Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blues blow late lead again, win 4-3 on Tarasenko OT goal against Stars

Dallas scores late after Minnesota did same 
Saturday; Perron, Schwartz extend point streaks

ST. LOUIS -- It's a win for the Blues, but the underlying concern is for the second game in a row, the opposition's found a way to swipe a point.

The Blues defeated the Dallas Stars 4-3 in overtime on Vladimir Tarasenko's goal with 1:36 remaining off a feed from Jori Lehtera, but the Blues (13-7-3), who have won six of seven and gained a point for the 10th straight home game (8-0-2), have slipped into some old habits of giving up a lead late in the game with the sixth attacker goal.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues left wing Robby Fabbri (15) scored in the first period past Tyler
Seguin (91) in a 4-3 OT win against the the Stars.

Jamie Oleksiak's second goal of the game came with 49.9 seconds left that tied the game and gave the Stars (9-8-6) a point. Same thing happened on Saturday when Charlie Coyle scored for the Minnesota Wild that tied that game 3-3 before the Blues won 4-3 in a shootout.

Winning is nice, yes, but maintaining good habits and protecting leads is not something the Blues have been good at the past two games.

"There's real concern about the leads," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "There's real concern with what we gave up and how we did it. We played terrific and had full control of the hockey game and we got careless on our checking and puck management. 

"There's a lot of good things to like with what's going on right now. You like our spirit, the ability to come back, but there are some genuine concerns on my part about some elements of our game that ... they don't hurt you at home, but they'll kill you on the road and we have to get this cleaned up. It's the penalties 200 feet from our net that really gave momentum back, it's the blue line puck management when we have a comfort level that we're controlling the hockey game, so two games in a row, we've had a real comfort level of controlling the hockey game, but we got really loose on the lines and we've allowed the other teams to transition on us. That's hurting. In the two goals that we gave up late, both times, we either lost board battles or tried to make the extra play and got burnt because of it, so those are concerns. You can practice it, but they have to be in your DNA and our DNA is when it gets comfortable, we get loose, and that's something that works at home because you can build momentum because the fans are in and they're helping you along and I got the matchups that I want so I can make it happen and it won't hurt as much at home, but it has killed us on the road, and it's going to continue to kill us unless we fix it."

On the play, the Blues had full control of the puck after a blocked shot, but Paul Stastny chose to try and flip a pass to Jaden Schwartz instead of just clearing the zone. And in turn, Antoine Roussel read the play and picked the pass off, keeping the puck in the Blues' zone.

"First, two things happen. We stand still and try to make a play," Hitchcock said. "The second part is that the puck carrier has to take charge. He has to make a firm play and icing can still be a good play. We tried to make another play rather than take charge, and when you're playing 6-on-5 and you're playing the last five minutes, whenever it's in your zone, you have to take charge and taking charge means you skate. You skate on it and then the other part is on board battles, it just can't go by the winger to the point. On both occasions, it's done that and it's hurt us."

The Stars wound up getting the puck around to Oleksiak, whose shot deflected off Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo past Jake Allen.

"It's frustrating; it just seems like we can't get any bounces," said Pietrangelo, who scored the Blues' second goal. "We all tried so hard to clear the puck there right before that, but nobody cleared it and those always come back to haunt you. 

"I have one finger to hit left and it hits my pinkie and finds a way to change direction. Those are the bounces we're getting right now, but again, just like last game, as much as you want to correct that, we're getting two points and we'll take those and move on."

David Perron and Robby Fabbri also scored for the Blues (13-7-3), who are 10-1-2 overall at Scottrade Center. Allen made 18 saves for his sixth straight win; he has a 1.95 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in those six games and Allen is 8-0-2 at home with a 1.57 GAA and .940 save percentage.

"We got the win. Those are going to happen," Allen said of the late goals allowed. "We're going to get goals 6-on-4 or -5. We don't want to give them up. They just got a bounce. It bounced off someone and went in the net. We got the win, but we definitely have to find a way to be better.

"... It was going wide and hit someone and went the complete opposite direction. ... The guys played great, gave them absolutely nothing. It was one of those games I had to try to keep focus and stay into it and guys did a great job. Kept it simple, driving in pucks deep. I thought we played well the last two games. Even though we gave up the lead late, we still got wins, and still something to build off."

