Thursday, December 10, 2015

Costly second period does in Blues in 4-2 loss to Flyers

Mistakes, lack of checking offset strong first, third periods; Fabbri, Backes score

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock doesn't hide from the fact that his system of checking is not easy to play.

But when the Blues' coach sees his team play that style for 60 minutes, they're a hard team to beat.

They got it in the first and third periods but strayed away from it in the second, and it was magnified when the Blues allowed three goals to erase a one-goal lead before falling to the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2 on Thursday before 14,428 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robby Fabbri scored his fifth goal of the season but it wasn't
enough as the Blues lost 4-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday.

Michal Neuvirth made 35 saves, Michael Raffl and Matt Read scored goals 3 minutes, 24 seconds apart, and Claude Giroux scored late in the second to erase a 1-0 deficit for the Flyers (12-11-6), who won their fourth straight game on the road. It was Philadelphia's first win in St. Louis since Dec. 17, 2005. 

Giroux had a goal and two assists, and Brayden Schenn had two assists for Philadelphia.

Robby Fabbri and David Backes scored for the Blues (16-9-4), who are 1-3-1 their past five games. Brian Elliott made 25 saves.

The Blues felt they played well enough in the first and third periods but inconsistent play and mistakes cost them in the second period.

"We stopped checking," Hitchcock said. "I'm sure the players said the same thing. Stopped checking. Stopped checking, opened up gaps, had some soft plays in the scoring areas against us and that gave them the three goals.

"It's a common denominator for four of the last six games. This is a League, the more you check, the more you have the puck. The more you stay on the hunt, the more you play on your toes, the more you close gaps, the more you have the puck. When you're inconsistent in that level, you open it up. This has been an ongoing theme for a little while and we've got to get it solved. We were really good in the first and we really dialed it up in the third, but you're coming from behind, you're mounting comebacks all the time."

The Blues got a Fabbri goal early in the second, when the Blues' rookie converted Dmitrij Jaskin's flip pass from behind the net 1:35 into the period. It was a culmination of a solid first period and good start to the second, as the Blues were playing in straight lines, forcing turnovers with their checking game. But for wherever reason, the Blues' game changed, and so did the score.

Raffl tied the game 1-1 when he deflected Brayden Schenn's centering feed at 3:15 after Giroux won an offensive zone faceoff. It was the Flyers' first goal in St. Louis in 171:00.

Read put the Flyers ahead 2-1 at 6:39 after Blues defenseman Petteri Lindbohm's turnover put Philadelphia into the offensive zone. Read corralled Michael Del Zotto's point shot, pulled the puck around to his forehand, and fanned on his first attempt, but he beat Elliott at the near post as he was falling down. Wayne Simmonds got an assist, his 100th with the Flyers and 300th NHL point.

Giroux's first goal against St. Louis, the last of the 29 teams he's faced that he hadn't scored against, with 1:54 left in the second came after taking Schenn's pass at the blue line, dangling around Magnus Paajarvi and tucking a backhand past Elliott to make it 3-1.

"I think we started pretty good and then we get the goal in the second period. Then we give up the (tying) one; that was my fault on the guy in front of the net and then another one and another one and all of the sudden, it's 3-1 and you're in a big hole," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "The third period, I thought we played really well. Had a lot of chances and just ran out of  time. But it's that lapse in the second period that kills you.

"That's what happens a lot of times. Goals are scored, but as a group, I just think we need to respond a little better. We're kind of putting ourselves in holes too much, playing from behind. I think if we just concentrate on that and getting out in front and taking more control, we'd be in a good spot."

Elliott agreed.

"Obviously the second period we had some turnovers that didn't help us out," said Elliott, who fell to 0-3-1 his past four decisions. "In this league, the subtle differences can mean the difference in the game. We did a good job in the third period. If we play like that from the beginning, I think we dominate teams. We've got to take that out of it and move onto the next one because we've got a couple back-to-back that are going to be tough games."

"... It's not like the guys aren't trying out there. Everybody is putting their all into it. I think it's just a little bit of focus, a little of adjustments here and there and guys working with each other. I make a save to keep it tied or something, that can make a difference too. So, it's everything put into a pot."

Backes' power-play goal, his 52nd with the Blues, tying Brendan Shanahan for ninth on their all-time list, came after Alexander Steen's slap shot from the right circle fell in front of Backes, who beat Neuvirth at 7:37 of the third to make it 3-2.

The Blues came with arguably one of their best third periods of the season. But Ryan White scored an empty-net goal with 1.7 seconds remaining after the Blues outshot the Flyers 14-7 and came with a hard push for the equalizer.

"Third period was great," Bouwmeester said. "I don't know what the shots were, but we were down in their end the whole time and it was a real great push. The guys didn't give up or anything like that. Another couple minutes and maybe we score another goal."

And when the Blues came close to scoring, Neuvirth made the saves when they mattered.

"It would be fun to watch to see what happened if we did that for 60 minutes," Fabbri said of the third period. "Sometimes it's just a little bit too late, but we had a lot of positives coming out of that third period, except the outcome."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Alexander Steen (20) gets off a shot with teammate David Backes (42)
trying to run interference in from of Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth.

For Hitchcock, he liked the third, but it boils back to keeping a consistent game from start to finish.

"Yeah, we got back and dialed it up and had a helluva period, could have scored a few goals, but it's a lot of energy to do that and we've done a lot of it lately," Hitchcock said. "We had a huge amount of shots in the Florida game and a huge amount of shots in the Toronto game. Played a great first period in the Toronto game; what did us in was the second period again. What did us in was the second period against Florida.

"You can stand there and beat it down all you want; it doesn't work. We'll keep working at it. It's better and better and better. You look at the success at the line like (Jori) Lehtera's line's got right now, man, they're on the puck. They're on the puck, on the puck, on the puck and they're having great success because of it. It's good for them."

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