Sunday, March 22, 2015

Blues fall in OT to Red Wings on controversial goal

Abdelkader's rebound goal not overturned despite being played with broken stick

DETROIT -- Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo slammed his stick over the bench boards in anger as he departed the ice; Detroit's Justin Abdelkader dropped his after he made contact with the puck.

Those were the emotions of feelings of two players on the ice for the final play between the Blues and Detroit Red Wings.

In the end, the puck was in the Blues' goal 24 seconds into overtime, and the Red Wings were celebrating a 2-1 overtime victory on Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena in controversial fashion.

Abdelkader, who assisted on Detroit's first goal -- coincidentally -- 24 seconds into the third period, backhanded Marek Zidlicky's rebound past Jake Allen for the winner. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) and defenseman Barret Jackman (5) defend
the goal as Detroit's Erik Cole sets up in Sunday's game at Detroit.

But should it have counted? Not by standards indicated in NHL's Rule 10.3 in the official league rule book.

Replays clearly showed Abdelkader knocked the rebound into the Blues' goal with a broken stick on his backhand, and clearly shows his stick broken on the initial attempt trying to get the rebound, with his stick breaking on Allen's pads. 

The first portion of Rule 10.3 that refers to this particular play says that: A broken stick is one which, in the opinion of the referee, is unfit for normal play. A player without a stick may participate in the game. A player whose stick is broken may participate in the game provided he drops the broken stick. A minor penalty shall be imposed for an infraction of this rule. 

The stick incident is a non-reviewable play in Toronto with the NHL Situation Room. Officials need to deem on the ice if the puck was played with a broken stick. That never materialized and Blues captain David Backes went to the officials to ask for an explanation and was told as much.

"They said there wasn't a broken stick," Backes said of referees Eric Furlatt, who was official standing along goal line, and Ian Walsh. "... I tried to do my due diligence and ask a question to the officials, but I don't know if that's reviewable or what the scope of that is."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was more forthcoming that instead of a goal, Abdelkader should have been issued a two-minute penalty instead.

"The goal shouldn't have counted," he said. "It was in with a broken stick, we should still be playing. That's one of those breaks, but in saying that, we took a penalty late in the game; it cost us, but still, we should at least be playing in a shootout about now."

When asked if the play could have been reviewed, Hitchcock said, "What are we going to look at? The referees left the building. Elvis left the building. We didn't have a chance to meet Elvis."

Does Hitchcock expect an explanation from the league?

"No, not yet but we will," he said. "We'll get it."

Pietrangelo was tied up with Abdelkader in front of Allen, trying to gain leverage and some thought that it was Pietrangelo that perhaps snapped Abdelkader's stick with a slash, but that obviously wasn't the case.

"I'm not going to comment on the last goal," Pietrangelo said. "I don't know when it broke. To me, it looked like it was broken, but I don't know when it broke."

Allen was more perturbed about Detroit's continual push of players in his goal crease.

"I told the ref the whole game they were in the crease a lot," Allen said. "(Abdelkader's) skates were between my legs and I couldn't really move. Four on three ... you get a point out of it. 

"... It was a one-timer from the bottom of the circle (by Zidlicky) and I stopped it, it hit (Abdelkader) and bounced right behind me. Fortunate bounce."

Patrik Berglund was serving a minor penalty for tripping late in the third period. The Blues were able to kill off the time left in regulation, including Allen's glove save on Tomas Tatar with 39 seconds left, but eventually, saw their strong recent penalty kill finally succumb to Detroit's 4-on-3 advantage in the overtime. It's what Backes lamented more than anything.

"I'm less peeved at that (controversial goal) than I am more the parade to the penalty box in a road game on a back-to-back," Backes said. "We're killing our penalty killers by five or six PK's against every night. It's a tough task to keep that up and be perfect, which is essentially what you need if we're going to win games like this. If it's a hard-nosed, rugged penalty, I think that's maybe one thing, but it just seems like wheever we start to get some momentum and play our game, we're in the box again killing another penalty and that's tough to keep up.

"You parade to the box like that, it's Murphy's Law. It's eventually going to bite you in the butt."

And on the sixth penalty kill of the game, it finally bit the Blues, who have been on quite a penalty kill run of 40-for-43 over the past 13 games, and two of those goals allowed have been off one of their own sticks (Saturday at Minnesota) as a result of a centering pass and Sunday's broken stick play.

The Blues (45-21-7) gained a point and moved one point ahead of the Nashville Predators for the Central Division lead and five ahead of third-place Chicago. They played the fifth of a six-game trip and are now 2-1-2 on it, getting a possible six of 10 points.

It's the second time in three games the Blues carried a 1-0 lead into the third period (they led Thursday at Winnipeg 1-0 after two) and lost.

The Blues got the lead on Alexander Steen's power play goal in the second period.

Steen's 300th point in a Blues uniform gave them a 1-0 lead after Steen was able to beat Jimmy Howard on a wrister from the top of the left circle, with Backes and Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall providing the screen in front on the power play at 9:38.

Barret Jackman made a strong defensive play off a late 2-on-1 Red Wings rush in the second period. After partner Petteri Lindbohm fell to the ice at the Wings blue line trying to make a play but it sprung Darren Helm and Tatar. But Jackman made the sliding play and Tatar's shot never got through to Allen with two minutes to play in the period.

The Blues were trying to hold that lead up, but in the first minute of the third, Erik Cole was the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce on a puck that Abdelkader knocked off the side of defenseman Chris Butler's face and in the slot. Cole was able to pop the puck over Allen's left shoulder 24 seconds into the period to tie the game 1-1.

"I thought it hit him right in the face," Allen, who made 23 saves, said of Butler. "Usually when that happens, a quick whistle happens just in case with safety. It was on a ladie's tee for Cole. ... It was a weird play; I was caught off-guard a little bit, but I still maybe could have got a little more aggressive."

"I think we can all agree that was a bad bounce," said Pietrangelo, Butler's partner. "It's a tough one to give up, timing-wise. I was a half a step away from getting a stick on that. He's OK thankfully. It's never easy seeing somebody getting hit with a puck. 

"We got (one point); we've got to find a way to get back on track here."

The Blues, who had their fair share of weird bounces go in against them Saturday in a 6-3 loss to the Wild, saw another one 24 hours later.

"Doesn't matter. We turned it over three times," Hitchcock said, noting the puck could have been out of the zone moments earlier.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues captain David Backes comes to celebrate with Alex Pietrangelo (left)
and Alexander Steen, who scored for the Blues on Sunday in a 2-1 loss.

"They'll be paid back in time. Those bounces happen," Backes said. "We've got to keep working. If you spent too much time on the penalty kill, you spend too much time in your zone, they're getting too many offensive chances. We had a few power plays ourselves, we score on one. Special teams battles is 1-1 after it's all said and done, but we've got a 1-0 lead on that special teams' battle, we should finish that off in regulation rather than having to get that to overtime killing a 4-on-3 in overtime."

The Blues, in a stretch of nine games in 15 days, played their eighth in 13 days and second in less than 24 hours.

"Overall we played a good game; back-to-back, that's a tough schedule, 22 hours," Pietrangelo said. "We took a lot of penalties tonight to put us on our heels for a lot of the game, but PK stepped up. It would have been nice to get that one though."

"We did a lot of good things on tired legs on a back-to-back," Backes said. "I think if we cancel out some of those penalties and play our game, I think we had some good jump tonight; a lot of guys invested and deserved maybe a little bit better of we contain ourselves and don't go to the box so much."

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