Jamie Benn had a goal and two assists for the Stars (9-8-6), who started a four-game trip that continues Tuesday at the Detroit Red Wings. Antti Niemi made 27 saves. 

"It wasn't pretty, but we got a point," Benn said. "I guess that's a positive. I like how we found a way to score late there, but this overtime is killing us right now."

Fabbri gave the Blues a 1-0 lead with his first goal in six games with a snap shot to the short side at 13:36 of the first period. 

Fabbri's goal was the element of three perfect passes to spring him free. Tarasenko started the play, getting it to Lehtera, who found defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who then hit Fabbri in stride before Fabbri snapped a shot past Niemi to the short side.

"It felt like everyone on the ice touched it there," Fabbri said. "It was one of those passes from 'Bobo' there that was perfectly placed and yeah, I beat the goalie there because it was just a solid pass from 'Bobo.'"

Pietrangelo made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 4:17 of the second period after crashing the net following Patrik Berglund's redirection. There was a big goalmouth scramble as Niemi thought he had the puck covered but it was loose under his pad.

"We didn't know who scored, so we just kept whacking," Pietrangelo said. "That's what we've got to do. It seems like we're scoring goals when we go to the net like that. It's not usually a d-man down there, but I do what I can.

"I had no idea. I was just hoping it was me. Someone hit it. I'll take it."

The Blues had control of the hockey game and had chances on multiple occasions to make it a three- or four-goal game. But Oleksiak beat Allen with a shot to the short side with 3:39 remaining in the second to make it a 2-1 game after dangling past Perron and around Pietrangelo before perhaps fooling Allen with a shot.

"I kind of fell asleep on that play and let the guy walk in," Pietrangelo said. "That wasn't a good highlight in my career. We got away from it there at the end of the second, but we grabbed it there in the third. Obviously took a penalty there, which kind of gave us a step back. Same thing we've done all year. Guys are finding ways to score. We don't know who it's going to be, but we're finding ways to get the two points."

"We were playing great. We played outstanding," Hitchcock said. "This is one of the best games we've played all year until they scored their first goal and that gave them the momentum, but they had no momentum going, there's no scoring chances. We were really checking well, we were managing the puck perfectly and then we started to stop checking, stop managing the puck and started to not control the two most important lines, the blue lines in both zones and came back and hurt us."

Benn tied it 2-2 with a power-play goal 1:47 into the third with a quick shot after skating into the right faceoff circle. This came after Fabbri was called for a questionable hooking penalty in the offensive zone. 

The Blues regrouped and Perron gave the Blues a 3-2 lead at 13:12 of the third with his seventh goal after a nice give-and-go with Schwartz, who extended his point streak to seven games (five goals, four assists) and 12 points (seven goals and five assists). 

Perron has three goals and eight assists during a personal-best eight-game point streak.

"I think it starts with 'Bouw' being patient and finding me in the middle there," Perron said. "I was almost going to go change there if he doesn't give it to me, then I was patient myself, giving it to Schwartz on the wing, he was patient also and you see 'Stas' going down and it's almost like a short 2-on-1. Maybe the goalie's thinking about that, so I was able to go low blocker.

"... It's funny. There was a lot of chances I felt in the game, just the shift before I hit 'Stas' for another breakaway almost, then the next shift, I think our line is finding a way to find chances on most shifts, and the shifts that we don't get chances we make sure we play defensively and that's the staple that needs to make sure it's there every shift."

Allen had already allowed a Benn power play goal to tie the game, but he made two crucial saves on the Stars captain with 7:06 and 6:56 remaining in the game moments before Perron scored.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players Alex Pietrangelo (27) and Scottie Upshall (right) defend the
puck against the Stars' Antoine Roussel on Monday.

Tarasenko ended it when Lehtera, who had two assists, found him through the crease on the opposite side of the net and he was able to slam home the winner.

The Blues don't want to get into a habit of the dramatic win after leading.

"We're starting to be concerned a bit if we give it again I guess," Perron said. "We'll have to look at it again. Those are not ones we ever want to give up, for Jake, for anybody, for the extra point we may lose if we don't do it in the overtime and shootout. We found a way again and I guess that's what's most important in the end. We've got to look into that."

Added Hitchcock when asked about the DNA and how to address that, "We'll change it. No problem, we'll get her done."

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