Thursday, December 4, 2014

Blues fall in Brodeur's debut

Breakdowns in own zone result in 4-3 loss to Predators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was supposed to be the storybook finish to a second opening chapter in Martin Brodeur's illustrious career when he donned another NHL jersey for the first time in 22 years that didn't have a New Jersey Devils logo on it.

However, the Blues apparently loaded their defensive zone miscues from Chicago Wednesday night and brought them on board the charter plane to Nashville 24 hours later.

Two days against the top teams competing with them for the Central Division lead, the Blues came away empty-handed while the Blackhawks and Predators continue to gain steam.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Martin Brodeur (middle) makes a left pad save of a shot by
the Predators' Craig Smith (right) Thursday night in Nashville. 

Mike Ribeiro's three-point night -- his first with the Predators -- highlighted Nashville's 4-3 victory against the Blues Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.

Despite Vladimir Tarasenko's two goals, the Blues (16-8-2) had too many shortcomings in the defensive zone once again, and didn't give the necessary support for the 42-year-old Brodeur, who stopped 20 shots and had a decent night for his first NHL game in eight months.

"I felt pretty good," Brodeur said. "It's like anything, it was new. I got a lot of work right from the get-go, too, so that helped to get me in the game. I'd like to make that one save in the third on the breakaway and got away from me there. That could have made the difference.

"We played decent. We just turned the puck over in big fashion. They took advantage of it. They score a breakaway goal, they score a tic-tac-toe goal early in the second there, but apart from that, especially in the second and third, we were pretty dominant defensively. We had the puck most of the night. We just couldn't get an extra goal."

Colin Wilson's breakaway goal was the difference midway through the third period as the Predators (17-6-2) jumped past the Blues in the division with a game in hand.

"I think we're playing good teams and we're making big errors," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team went 0-for-3 on the power play and is 0-for-17 spanning five games. "The mistakes we make are big errors. Breakaway to start the hockey game, fourth goal's a breakaway ... big errors. You're not going to win in the league no matter how hard you try. 

"We had a lot of try in us today. We had a lot of good things, especially in the offensive zone. When you make the big mistakes we're making on on our half of the red line ... we made huge mistakes in Chicago and we made big mistakes here today and they cost us, again."

The Blues came out flying early, forcing turnovers and getting quality chances. But they were only able to get ahead 1-0 on Tarasenko's team-leading 15th of the season after he stole a puck at center ice from Calle Jarnkrok.

Tarasenko and Alexander Steen worked a give-and-go and Tarasenko finished at 5:46 of the first period for a 1-0 lead.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette called a time out and the Predators began dictating play.

That's when the tide changed, and Nashville started to dictate and the Blues started making those mistakes.

"They're going to come back with a push, but still, I thought we did a lot of good things," said left wing Jaden Schwartz, who was reunited with fellow STL Line members Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera. "... They started playing better after the time out. It's not like they were dominant. We had our pushes back, too."

Filip Forsberg scored his third in three games against the Blues to tie it 1-1 with 5:50 remaining in the first after picking Lehtera's pocket near the blue line and knocking in a backhand of a Mike Ribeiro backhand that Brodeur stopped.

Then with 53 seconds left in the first, Ribeiro won a loose puck this time from Schwartz, who was trying to jump the play and fanned and Ribeiro set up an open Nystrom in the slot. Nystrom, who was open, one-timed a shot between Brodeur's pads for a 2-1 Nashville lead.

"The second goal, I don't think he was aiming there," Brodeur said of Nystrom. "I think he was going top glove and he fanned on it. I took it away from him and he went through my legs. Any time a goal goes through you, it's never a fun goal to allow." 

The defensive leaks continued early into the second period when Ribeiro got his third point of the game and first goal of the night on an easy empty-net goal 1:25 into the period for a 3-1 lead off a cross-ice feed from James Neal.

The Blues settled into the period and got to within 3-2 on Tarasenko's second of the game and 16th of the season off a faceoff win by Paul Stastny, and Tarasenko ripped a shot past Rinne 3:51 into the period.

After Wilson's goal, a goal in which the Blues got caught with defensemen Chris Butler and Alex Pietrangelo on a risky pinch in the offensive zone, Schwartz cut the Nashville lead to 4-3 when he wired a wrist shot past Rinne with 7:28 remaining. And the Blues had more sustained pressure in the ladder portions of the game with opportunities to tie the game but couldn't net the equalizer. 

"I thought we played a better overall game," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "Just a couple breakdowns that cost us the game. I thought we had a lot of pressure, I thought we were moving our feet. Better throughout the game today, and I think it was a much better game. I'm a lot happier about tonight. Unfortunately it wasn't a win.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Despite two goals from Vladimir Tarasenko (pictured), the Blues dropped
their second in as many nights, 4-3 to the Nashville Predators. 

"I don't think it was really a bad case of turnovers or missed plays. It was a couple missed communication and nothing that we can't clean up."

The Blues played the game with seven defensemen and sat an extra forward. Petteri Lindbohm, recalled earlier in the day, joined the group of six that played Wednesday in Chicago. Jay Bouwmeester missed his sixth straight game.

"We had some banged up guys," Hitchcock said. "Thank God we did have seven because we were playing five at the end."

Ian Cole, who only played 9 minutes, 31 seconds, was one of them. Cole took an upper body shot, and presumably Carl Gunnarsson, who played 12 fewer shifts than partner Kevin Shattenkirk. 

Brodeur, who faced eight shots in the final two periods after seeing 16 in the first, was strong early with a breakaway save on Wilson, then back-to-back stops on Jarnkrok and Craig Smith in splendid fashion.

Not enough to get career win No. 689.

"You never know how it's going to start," Brodeur said. "But getting in some work from the get-go, I was happy. Just feel the puck and feel the pressure and see how the game's coming at me. 

"... Glad it's over and now I got it under my belt and we're going to stop talking about it and just play hockey."

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