Saturday, March 28, 2015

Columbus keeps rolling, doubles up Blues 4-2

St. Louis, without Oshie, loses Steen to 
lower-body injury; Berglund gets goal, assist

ST. LOUIS -- The return of Kevin Shattenkirk was supposed to give the Blues a boost.

Shattenkirk, who missed 25 games after an abdominal injury sustained on Feb. 1 that required surgery, was back on the ice along with Carl Gunnarsson that gave the Blues a healthy crop of defensemen. It forced them to sit out Robert Bortuzzo, who's given them nothing but good minutes since being acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But before the game the Blues found out that T.J. Oshie would not be available because of flu-like symptoms, and they lost Alexander Steen to an inadvertent knee-on-knee contact with Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Cody Goloubef. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk (left) and Barret Jackman (5) try to
defend Columbus' Ryan Johansen in action Saturday night.

The Blues, fighting for position in the playoffs, were playing catch-up all night. The Blue Jackets are making life miserable for anyone on their path these days, and they made things tough on the Blues in a 4-2 victory, their sixth in a row -- all against Western Conference foes -- Saturday night at Scottrade Center.

Cam Atkinson and Boone Jenner each had a goal and an assist as the Blue Jackets (35-34-4) won a franchise-best eighth-straight road game. 

The Blue Jackets won for the ninth time in 10 games. The win was their 22nd on the road, also a franchise record.

William Karlsson had a goal for the Blue Jackets. Sergei Bobrovsky was in goal for the second straight night in and made 29 saves one day after making 31 saves in a 5-2 victory at the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.

The Blues (46-22-7) remained three points behind the Nashville Predators for first place in the Central Division. The Blues have seven games remaining with one in hand.

Patrik Berglund had a goal and an assist, his first multi-point game since Jan. 6, and Vladimir Tarasenko scored his team-leading 36th goal. 

The second-place Blues lead the Minnesota Wild by four points and the Blackhawks by five in the Central Division. 

"I thought the difference in the game was the game was in their end quite a bit, but their ability to defend was greater than our tenacity to come up with loose pucks and score," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That was the difference in the game. They scored two goals off odd-man rushes where we made plays that were kind of hope-for plays offensively and led to odd-man rushes, goals. We didn't win near enough battles for space, pucks in the offensive zone to keep plays alive. We had opportunities and did a little bit in the third, caused a couple penalties. We've got it in there but were unable to sustain any prolonged pressure. They were off back-to-back. If we would have played in the first and second like we did in the third, we could have really worn them down. We didn't play that way."

Shattenkirk's return didn't spark the necessary jump to get two points. He played 21 minutes, 34 seconds.

"I felt alright," Shattenkirk said. "It's still a work in progress, but early on, it was a little panicky and just trying to get used to the speed of the game and making plays quickly. And then from that moment on, it was just trying not to over-extend myself. I know it's tough because we were always down by a goal, but not trying to get too crazy and over-extend myself offensively and on the power play, staying out too long and things like that."

The Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead on Karlsson's first goal in 19 games. Columbus broke out with a rush, and Karlsson took a cross-ice pass from Scott Hartnell and beat Blues goalie Brian Elliott 7:06 into the first period. 

Ryan Johansen almost gave Columbus a two-goal lead near the end of the first period when he went in on a breakaway from the left after Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo fell down and lost the puck. But Johansen's backhand was wide of the goal. 

St. Louis went scoreless in the first period for the ninth straight game. The last one came March 10 against the Winnipeg Jets. They've gone 185:40 without a first period goal.

Instead of jumping on a tired team that played in Chicago 24 hours earlier, the Blues seemed passive.

"We know that they're a team ... they capitalize on your turnovers and giveaways," Elliott said. "They've got guys jumping. We knew that going into it, but it's a team coming on a back-to-back. We should be fresh on and get the jump on and we didn't tonight."

"They came out really well in the first and applied their pressure to us," Shattenkirk said. "We never really just kind of established our game and didn't really get sustained pressure in the offensive zone. We had some transitions, but we just needed more bodies at the net, more pucks at the net, especially with a team on a back-to-back. We kind of made it easy for them defending and allowed them to keep their energy, what they had left the rest of the game."

But the Blues were concerned about Steen, the team's second-leading scorer with 62 points and assists leader (38). He left with 11:29 remaining in the first after he collided with Goloubef, making contact with each other's right knees.

"Two really big pieces that we're obviously missing on the ice," Berglund said of Steen and Oshie. "I think you can tell. Hopefully they're better and they get back real soon.

"You've got to do the best you can with it, but we played pretty much 20 minutes today. The first 40 wasn't very good obviously. We've got to play for 60 minutes. ... We've got to start playing for 60 minutes."

Hitchcock didn't have an immediate answer regarding Steen.

"I don't know. We'll evaluate him for tomorrow," the coach said.

Going forward, the Blues were mixing and matching lines. There seemed to be no sync with players, and the power play was most affected. It went 1-for-6.

"There's no chemistry out there with the lines," Shattenkirk said. "It messes things up. Two guys who drive the bus for us. They're big leaders on our team.

"Going forward, it was ugly on the power play tonight, but that's something we have to build on, is that positive shift and we saw it worked."

The teams traded goals in the second period. The Blue tied the game twice and the Blue Jackets retook the lead each time. 

Berglund's first goal in 13 games tied the game 52 seconds into the period after Jay Bouwmeester poke-checked the puck away from Columbus' Nick Foligno and Jori Lehtera sprung Jaden Schwartz and Berglund on a 2-on-0. Berglund finished Schwartz's pass to make it 1-1. 

Johnson's power-play goal gave Columbus a 2-1 lead when his slap shot from the blue line beat a screened Elliott at 11:39. It was Johnson's first goal in 28 games. The Blues had been 44-for-47 killing penalties the goal. 

Tarasenko scored a power-play goal for the Blues to tie the game 2-2. He took a Berglund pass into the left circle and his wrist shot beat a screened Bobrovsky, who had David Backes in front of him at 14:44. 

But for the third time in the game, Columbus reclaimed the lead when Jenner was all alone in front after taking a Ryan Johansen pass with 20.1 seconds remaining. The puck deflected off Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo right to Johansen, who fed Jenner and he finished the shot on Columbus' 14th shot of the game.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Patrik Berglund (21) watches as Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky makes
a save of a David Backes (middle) shot on the Jackets' 4-2 victory.

It was the kind of goal that can deflate a team at the end of the period, especially after allowing the go-ahead goal at that time.

"It bounced straight to their guy so I challenged (Johansen)," said Elliott, who made 13 saves. "He faked the shot and put it backdoor. Not much you can do on that one.

"Twenty seconds later, we're back in here ready to regroup. You never want to give that up. We can't be offense, offense, offense. You've got to keep it out of your net, too. Starting with me, we've got to be better."

"Turning pucks over in the neutral zone kind of feeding into their transition rushes," Shattenkirk said. "Our execution wasn't really in top form. A team like that kind of pounces on it when they see it. "

Atkinson, who had a hat trick Friday, sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 1:18 remaining. He has seven points in three games.

Columbus won for the fourth time in the last 20 games in St. Louis. 

No comments:

Post a Comment