Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Blues fail to hold lead, drop shootout to Senators

Team blows 2-0 third period lead, lose Elliott to injury

ST. LOUIS -- If there had been anything as a sure bet in the past, it was the Blues and third period leads in the past.

The Blues had been one of the best teams at locking down third period leads, and they were 9-0-0 this season with a lead heading into the third period.

But there had been a few blips in the radar this season and the Blues were able to escape with the necessary two points when they lost a lead but prevailed in the end.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko (right) and Senators goalie Robin Lehner pursue a
puck during action Tuesday night at Scottrade Center. 

And to make matters worse, the Blues lost  starting goalie Brian Elliott to a lower-body injury that coach Ken Hitchcock didn't sound very optimistic about afterwards.

The Ottawa Senators overcame a two-goal deficit in the third and prevailed on Bobby Ryan's shootout goal to win 3-2 at Scottrade Center.

The Senators got a pair of third-period goals from Erik Condra and Alex Chiasson, and Ryan scored the lone goal in the shootout (in the third and final round). 

Robin Lehner stopped all three St. Louis shooters and made 27 saves in regulation and overtime to allow Ottawa (10-7-4) to cap a comeback from a 2-0 third-period deficit with a win.

The Senators, in the second of a five-game trip, got a goal from Chiasson with 40.4 seconds remaining to tie the game after pulling Lehner.

Ian Cole and Alexander Steen scored for the Blues (14-6-2), who lost Elliott to a lower-body injury in the second period.

With the Blues holding a 2-0 lead, Condra tumbled over Elliott, whose right leg appeared to buckle under him during a scramble for the puck in the Blues crease. After trying to skate it off under head athletic trainer Ray Barile's watchful eye, Elliott left the ice and threw his goalie stick while he was going down the tunnel.

"Yeah, it's real tough," defenseman Barret Jackman, who passed Brett Hull into third place on the franchise list for most games played (745), said of Elliott. "I'm sure he'll get evaluated tomorrow and see how bad it is. He's been playing unbelievable for us. Jake did a good job coming in, too. It's tough to see a guy like Ells, who works so hard, go down."

Cole agreed.

"It's definitely hard to see a teammate get hurt and not be able to finish the game, especially when you're Brian Elliott, who cares so much about playing well, cares so much about winning, especially against one of his former teams," Cole said. "... You know how hard it must be for him not to be able to finish the game, with the lead, having played so well early with a shutout going. It’s definitely tough but being able to kind of put that to the side and continue to play and continue to play well is something we have to get better at. Obviously didn’t do that."

Elliott, who stopped 16 shots, was replaced by Jake Allen with 6:02 left in the second. Allen and Elliott combined to stop 31 shots. 

"We'll let you know tomorrow," Hitchcock said. "Injuries are part of it. We'll see how long he's off for."

Ryan scored after Allen stopped Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman. 

"Low glove side," Ryan said, describing his shootout goal. "I really tried to feather it in, didn’t get as much on it as I would have liked but maybe that was a benefit."

Lehner was able to deny T.J. Oshie, Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.

"They have fantastic players, they are very good," Lehner said of the Blues. "You just have to be patient. It was nice."

Ottawa's Chris Neil scored during the battle in the crease, but after video review, it was deemed no goal because Condra made incidental contact with Elliott prior to the puck going into the net. 

The Blues seemed to rest on their laurels and weren't able to finish the game. They were 1-for-6 on the power play, including two chances in the third period to ice the game.

"They picked up the pace and we went back and stopped playing," Steen said. "... We were just sloppy in general. Second half of the game, we just weren't good enough in any areas."

"Tonight's really disappointing," Hitchcock said. "The loss is one thing, but the way we played at times is disappointing. Attention to detail and focus. Coming back, we took a day off, get re-energized. I thought our focus was really inconsistent. Poor at times execution, not close to what we played on the road.

"We played really poor. We didn't play well at all. ... Our attention to detail has to change. You come back off the road, that's the risk you play with, but we really lacked detail in our game today and that's what losing hockey is. When you don't have detail in your game, eventually you crack. Both goals, we didn't block shots, we didn't get in lanes. Both goals, we gave up easy entries ... you don't do that stuff if you're paying attention to detail. We had a chance to clear it in the last minute and we're fishing for it. You don't do that stuff."

Condra redirected Eric Gryba's wrist shot from the blue line top shelf past Allen with 12:05 remaining in the third period to cut the Blues' lead in half at 2-1. 

Chiasson poked a puck past Allen to tie the game 2-2 after Mike Hoffman's shot from the blue line squirted through the Blues goalie's legs. The Senators had pulled Lehner for a sixth attacker.

"It's all the things you need to do: blocking shots, getting in lanes, clearing pucks, hitting the net off the rush from the outside, all the things that you need to do to really hammer a game down, we didn't do," Hitchcock said. "We left the game out there. Had a chance on the power play at the end and didn't bear down. We used it as a rest period again instead of burying it."

It took three pucks in the net for one to count Tuesday; two goals were waved off in the first period. 

Cole gave the Blues a 1-0 lead with 5:37 remaining in the first period on his first goal since March 6 (30 games). His shot from the point got past Lehner after it hit off defenseman Erik Karlsson.

"Yeah, it is nice," Cole said of his first goal. "I tried shooting hard in the first part of the year and it didn't go in, so I figured I'd try the change up and it went in."

Jaden Schwartz's power-play bid was waved off after officials ruled Blues center Jori Lehtera had made contact with Lehner with 12:16 remaining in the first period. 

Moments later, Condra thought he scored a shorthanded goal with 10:34 left in the first, but officials whistled the play dead because they felt Elliott had the puck covered. Replays showed the puck had squirted behind Elliott, but it was out of sight for the referees. 

The Blues added to their lead on Steen's power-play goal with 7:55 remaining in the second period. Paul Stastny's cross-ice feed enabled Steen to step into a wrist shot from the edge of the right circle that beat Lehner short side. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Chris Butler (25) is being hounded by Ottawa's Mark
Stone during the Senators' 3-2 shootout victory Tuesday night.

Ryan had a chance to win it in overtime, but his shot hit the far post on a one-timer from the left circle. 

Lehner stopped Lehtera's attempt on a wraparound moments after Ryan's shot.

With the way the game is played these days, third-period leads are typically as good as gold. The Blues can't be happy to only gain a point out of this.

"It was definitely disappointing," Cole said. "We pride ourselves on being able to lock it down in the third and not allow a team to come back. Obviously we pride ourselves on being good in shootouts, too. In both those instances we failed tonight, for sure."

Now they have to hope for the best case scenario when it comes to Elliott.

"Goalies have been the heart and soul of our team," Steen said. "Biggest reason why we've been winning, so it's tough to see a guy like 'Moose' go down."

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