Saturday, February 4, 2017

Blues fail to build off win again in 4-1 loss to Penguins

Team loses Yeo's second game since taking over for Hitchcock; 
Fabbri injured; Crosby's three-point night puts him three points closer to 1,000

ST. LOUIS -- Rome wasn't built in a day, and apparently the Blues' new and improved look under coach Mike Yeo won't be either.

The Blues have been searching high and low to string together consistent, winning efforts this season. It's why they're in the predicament they're in fighting for a spot in the playoffs after a 4-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday before 19,496 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (87) scores Pittsburgh's first goal as he
gets away from Blues center Jori Lehtera on the play Saturday.

The Blues (25-22-5), who were impressive in Yeo's debut during a 5-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, still are having trouble stringing together back-to-back wins. In fact, they've only done it once since Dec. 1 and haven't won back-to-back home games since beating Montreal on Dec. 9 and New Jersey on Dec. 15.

"It's tough," said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who was a minus-4 in the game along with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. "I think we all realize that we weren't going to take off. We've got to manage our expectations a little bit. I thought we had the right focus, but things just didn't go our way."

"We know it's not going to start clicking right away," Schwartz said. "It's something we've got to build and start feeling good in here. We talked about that. We know that it's not going to turn around right away, but it's something that we've got to continue to work on."

To make matters worse, the Blues lost left wing Robby Fabbri to what the team is calling a lower-body injury. It appeared to be a serious injury as Fabbri just released the puck before being shoved into the side boards along the Blues bench by Penguins center Carter Rowney. 

Fabbri went down immediately trying to clutch his left leg or knee and needed to be helped off the ice by head athletic trainer Ray Barile and teammate Colton Parayko with 11 miniutes, 18 seconds remaining in the first period.

"I'll just give you an update tomorrow, but all I can tell you is it's a lower-body injury," Yeo said. 

"That's never something you want to see," Schwartz said. "Wishing the best for him. We haven't heard anything yet, but that's a tough break there."

Sidney Crosby had two goals and one assist to move within three points of 1,000 in his NHL career, Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves for his first win since Jan. 8, and Kris Letang and Justin Schultz scored for the Penguins (33-13-5), who are tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for second place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Penguins defeated the Blue Jackets 4-3 in overtime on Friday.

Crosby scored his 30th goal of the season into an empty net with 17.2 remaining to make it 4-1. He has 59 points this season, and 368 goals and 629 assists for 997 NHL points.

Crosby has not gone more than a game this season without a point.

Patrik Berglund scored, and Jake Allen made 27 saves for the Blues, who embark on a five-game road trip.

"Today was one of those games where we're sitting a little bit too much in the box," Berglund said. "We couldn't build really any momentum. We spent way too much (time) in the box, but I think we did some good things. Obviously we have some things to work on.

"I think our game is much better, we're working for each other, but it's just hard today when we're building a little bit of momentum and then ... I think we got some bad calls, too. It's hard."

Crosby gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead with 4:10 to play in the first period. 

Crosby won a faceoff from Jori Lehtera, then broke away from Lehtera and headed to the net before getting a pass from Chris Kunitz before depositing a backhand over Allen.

After serving a penalty, Letang scored on a breakaway 1:54 into the second period to make it 2-0, and Schultz scored on a one-timer off a Crosby feed at 12:02 to make it 3-0.

The game turned on the Blues when they failed to score on a two-man advantage to end the first and at the start of the second.

Instead, former Blue Ian Cole had a breakaway attempt that he fired high and wide on, and then as Letang's minor expired, he sprung out of the box and scored a breakaway goal on Allen.

"First period, I would say only OK," Yeo said of the Blues, who were outshot 12-4 and the forwards had none of the shots. "For whatever reason, I felt like we were not aggressive enough, whether it was too much respect, whether it was try to be a little safe or whatever. I felt like we were giving them a lot of time and a lot of space and not a lot of puck zone time for us because of that. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing David Perron carries the puck during action Saturday at
home against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who beat the Blues 4-1. 

"Still, you've got an opportunity there. You get a 5-on-3, a long 5-on-3 and then they come out of the box after the kill and score a goal. That's obviously a pretty critical moment in the game."

The Blues generated a total of four shots on both power plays.

"I'd like to see us a little more aggressive to the net as well," Yeo said. "That was and has been a bit of a problem with our team. On a nightly basis, we're not generating enough scoring opportunities, enough shots at net, so when we have an opportunity, we need to take advantage of it."

Berglund ended Fleury's shutout with a goal 10:22 into the third period on a backhand from the slot following a Parayko pass.

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