Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Turnover costly for Blues in 6-4 loss to Senators

Early third-period giveaway by Schwartz breaks 3-3 tie; team 
returns home after winning two in a row in California, can't build on it

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues had just come off a West Coast trip winning two of three, reinvigorating hopes that they were about to go on a consistent winning run.

And even after falling behind to the Ottawa Senators by two goals in the second period despite playing well and occupying ample amounts of zone time, there was a sense the Blues would find a way on home ice.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing Alexander Steen (20) tries to escape with the puck past
Ottawa defenseman Dion Phaneuf on Tuesday at Scottrade Center. 

They found a way, tied the game with a goal late in the second and early in the third, built up all the momentum, and then the dreaded mistake came, and that was that.

From the Senators' point of view, it was a fortuitous gift. From the Blues' view, it was an egregious turnover. Any way one cuts it, Senators right wing Mark Stone took advantage after the Blues had built all the momentum; he scored twice, including a tie-breaking goal early in the third period for the Senators in a deflating 6-4 win against the Blues at Scottrade Center on Tuesday. 

The Blues just overcame a 3-1 deficit and tied it 3-3 on Alexander Steen's goal 1 minute, 35 seconds into the third, but the Blues, as they've done too often when they don't need to, made an easy zone clear much too difficult. It was culminated by a Jaden Schwartz turnover that enabled the Senators to regain the lead on Stone's goal one minute later when his shot from the slot got past goalie Carter Hutton after Schwartz's final attempt to move the puck up the ice hit a stick and he fell down trying to make a backhand play again.

The Blues had a chance, according to coach Ken Hitchcock to clear the puck out of their zone three times, but Schwartz's turnover was the last straw.

"The fourth goal was a killer; it was a killer," Hitchcock said. "Had puck support there, left it, didn't clear it, had it on our stick three times. Forwards left the winger, turn it over and that's the game.

"... To come back after the trip we had, to come back and make it 3-3, have the momentum and give it back that quickly is disappointing. We weren't crisp with the puck, but we managed it well enough in the second period to build some momentum and that second goal gave us all the momentum and then to tie it up, then have two chances after that and then ... we just didn't manage the puck very well on the boards today. We weren't as determined and as effort-based on the boards as we were the two games previous."

The turnover is a microcosm of what's plagued the Blues over the past month and a half. When the Blues make the blatant mistake, it's in the back of their net.

"Jaden, I think, is one of our best guys on the wall, one of our best wingers, a guy that we always know we can count on," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "He’s looking for the right play. The play is -- he has the time there -- hit the weakside D-man coming up on the far side. That’s where all the room is. That’s where the room is to skate. It hits a stick. We talk about execution a lot. That’s what we all need to do. There’s countless times during a game when that’s going to happen. It happened to be him tonight. It’s a tough one because like I said, when he gets the puck on the wall, we’re all pretty confident that he’s getting that puck out."

Mike Hoffman, the menace who created all the havoc that led to the Schwartz turnover, scored twice, Jean-Gabriel Pageau had a goal and an assist and Bobby Ryan scored for the Senators (23-15-4), who opened a three-game road trip. Mike Condon made 19 saves.

Steen and Shattenkirk each scored a goal and assist, and Paul Stastny and Patrik Berglund scored for St. Louis (23-17-5). Hutton made 18 saves for the Blues, who saw their two-game winning streak end.

"We have the momentum and it’s just a tough game because I think when we look back on it and we wake up tomorrow, we’re going to feel like we had it," Shattenkirk said. "We played a pretty good game and again just some mistakes that bite us."

The Senators took a 1-0 lead on Pageau's goal at 3:03 of the first period, the seventh straight home game in which the Blues have allowed the first goal. 

St. Louis tied it when Stastny redirected Jay Bouwmeester's shot past Condon four seconds after a Blues power play at 9:34 of the first period. 

