Sunday, December 27, 2015

Stars turn tables on Blues in 3-0 victory

Teams played second of back-to-back; Dallas' 
special teams difference despite Elliott's solid effort

DALLAS -- Brian Elliott gave the Blues the chance at sweeping a home-and-home with the Dallas Stars.

Unfortunately, the Blues' netminder didn't get much support from the teammates that dressed on Sunday night.

Elliott, making only his second start in the past seven games, was spectacular; he made 35 saves. But the Blues provided no offensive support in a 3-0 loss to the Stars at American Airlines Center, less than 24 hours after the Blues won 3-2 in a shootout in St. Louis.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brian Elliott makes one of 35 saves on Sunday against the Dallas Stars
in a 3-0 loss at American Airlines Center.

Elliott, who came in 5-0-0 against Western Conference foes this season, was beaten by power play goals from Patrick Sharp late in the first period and Jamie Benn early in the third period. He was a fortress other than that, but the Blues (22-12-4) were blanked for the third time this season with 22 shots at Kari Lehtonen, who got his 33rd career shutout, third career against the Blues and first this season.

"I mean, it was outstanding," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Elliott. "That’s the part that disappoints everybody here, is he battled like crazy, he made great saves, he kept us right there and we couldn’t get a goal for him."

Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester agreed.

"Oh yeah, he was awesome," Bouwmeester said. "Without him, the score’s a lot different. I don’t know what the shots were, but probably close to 40 shots and if you’re giving up that many and good Grade-A chances, he made some really good saves, so yeah, it was good for him."

The Blues fell nine points behind the Stars (27-7-3) for the Central Division lead.

The game was played with only one referee (Rob Martell), as Brad Meier was unable to make it into Dallas because of the heavy rain that has hampered much of the Midwest and South for the past two days.

Martell had a tough time keeping the game in check by himself.

"Yeah, I thought there was some missed stuff," Elliott said. "You obviously can’t blame him, but having two guys out there really catches everything. He can’t watch the whole ice. It’s probably both ways, too. I’m not saying it was called one way or the other."

A non call on Benn, who scored 40 seconds into the third period on the power play after cross-checking Bouwmeester, proved costly as the Stars went ahead 2-0 and all but put the nail in the coffin for the Blues, who didn't have much in the tank in this game.

Benn was able to knock Bouwmeester to the ice and get Sharp's pass and put it past Elliott.

"Yeah, I would say so, that he did," Bouwmeester said when asked if Benn got away with a penalty. "If they call penalties both ways then yeah, for sure he did, but I mean one ref tonight and the guy we got, was what he was, so that’s how it goes."

Hitchcock said with the way the game was going, it was the back-breaker. He tried to get Martell's attention to come to the bench, but Martell would have none of it.

"The one that really hurt us, I mean broken sticks, we broke four sticks and didn’t get a call until the end, but the one that really hurt us was the second goal," Hitchcock said. "'Bouw' was playing the front of the net, gets cross-checked from behind and the guy that cross-checks 'Bouw' from behind scores a goal. That really hurt us a lot, so yeah, what are you going to do?"

But the Stars, who have shut out the Blues and Chicago Blackhawks in back-to-back home games, had the better of the play from start to finish. The Blues' chances were minimal at best with little-to-no sustained zone pressure. Turnovers in the neutral zone fed into the Stars' ability to free-flow around the ice.

"Yeah, well we didn’t manage the puck properly. That’s why," HItchcock said. "We turned it over in the neutral zone all the time. In the first two games we played in our building, we didn’t turn it over, but we turned it over all night today and when you play that way against that team, that just feeds what they did, so we couldn’t get on our toes because we put ourselves on our heels. We didn’t manage it very well and they came at us because of the neutral-zone turnovers and we couldn’t sustain any zone pressure until really the third period."

"Well, I don’t think either team had a lot of energy at the start of the game," Bouwmeester said, "but it was sort of whoever was just going to milk it and get it in and grind away was going to get off on the right foot and they sort of did in the first period and then really all of a sudden, there after the first two periods and then you get down by two and start pushing, but yeah, we would have liked to respond after that tonight, you move on."

The Stars had the better of the play and much of the territorial edge in the first period and finally cashed in on a late power play.

Sharp, who celebrated his 34th birthday, followed up his initial shot off the cross bar and tucked a loose puck past Elliott with 1:57 remaining in the period after Dallas was given a power play on a Scottie Upshall interference penalty.

The Stars outshot the Blues 16-5 in the period.

There was a scrum that ensued when Robert Bortuzzo and Jamie Benn crossed paths on the ice, and Bortuzzo and Tyler Seguin took matching minors for what Benn claimed was a stick to the midsection.

Seguin took exception to Bortuzzo, who got the butt end of his stick, up in Benn's mid-section. The Blues felt Benn embellished the contact. He was on the ice for the next shift on the power play.

"We're just playing hard," Bortuzzo said. "He's a high-end player on the team and I'm trying to make things as uncomfortable as possible. He plays a game the hard way as well."

In predictable fashion, things for feisty to begin the second period. Troy Brouwer dropped the gloves with Antoine Roussel three seconds after the puck drop for the period, and four seconds later, Travis Moen sidestepped Ryan Reaves and went for Bortuzzo and those two tangled. 

"I think their guys just kind of saw a reaction," Bortuzzo said. "A lot of times, there's little shots after the whistle. That's hockey. (Benn's) probably doing the same stuff out there. We're just playing hard. I have a lot of respect for the guy; he's a good player. Hopefully he has respect for what I'm doing out there. We're just playing hard."  

At 1-0, the Blues could have used one of those fights as motivation moving forward but there would be nothing that could motivate them tonight, except for the play of Elliott, who was the story for the Blues in the game. He robbed Ales Hemsky right at the side of the net with a glove save that appeared to have the Stars' second goal written all over it with 6:18 remaining in the second period, among many key saves to keep it a 1-0 game and give the Blues a chance to tie on one shot.

"Yeah, sometimes you get those, sometimes you don’t," Elliott said. "That’s all we’re trying to do as a goalie back there, is just try to keep in the game. If we’re struggling, just try to make those saves and let the guys kind of rebound and do their thing.

"... Results aside (I am pleased). I felt good. I made a couple good saves to try to keep us in it, but the less than 24-hour turnaround, it just looked like we didn’t have the same amount of gas as we did at home. It was tough getting scoring chances. We couldn’t really get anything to the inside. He (Lehtonen) kind of had an easy day down there."

The Blues allowed two power play goals for only the second time in a game this season (Oct. 18 at Winnipeg was the other). They were 32-for-34 since Nov. 25.

"Yeah, we’ve done a pretty good job lately' we had a stretch there of real good play," Bouwmeester said. "They've got a good power play. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Scottie Upshall and the Blues had a tough time of it
on Sunday in Dallas. The Blues lost 3-0.

"We took too many penalties. That’s partly our fault, partly the ref, but yeah, it’s one of those things. They’re going to happen, but you want to eliminate, they got chances. They've got good players, too."

The Blues began to build some traffic around Lehtonen but Cody Eakin's 200-foot bank shot off the glass in his own zone caromed into the net with 1:32 remaining.

So the Blues lost out on a point in the standings to the Stars, who earned three to the Blues' two, but the Blues are 2-1-0 against Dallas this season. They learned they can play with this high-powered team.

"It looks like neither team can win in the other team’s building," Hitchcock said. "Matter of fact, to be honest with you, it’s not even close. That’s what it looks like. Neither team’s close. They outplayed us significantly today. We outplayed them significantly yesterday, so we’ll see next event, but so far in the three games, neither team’s been close."

No comments:

Post a Comment