Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Blues blow lead again, fall to Senators in shootout

Second consecutive game team fails to hold lead in 
third period; Turris provides shootout winner in fifth round

ST. LOUIS -- Those fans that braved the a snowy St. Louis night saw plenty of offense from both the Blues and Ottawa Senators.

But what Blues fans didn't want to see was a team that plays lock-down hockey when leading, especially in the third period, fall behind for a second straight game.

The Blues got away with it Saturday against the Nashville Predators, winning in a shootout. Tuesday against the Senators, the Blues dangled the carrot again. This time, they couldn't reel it back in. The Senators bit back and snatched a crucial extra point.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Brenden Morrow (10) scores past Senators goalie Robin Lehner (40) to
give the Blues a lead Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.

Kyle Turris scored in the fifth round of the shootout to give the Senators a come-from-behind 5-4 victory before 14,758 at Scottrade Center. 

Turris beat Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak with a wrist shot after Maxim Lapierre fired wide for the Blues on Senators goalie Robin Lehner. 

Mika Zibanejad and Stephane Da Costa also scored shootout goals for Ottawa, which won for only the fifth time in 24 games after trailing after two periods

Jason Spezza had a goal and two assists for the Senators (25-21-11), who played their third game in four nights. Erik Karlsson had a goal and an assist, Zibanejad had two assists and Milan Michalek and Turris each scored. 

Lehner stopped 46 shots in the victory and won his first shootout of the season in four tries. Lehner was 0-6 for his career in shootouts.

The Blues received shootout goals from T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen, but could not score on their final three opportunities. 

Oshie finished with a goal and an assist, Jaden Schwartz had two assists and Halak stopped 27 shots for St. Louis. Brenden Morrow, David Backes and Jordan Leopold also scored for the Blues (37-12-6). It was their first loss to an Eastern Conference foe on home ice this season (9-0-1).

"It was a strange game at points, but sitting here, we're frustrated," Morrow said. "We felt like we let a game slip from us. That's a big point."

Down 3-1, the Senators scored three times in a 2:35 span in the third period to grab a 4-3 lead on goals by Michalek at 5:52, Turris at 7:02 and Spezza at 8:27 off a cast of loose coverage by the Blues, who entered Tuesday with a 25-0-3 record when leading after two periods. The Senators scored those three goals on four shots.

Michalek scored off a 3-on-2 rush that got the Senators rolling. Then Turris banked a shot in off a Blues player's skate to tie it and a failed clearing attempt resulted in Spezza's shot from the top of the left circle deflecting off Jay Bouwmeester's stick to put Ottawa ahead and shock not only the Blues, but the crowd that braved a snowstorm to be here.

"I think it's characteristic of what's going on right now," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're probably taking a step the wrong way when we've got the game in good hands and we're kind if turning pretty controllable games into track meets. 

"The second goal was the one that hurt us a lot. We're on the wrong side of the puck in the neutral zone and had full control of the hockey game. It was just winding down and that gave them the life and then the fluke third goal and the fourth goal was poor."

Morrow added: "Just a brain cramp, I guess. Just cheating on pucks on wrong sides. They got bounces and they were on the right side of pucks. It was just a little brain cramp there for four, five minutes. 

"For this team, yeah. I was sitting on the bench and things happened so quick. I'm stealing Hitch's lines and that's what he saw. It just happened real quick. We're playing the game, we're trying to battle. If we were on wrong side of pucks, that's our mistake. It's something we need to clean up. But yeah, that's uncharacteristic of this bunch because it's kind of our 'MO' is our tracking and back pressure and being on right sides of pucks. It's not a way you win hockey games."

Leopold scored his first goal as a member of the Blues and first in 38 games when his shot from below the goal line caromed in off Lehner at 11:08 of the third to tie the game 4-4. Leopold's last goal came March 26, 2013 against the Tampa Bay Lightning as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. 

After Karlsson tied the game 1-1 off a Spezza feed with 5:10 left in the second period, Magnus Paajarvi's backhand feed was stopped by Lehner, but Oshie popped in from the opposite side and blasted a one-timer that got lodged into the top half of the netting on top of the cross bar 19 seconds later. 

During a television timeout, Oshie went straight to the goal and pointed to the top half of the goal for referees Mike Hasenfratz and Marc Joannette to see. Initially, it was thought the puck went into the crowd. What was supposed to be a faceoff in the Senators zone turned into a video review, confirming Oshie's shot a goal.

"He was still hanging down there and people started shoveling the ice," Oshie said. "I wanted to argue my case. Fortunately he listened.

"I just had a feeling that it went in the way it came off my stick. I thought there was no way that it was going over the net. I saw the net move. It was a weird way to score, but I'll take them however I can get them."

Backes would give the Blues a 3-1 lead with 4.7 seconds remaining in the period on the Blues' 23rd shot of the period, which was a season high for shots in a period.

The Blues felt they had the game in hand, even after blowing a two-man advantage totaling 2 minutes 10 seconds where the Blues produced nine shots.

"You take out the 2 1/2 minutes where they get three goals, we've got a 3-1 lead at that point and it's almost like we took a deep breath," Backes said. "You can't take deep breaths and take your foot off the gas. Teams do that to you. We're just under siege there for a while and not playing the right way. The result is we've got to come back from a 4-3 deficit after having a 3-1 lead. 

"You talk about the 5-on-3, the 4-on-3, there's a lot of good plays being made and we don't finish it. I think if we score on either, it's demoralizing and momentum-building for us but instead, they kill it and a little bit of a momentum-shift. Is it the end of the world? No, but those are times when we've got a team on the ropes and they take a few penalties. We need to make them pay for it."

The Senators gained momentum when they got the Karlsson goal after killing off a set of penalties that led to them being down two men a total of 2:10. The Blues fired nine total shots during the man advantage, but could not beat Lehner. 

Morrow extended his point-streak against the Senators to seven games (10 points total with three goals and seven assists) and deposited the puck into the net for a 1-0 Blues lead with 5:52 left in the first period. 

Halak stood tall and stopped all 13 shots he faced in the first, including a one-timer from Michalek in the slot with 43 seconds left. 

The Blues had 55.8 seconds of power play time to end overtime when Clarke MacArthur hooked Oshie after the Blues' right wing intercepted a Karlsson pass and headed off on a breakaway. They finished 0-for-7 with the man advantage despite finishing with a season-high 50 shots on goal.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Maxim Lapierre (40) pokes the puck away from Ottawa's Chris Neil in the
Senators' 5-4 shootout victory against the Blues Tuesday night.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a chance in the third round to end it for the Blues, but Lehner kept it alive. Da Costa would beat Halak with a backhand that would prolong the game and give the Senators the chance they needed two rounds later.

"It'll be interesting to gauge and take a look at the power play, but we've had so much momentum from the power play all year," Hitchcock said. "This is probably the first time, but still, those two goals we scored in the second period were great goals. Everything we wanted to do, funnel the puck, putting it on the net, great goals. And then you're sitting there pretty comfortably with a 3-1 lead and the second one and all of the sudden, it evaporates. 

"Jaro had a tough night. I thought we were going to win it in the shootout even when we got the second goal there. Great goal, I thought we were going to win it there, too."

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