Questionable call costs St. Louis chance
at taking control of Central Division crown
By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- There were differing opinions on a would-be goal scored by the Blues' Paul Stastny on Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets.
The play went against the Blues and in favor of the Winnipeg Jets, who eked out a 1-0 playoff-type victory against the Blues on Tuesday before 19,616 at Scottrade Center.
The game had all the intensity of a Stanley Cup Playoff game. The action was high-octane, the atmosphere in the building was electric and two crucial points were on the line.
In the end, Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec was spotless, and Chris Thorburn provided all the offense.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues goalie Jake Allen (right) makes a save in front of Winnipeg's Andrew
Ladd on Tuesday night in a 1-0 loss.
But in the end for the Blues, it's a case of another questionable call by an official that cost them at least a point, if not two. And going back to "Stickgate" in Detroit on March 22nd when the Blues had a goal scored on them by Justin Abdelkader in overtime with a broken stick that should have been ruled no goal, there's a possible three points on the table that the Blues (49-24-7) would love to have right now.
On the play in question, Stastny scored what would have tied the game 1-1 with 5 minutes, 1 second remaining in the second period after taking a Steve Ott pass and beating Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec on a backhand shot.
However, referee Steve Kozari waved off the goal, calling Stastny for slashing the stick of of Jets defenseman Tyler Myers before getting the puck.
Blues players disagreed. The Jets thought the right call was made, and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock felt it was the right call.
"It was a penalty," Hitchcock said matter-of-factly. "It was unfortunate, because 'Stas' made a great play to get open, made a great play on the pass, but that was a penalty."
"I was just battling getting good stick position, playing simple," Stastny said. "I saw a pass coming. I'm just trying to make body or stick position. I thought nothing of it.
"I think if I would have gone extremely hard, if I would have been hesitant about it or broken (Myers') stick, I would have understood; it's an easy call. I don't know if (Kozari) just saw because (Myers') stick was out and he called it because he wasn't watching, but he was watching. It was just a little stick battle. If he's holding his stick normally, he doesn't lose it. But what are you going to do. ... Yeah. I thought nothing of it. If it was a 50-50 (play), if I would have felt a little guilty, I would have thought about it. I didn't at all."
Myers' opinion on the play was different.
"I think it was pretty clear (Stastny) just slashed my stick out of my hand," Myers said. "I don't think there's much to argue there if you look at the full replay."
Afterwards, the officials refused comment when asked by a poor reporter.
The bottom line for the Blues: it was a chance to get a stranglehold on the Central Division. They came into Tuesday with a one-point lead on the Nashville Predators and a three-point lead on the Chicago Blackhawks.
But the unthinkable happened. All three lost. Nashville lost 3-2 at Colorado, and Chicago fell 2-1 on home ice to Minnesota. All three teams have two games remaining. The Bues host the Blackhawks on Thursday.
The Jets (42-26-12), who have 96 points, are the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. They lead the Los Angeles Kings by three points after the defending Stanley Cup champions lost 4-2 on Tuesday at the Edmonton Oilers.
The Jets have shut out back-to-back opponents in as many days after Pavelec made 32 saves in a 2-0 win at the Minnesota Wild on Monday. Pavelev's shutout streak is at 122:05.
Jake Allen made 30 saves for St. Louis, which outshot the Jets 10-3 in the third period but couldn't put a dent in the Jets' goal.
"We play these guys five times a year, it seems like we're getting a little bit of a rivalry in there," Blues right wing T.J. Oshie said. "It was a good, hard-fought game. They played (Monday) night and came in, did a good job pushing back when we had momentum and we have to find ways to score."
"We’re playing against a team that’s fighting for their lives," Allen said of the Jets. "I just don’t think we had enough urgency in our game. We have a playoff spot locked up but they don’t. We didn't match their intensity."
Fourth line right wing Chris Thorburn scored 2:31 into the second period on a backhand after the Jets won an offensive-zone faceoff. A shot from the point got to the front of the net, and Thorburn scored his first goal since Feb. 14.
It was a shot Allen said he should have stopped.
"Should’ve had it," Allen said, then repeated again. "Should’ve had it."
After that, the Jets locked things down defensively and didn't allow many chances.
But the Blues, who actually played a strong hockey game, seemed to be preoccupied with waht was being -- or not being -- called on the ice by Kozari and Graham Skilliter.
Not long after Stastny's goal was waved off, Oshie was called for a four-minute high stick that Stastny said officials on the ice were initially calling a player from each side on.
"Yeah, that was tough, and then I thought Osh's penalty, from where I was standing, the ref called both guys initially and didn't take both guys," Stastny said. "I thought the same thing happened with 'DB' (David Backes) there when he got tackled and was bleeding at the end of the game.
"If you call it one way, you've got to call it the other. That part's a little frustrating. But if you don't score goals, you're not going to win in this game."
The play Stastny was referring to came in the third period with the Blues on the power play when Backes took a faceoff and was high-sticked by Winnipeg's Jim Slater. Then with 2:17 remaining, Jaden Schwartz, who was robbed twice in the game by Pavelec, was tripped by Drew Stafford that led to a Blake Wheeler breakaway and no call was made.
"I got no comments about the refs," Oshie said. "We can talk about something else."
Added Allen, "The refs are out of our control. There’s nothing we can do."
Stastny also felt Myers didn't have a grip of his stick, which leads to believe how hard he really chopped his stick towards the ice.
"I think he was back-checking," Stastny said of Myers. "He wasn't even looking. If he's looking at me and he sees my stick, he's going to hold it, but maybe the 'D' man was just backchecking as hard as he can and maybe he had a loose grip on his stick, which I understand because he's trying to get back as fast as he can. I'm seeing the puck come across and I'm just trying to get stick position knowing that Otter's going to throw it across."
The Blues only gave up the one goal, which in most cases is good enough to win and get the two points. It's a case of needing to score to win.
They didn't do it.
"We had a lot of opportunities," Oshie said. "We had some power plays, some good chances. Couple guys have to shoot the puck a little bit more -- I'm probably at the top of that list. But like I said, we were good at times and just a little inconsistent in others. (We have to) sharpen up our game here. It was a good playoff game, a good test tonight."
"I don’t know that we had a lot of scoring chances, but it was a hard game," Hitchcock said. "Two hungry, desperate teams. Their goalie was good. Both goalies were great. I thought both groups of defensemen really played well tonight. It was hard for both groups. Our group was under siege in the second, did a great job managing it. I thought in the first and third we really did a good job in moving the puck."
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (top) checks Winnipeg's Mark
Scheifele during play Tuesday at Scottrade Center.
After outshooting Winnipeg 12-11 in the first, Hitchcock felt like the Blues lost momentum in the second.
"I thought we gave back the momentum," he said. "We had all the momentum after the first period. We played a great first period and we gave it back in the second and then had to play from behind and grab it back in the third. I thought the second period gave them some hope and some life and gave them some energy. We had them really on their heels. They looked tired from playing last night and then we let them off the hook by the neutral-zone play, the poor puck management and then the lost face-offs. We gave them back the momentum and then had to re-take it back in the third and get back to playing in their end.
"I thought the second period gave them a rest, the rest they needed, and that allowed them to only play 40 minutes when they were under a little bit of duress. They out-played us in the second period and we forced too many pucks through the neutral zone and turned them over."