jackets, 11-1-3 in their last 15 home games, scored three times by going to the net in front of Allen, who only saw 19 shots in the game. But a pair of tipped goals (by Cam Atkinson and Ryan Johansen) as well as a redirection by Marian Gaborik in the third period along with Artem Anisimov's goal in the crease displayed the urgency the Jackets showed in a game they needed. Despite the win, Columbus remains three points in back of eighth-place Detroit with seven to play.
"I thought we outplayed them in the first period, but then I thought our power play took our energy out of us," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think we've lived on this fine line for a little while. We didn't live on it (Friday). We made some mistakes checking-wise for me. I think when you're scoring one goal a game and you're not going into those hard areas to score ... they scored three goals and they went into the hard areas. We weren't able to do that today.
"I just don't think we're going in for the second and third opportunities. We've got away with it before, but tonight we didn't."
After getting in at 2:30 a.m. local time from Minnesota, the Blues had the early jump, and they got a Kevin Shattenkirk goal just 1 minute, 34 seconds into the game. They were pressing for a second goal and had many opportunities, but Bobrovsky, who stopped 31 shots, kept his team within one goal until they could equalize and eventually get the lead.
"Is it tough to play back to back while the other team's sitting there? I think it's a disadvantage," Blues captain David Backes said. "Is it a throw-in that they win the game tonight or that we don't have the effort, the energy to win? Absolutely not. We've played back to back and had a lot of success. We're not going to use that as an excuse. There's lots of factors that add up to why we didn't win tonight. You've got to give them credit. They came out and played a hard game. We need to match that intensity and push them right back."
Said Shattenkirk: "We had a lot of chances. Bobrovsky has been playing well all year. He makes big saves for them. Once that happens, we just have to keep staying on the hunt, stay hungry. We can't let it get us discouraged.
"I think they did a good job sniffing out that it was a back to back (for the Blues). After those first seven or eight minutes, they started ramping up the physicality. We pushed them back a little bit, but they were able to put their opportunities in the net."
Atkinson scored on a double-tipped shot with 5:28 left in the first that tied the game, then Anisimov, parked in the crease, jammed home Brandon Dubinsky's backhand feed with 5:40 left in the second for a 2-1 Jackets lead before Johansen benefited from a shot from the point, a deflection and fortuitous bounce and he tucked it into an empty net with 1:24 left in the second for a 3-1 lead.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko (left) and Columbus' James
Wisniewski get tangled up during action Friday at Nationwide Arena.
Gaborik put the game out of reach when he redirected Mark Letestu's centering feed on a 2-on-1 just 1:21 into the third to give Columbus a three-goal lead.
"Oh no, We can't use that as an excuse. We have to execute our game plan," Leopold said when asked if fatigue set in. "You look at it, they came at us hard. We knew that. There was no secret to that game. We need to bury our opportunities and make smart plays. We just didn't execute as smart as we should have tonight.
"You want to keep pressing, but of course they're a desperate hockey team right now. You look at where they're sitting. They were going to try and come out with some steam and play that whole 60-minute game. There were times that we got out-battled and they scored on some opportunities. We found ourselves chasing the game. It's just not the way we want to play."
The Blues took six of eight points on the trip and now come home for home games against Chicago, Vancouver, Dallas and Phoenix.
"You learn, you move on," Hitchcock said. "We get ready for the next game."
* NOTES -- The Blues need nine seconds to break the franchise record for consecutive shutout minutes of 201:32, set March 21-29, 2012. The streak now sits at 215:56. They also broke the all-time road shutout mark of 196:15 set Dec. 14-Jan. 3, 1968-69. That mark sits at 204:01. ... Hitchcock will go for win No. 600 on Sunday against the Blackhawks. He would become the 11th coach to accomplish the feat, with six of them having coached the Blues (Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, Mike Keenan, Joel Quenneville, and Jacques Martin). ... The Blues were 10-2 in their last 12 against the Jackets, including 5-1 at Nationwide Arena prior to Friday. ... The Blues held the Jackets to one goal in five of the previous six meetings prior to Friday. ... The Blues were 0-for-5 on the power play, making them 3-for-40 over the last 15 games.