Center injured on stick to throat in first
period; Elliott comes up with 35 saves in loss
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blues caught the Columbus Blue Jackets at the wrong time of season; they needed to see the Blue Jackets at the beginning.
They also needed to see the relentless Blue Jackets on anything but the second of back-to-back games.
The Jackets, playing a tired and weary team down a forward to injury as well early in the first period and capitalized, defeating the Blues 3-1 on Tuesday at Nationwide Arena.
The Blues (12-6-1), already beset with injuries to key players early in the season, were without rookie defenseman Colton Parayko, who coach Ken Hitchcock said if day-to-day with a lower-body injury sustained late in Monday's 3-2 home victory against the Winnipeg Jets. Then the Blues lost center Jori Lehtera, who was high-sticked by Columbus' Brandon Saad in what players confirmed as a stick to the throat.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
The Blues' Alexander Steen )left) can't get a puck past Columbus goalie
Sergei Bobrovsky during a 3-1 Blue Jackets victory Tuesday.
Lehtera was transported to the hospital, and Hitchcock had no further update and the team won't have an update until at the very least, on Wednesday.
"We've got no gas; we didn't have any energy," Hitchcock said. "... We didn't have any energy, so I don't know what to chalk it up to. When you don't have any energy, you come in second place everywhere. We came in second place everywhere. Had a good start the first period and then after that, the second period, we were in second place everywhere. We tried to get it going in the third and didn't have anything."
The Blues came out of the first period tied 1-1, then were besieged in the second period. They could sustain no offensive zone pressure, could barely get the puck out of the defensive zone, and Brian Elliott, who stopped 35 of 37 shots, faced 21 shots in that middle period. The Blues were outshot 21-3.
"They pushed pretty hard," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of the Jackets (7-12-0). "We had a tough time getting out of our zone. It's not easy to play in your d-zone all night. We weren't too clean coming out. We had some good spurts there throughout the game like we always do, but overall, we need to find a way to get out of our zone and get these teams out of pressuring us hard.
"... We needed (Elliott); we needed some big saves. He made another huge save there with a minute-20, minute-30 left. All year long, him and Jake (Allen) have been outstanding. Tonight's no different. For us, we've got to find a way to bail him out when he's standing on his head like that."
The Blues built a 1-0 lead on Kevin Shattenkirk's first goal of the season 7 minutes, 36 seconds into the game after a strong forecheck by the line headlined by Lehtera with Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin.
They created a turnover in the Columbus zone before Paajarvi fed Shattenkirk for a one-time slap shot from the high slot that beat Sergei Bobrovsky.
"That's what we talk about: first, second, third, fourth effort," Paajarvi said. "It'll get the puck back. It'll create this heavy hockey that we can play. That shift shows it."
But the Blue Jackets tied the game 1-1 on Cody Goloubef's first of the season, a wrist shot off an odd-man rush that caromed off the glove of Elliott and trickled over the goal line with 3:21 remaining in the period.
Things got worse for a tired Blues team, who played the final 50-plus minutes minus Lehtera, who left the game with 8:27 left in the period after taking a high-stick from Saad, a play that went uncalled with referee Kyle Rehman standing in alongside of the play with a clear view.
It appeared initially that Lehtera had been high-sticked in the mouth/nose area, drawing blood. But Paajarvi said that came from a stick prior to that play, and that the final blow was a stick to the throat, which captain David Backes also confirmed.
"You can always speculate," Paajarvi said. "When you watched the replay, it's easy to see the replay. It's clearly in the throat. Sure, I wanted it to be a penalty; we wanted it to be a penalty, absolutely. Plus, he got (knocked out of) the game for it."
"It was a stick in the throat," Backes said. "Hopefully he'll be alright. Hopefully we won't me missing another high-end forward. Whatever happens, we've got to move forward. We've got another tough game on Thursday again."
Saad's first of two goals gave the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead with a backhand goal 4:10 into the second. But had it not been for Elliott in the period, the deficit could have been much more.
"Elliott gave us a chance after the (first) period," Hitchcock said. "It would have been nice to get that second goal for him in the third period. He did a heck of a job in the second keeping it where it was. We could have used a goal there, but we didn't have the energy to do it."
The Blues came out in the third and sustained some offensive zone pressure in the third early, then trailed off. They pulled Elliott with 1:10 remaining for a sixth attacker and looked poised to perhaps tie the game, but were thwarted before Saad hit an empty-net with 33.7 seconds left to seal the game.
"They were skating their butts off and pressuring us and we didn't respond well to it," Backes said of the Jackets. "Whether that's being tired or just not into it, I don't know, but it just wasn't good enough today to get two points.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues players (From left) Jori Lehtera, Magnus Paajarvi and Kevin
Shattenkirk celebrate Shattenkirk's goal in the first period on Tuesday.
"We got away from making our plays. You've got to take a hit to make a play against that team. They come hard, they come with pressure. We didn't do that enough and they just kept turned pucks back on us (and) back on us."
The Blues will take a day off Wednesday to try and get their bearings back before another stretch of four games in seven days before Thanksgiving.
"Give credit to them, they played pretty tight," Paajarvi said of the Blue Jackets. "They played good. Elliott gave us a chance. Again, our goalies really gave us a chance to win a game. Two-one coming into the third period, we were looking pretty positive to it. Unfortunately, we couldn't grab the opportunities we had. We've got to look forward now. We got two out of four points in back-to-back with a lot of injuries. It's OK. We could have got four, but we've got to look forward now."