Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Avalanche bury Blues 5-0

St. Louis thoroughly outplayed, go winless on trip at 0-2-1

DENVER -- The Blues were looking for a strong finish heading into the holiday break.

After blowing third-period leads in back-to-back games against Los Angeles and San Jose and coming away with only one point, the Blues were looking for an even split in Colorado.

They never got it, and it was quite evident from the first period when former Blue Erik Johnson and Zach Redmond scored twice late in the period, and the Avalanche never looked back in a 5-0 thumping against the Blues Tuesday night at Pepsi Center.

Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Ryan O'Reilly each had a goal and an assist, Brad Stuart and Gabriel Landeskog each had two assists and Semyon Varlamov registered his14th shutout of the season -- third this season -- upon his return to the lineup from injury. He stopped 26 shots.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues captain David Backes (left) said the team deserved to be down in
the game against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. The Blues lost 5-0.

It was the Blues' worst all-around game of the season and they concluded their trip 0-2-1 and limp home for the Christmas break and looking forward to get home. They were shut out for the fourth time this season, all on the road. They allowed a season-high 41 shots on goal.

"I don't know if it's something where you have it or don't have it, but we started out slow and it took us too long to get to our game," captain David Backes said. "They kicked our butts in every facet of the game the first 40 minutes. We deserved to be down 5-0. They ramped it up a notch from the last time we saw them. The result is pretty appropriate to the way the game was played, I think."

Jake Allen was pulled after two periods after allowing five goals on 31 shots and replaced by Martin Brodeur.

"Chasing the puck, really just not doing the things that we're successful at, really just working hard and competing," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I think that's what it comes down to in games like this on the road. We lost some close ones the last two games, but today, we have to come out and play a much better game and we just didn't do it enough." 

The Blues were never in sync and were more discombobulated in the first period than anything, even though they were able to thwart off an Avalanche two-man advantage for 1:09. 

But Johnson burned his former mates again with his third goal against them in the past two games with a wrist shot from the high slot with Allen screened at 15:02 of the period for a 1-0 lead.

Then with T.J. Oshie off for slashing, Redmond converted on the power play as the Blues never got a clear, off a feed from Ryan O'Reilly with 1:15 left in the period to make it 2-0.

The Blues were outshot 14-7 and never really had any sustained pressure on Varlamov at the other end. Varlamov made his first appearance in the past seven games and third in 15 games with a recurring groin injury.

One would wonder if the second period would wake up the Blues. 

Not a chance.

Colorado scored three more times, with Tanguay, O'Reilly and Iginla doing the honors. O'Reilly and Iginla scored 40 seconds apart late in the second to further the bludgeoning. 

Tanguay scored at 5:49 when Iginla's shot caromed off Tanguay in the slot. 

O'Reilly scored another power play goal with a shot high into the corner short side at 16:47 and Iginla's hammered home a one-timer from the right circle at 17:27. 

"You can come up with all the sayings and blame it on whatever you want, but this group of guys know we're going to need a better effort every single night or we're going to pay the price," Backes said. "We did that tonight. The result was a lopsided defeat. A sour taste for the Christmas holiday."

"I think it's pretty simple," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It's really what's been going on for the last little while. Our goals against have been going up through the roof. That's a sign of not checking, not being responsible, not competing on the puck near hard enough. Way too many goals against, way too many easy scoring chances."

Who does the onus fall on?

"It falls on everybody, it's all of us," Hitchcock said. "That's the staple. Whether you score five goals, or four goals or three goals or one goal, the goal that's been here is to not give up much. And then if you don't give up much, you get lots usually. But we're just trading chances. And get games like that, where it's in your net before you blink. Can't win playing like this."

The Blues get three days to regroup, get refreshed and get back to playing the way they're capable. Because it went MIA on Tuesday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
It was that kind of night for Blues defenseman Chris Butler (left), as the
Colorado Avalanche blanked St. Louis 5-0 on Tuesday.

And it hasn't been said often, if at all, this season, but the Blues had little to nothing. And the goose egg on the scoreboard was proof enough.

"We're going to have to realize to be a top echelon team, we're going to get played hard every single night," forward Steve Ott said. "For us, our character has to put that work before skill. 

"Let's be honest. We lost too many puck battles in the offensive zone, the defensive zone, the neutral zone. You do that, that's a recipe for disaster. It was tonight."

* NOTES -- The Blues saw their three-game winning streak at Pepsi Center snapped. ... Alex Pietrangelo saw his seven-game point streak snapped.

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