The Blues had stretches of the second when they dominated zone time but didn't score. That would come back to bite them as Hoffman and Ryan scored goals 1:25 apart to make it 3-1.

Hoffman's power-play goal at 13:26 gave the Senators a 2-1 lead after Kyle Turris' one-timer from the left point that hit the backside of Robert Bortuzzo to Hoffman's stick in the right circle, and he made no mistake with an open side, and Ryan made it 3-1 at 14:51 with some controversy as the Blues felt that Hutton had covered the puck at the side of the net after Ryan Dzingel shoveled the puck at the net.

Hutton seemed to have his right skate on top of the puck and pad hovering on top of the puck, but referee Jake Brenk, on the opposite side of the ice in the opposite corner, never blew his whistle and Ryan came in and was able to get one last poke at the puck successfully to make it 3-1.

When Dzingel backhanded the puck towards the post, there was 5:15 remaining in the period. When the puck was ruled a goal, it came six seconds later, which the Blues were so dismayed why the whistle didn't blow.

"I felt I did (have the puck covered)," Hutton said. "We kind of had an argument in the third period about it. He came over to stake his claim he would have liked more pad coverage on it. I thought from his point of view, I don't know how he doesn't blow the whistle. I thought in the third there was a play where we generate the puck at the net and there's a quick whistle. It's frustrating. From his point of view, I don't see how there's not a whistle. There's not much else I can do. I'm trying to stay on the post as best I can and the guy pokes it in. What's done is done now."

Shattenkirk followed Brenk back up ice towards the officials scoring table.

"His explanation, we didn’t really agree with," Shattenkirk said. "I think he said that from his angle, it doesn’t look like Carter has the puck covered. Clearly on the replay it looks like he has his blocker over it. So it was something that I think we still don’t agree with. It’s a tough one. Again, it’s a turnover that leads to that and not putting pucks in the right places. That’s what that team does. They put that puck right back at your net within seconds."

Hitchcock made the opinions unanimous and felt Hutton had the puck covered.

"He had it. Something you'd probably like to talk to the officials about," Hitchcock said. "He said it was not reviewable, they declared it a goal. 'Hutts' said he had it in his pad, he did have it in his pad. Referee said he saw the puck."

But the Blues overcame the deficit, and Shattenkirk's goal with 45.6 seconds left in the second, a wobbly slap shot top shelf made it 3-2 and gave the Blues the life it needed.

And then Steen, who just came out of the penalty box after serving an offsetting minor with Derick Brassard, took Shattenkirk's pass and beat Condon from the slot to tie it 3-3, the Blues seemed destined.

"We had a chance to get it out twice and then the third time was the turnover, but on the third time, we didn't stay patient with the winger," Hitchcock said. "We left him."

"Yeah, obviously it’s disappointing," Steen said. "I think we could have overwhelmed them more throughout the game as opposed to… you know, we tie the game at 3-3 but it’s still… they’ve been getting their chances, we got our chances. I’d like to see us take control of the game a little bit more."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues left wing Robby Fabbri (right) and Senators right wing Mike Hoffman
battle for a loose puck on Tuesday.

Even down 4-3, the Blues had chances to tie it, but Hoffman's goal, a one-timer from the high slot after a pass from behind the net from Pageau at 13:53, iced the game.

After Stone's empty-netter, Berglund scored his 10th goal in 15 games with 47.6 seconds left to make it 6-4.

"It was tough. It definitely, like you said, it seemed like we worked to get the momentum back in the right way," Shattenkirk said. "That’s what we have to keep focusing on. We went down 4-3, we had some good chances after that. I wish I had a better play on that fifth goal. I kind of lose my guy there. But that was the back-breaker really. The 4-3 goal, it hurt but we’re still in the game there. We have the momentum and it’s just a tough game because I think when we look back on it and we wake up tomorrow, we’re going to feel like we had it. We played a pretty good game and again just some mistakes that bite us."

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