Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wild down Blues 3-1 with two third-period goals

Haula's bad-angle shot is game-winner; St. Louis couldn't solve Dubnyk

ST. LOUIS -- Jake Allen has been so good for the Blues this season.

Allen, the Blues' goalie, has made countless saves that has either preserved wins or kept games tied and give the Blues opportunities to win.

But Allen was human on New Year's Eve, and by his own admission allowed a couple goals he feels he should make. Erik Haula's goal with 8 minutes, 32 seconds remaining broke a 1-all tie and helped the Minnesota Wild defeat the Blues 3-1 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Kyle Brodziak (28) fends off Minnesota's Jarret Stoll during
play on Thursday at Scottrade Center. The Wild defeated the Blues 3-1. 

Haula, who went 15 games without a point and 17 games without a goal, got a pass from Nino Niederreiter from a sharp angle, threw it towards the goal and caught Allen by surprise.

Thomas Vanek added an empty-net goal to send the Blues (23-13-4) out of 2015 with their fifth home loss in 11 games this month.

Allen blamed himself.

"Not a good goal by me there," Allen said. "I lost (the puck) behind the net and didn't know where it was. (Haula) banked it off me."

Allen's teammates won't blame their netminder.

"He's made huge saves, he made huge saves tonight," captain David Backes said. "I'm not a goaltender, but he's done more than his fair share. We need to support him with more than one goal if we want to win these games. I think we had our chances and didn't get the job done."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock lamented the fact that the Blues lost two board battles on the play after winning the initial faceoff, both with defenseman Robert Bortuzzo with Niederreiter behind the net that eventually saw the puck go to Haula for the bad-angle shot.

"We got beat on the end boards twice," Hitchcock said. "We won the faceoff and got beat twice on the end boards. I don't think it was fluky. Bad timing to get beat like that."

The underlying issue that pops up for the Blues is scoring.

They were minus-2 in 5-on-5 play Thursday and haven't 

"Also we're living on the fine line of scoring one goal, and it wasn't 5-on-5 either," Hitchcock said. "We just can't keep living on the fine line that we're living on right now scoring one and two goals and still getting points. Today was a game where we had a great start, probably from five minutes left in the first period, the balance of the game was probably even. We were better the first 15 minutes, but if you're playing even or a little bit better, you've got to get points. But it's hard living with one goal."

Vanek scored with 1:37 remaining.

Shattenkirk scored moments after the Blues had a two-man advantage. His wrist shot from the left circle beat Dubnyk top-shelf, far-side 8:42 into the second period for a 1-0 lead. It was Shattenkirk's 23rd point (seventh goal) in his past 24 games.

It would be the only time the Blues would beat Dubnyk.

"We had some good pushes there, some good moments," Shattenkirk said. "We got some good scoring chances, we got a lot of shots on (Dubnyk), but he's so big. He gets down and lets his body block them. We've just got to find a few rebounds and put them in.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22), who scored for St. Louis, moves
the puck past his goal and around the Wild's Jason Zucker on Thursday.

"It's a tough one to lose, especially that late in the game. I thought we were playing some good hockey, especially in the third."

The Wild tied it 1-1 with 3:48 left in the second period on Niederreiter's fifth point in five games (second goal) after he followed up Fontaine's shot. Allen steered the rebound to the far side but right to Niederreiter.

"It was coming right on the ice and it hopped right over my stick and onto the guy's tape," Allen said. "The guy shot it and it was going on my stick and bounced, hit my pad right on the guy's tape. Smart play by them, but a little bit of a lucky bounce thanks to the ice."

It was a case where the Blues just didn't bail their goalie out on this night.

"There's a few series of plays before that where we need to take care of the puck and make sure that we're being hard on it," said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, whose power play goal in the first period gave the Blues a 1-0 lead. "(Allen) bailed us out a lot tonight and he's bailed us out a lot this year. It's an unfortunate one to let in because especially for him, he's making such big saves. It feels like he's saving everything right now and when that goes it, it's tough on him. It's our job after that to pick him up. He's done it for us for so long. We have to get a goal for him and make sure we're getting it back in our favor."

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