Monday, February 20, 2017

Panthers stun Blues 2-1 with late goal in third

Trocheck goal with 4.6 seconds remaining sends 
St. Louis into bye week with bitter taste, two-game losing streak

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues spoke of going "all-in" one final time before they get their turn at a five-day break.

The schedule has been tough, no question. But after getting practically the past two days without being on the ice and wanted to "empty the tank," according to left wing Alexander Steen.

But instead of going into the bye week with a good feeling and a four- or five-point lead in the Nashville Predators for third place in the Central Division, the Blues get to stew on the worst possible way to lose.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen (down, left) made a number of saves during a
sequence in the third period during a 2-1 loss to Florida on Monday.

Vincent Trocheck scored with 4.6 remaining in regulation as the Florida Panthers stunned the Blues, 2-1, on Monday before 19,239 shocked fans at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (31-24-5) should have had at least one point in the bag with a chance at grabbing two in a game they weren't at their best, but Trocheck's shot from the high slot through a maze of players, including goalie Jake Allen, who never saw the shot, beat Allen over the shoulder and the Panthers (28-20-10) swept a five-game road trip for the first time in franchise history.

"It's terrible. Terrible finish," Allen said. "... We needed a win tonight just to have positive momentum into the break. We had a chance. Came short."

According to Elias Sports Bureau, it's the latest the Panthers scored a goal in regulation to win in franchise history.

"It was just a strong cycling down low by Jussi (Jokinen) and (Reilly Smith)," Trocheck said. "They tried to get the puck out but (Mark) Pysyk made a great play keeping the puck in going down the wall. He threw it up top to me. I took one shot, they blocked it. Got it back. I had a lane. Jussi was in front and I don't think Allen even saw it. I just kind of did the easy work."

There was a faceoff in the Blues' zone with 41.3 seconds remaining, and from the moment Trocheck won it from Kyle Brodziak, the Panthers controlled it in one form or another from the moment the faceoff was won until Trocheck scored. From cycling the puck to winning pucks along the walls to funneling shots at the net, the Panthers looked like a team playing with a sixth attacker. Instead, it was 5-on-5 and the Blues were caught running around.

Allen lamented that the Blues failed to control the puck once that sequence.

"You've got to battle. You've got to get pucks put, pucks in," Allen said. "We had 30 seconds left to salvage a point in a game that we played not good. Those are huge points right now. Couldn't end up with two points and it slipped away."

Jonathan Marchessault also scored for the Panthers, and James Reimer made 26 saves. 

Brodziak scored, and Allen made 31 saves for the Blues, who lost back-to-back games and are 7-3-0 under coach Mike Yeo.

But this one will be tough to have to stew over for the rest of the week.

"Hopefully," Yeo said. "I think we put ourselves in a position where we should have a bad taste in our mouth for a couple of days. We've got this break now and what I hope happens is we take a little time to think about our situation, what we've got as far as finishing off the season and the situation we're in, and a pretty good idea in my eyes of what our best game looks like the last 10 games, the things that we're doing and we need to make sure we have the recognition and the understanding that it has to be every night now."

Yeo also lamented the fact the Blues didn't play with any desperation at the end.

"Well, for me, it's a matter of desperation, it's a matter of the little things, and so I see loose pucks, I see 1-on-1 battles that they were a little bit more determined in that area and that obviously can't happen," Yeo said. "There (were) opportunities to jump on loose pucks, there (were) opportunities to kill the play and that didn't happen."

The Blues had Brodziak, David Perron, Patrik Berglund, Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo on the ice as a five-man group trying to protect the lead after Steen, Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko had just come off after their shift.

"We have to find a way to get that to overtime, no matter what," Brodziak said. "In that situation, that stage of the game, it's got to be do or die to get to the 3-on-3.

"... It's very disappointing. To lose a game with four seconds left, everybody worked so hard in the third to come back and find a way to tie it, we just couldn't get the job done. We all wanted to have a good feeling going into the break. Unfortunately we didn't get it. We'll have to find a way to get that back on Sunday night."

Marchessault put the Panthers ahead 1-0 at 1:40 of the first period after Kevin Shattenkirk turned the puck over behind the Blues net. 

Marchessault put a quick shot short side past Allen after Shattenkirk tried a quick reverse pass behind the net but didn't get much on it. Nick Bjugstad picked it off and quickly found his teammate in the low slot.

This on the heels of the Blues coming out with zip in their game and peppering the offensive zone with pucks and shots on Reimer.

"I think to start, the first few shifts out of the gate, I thought we were going," Yeo said. "It looked like a good sign. We made a mistake, they scored a goal and we just got pushed out of the game."

The Blues' puck management looked disjointed, particularly on two power plays. Pucks were bouncing all over the place and their transition of pucks just didn't look crisp.

"It seemed both teams were struggling with the puck a little bit," left wing Scottie Upshall said. "The ice wasn't the best. But that plays into both teams hands, our building, we definitely didn't come out the way we wanted to. They've had a long trip and played some tough games and we definitely should have been able to get at them harder tonight. We let off the gas, we turned pucks over, it's a tough one to swallow but we have to come back after this break ready to go."

"The ice wasn't very good out there tonight," Allen said. "It was pretty tough to play on."

The worst Allen can remember? "Yeah, I think so," he said.

The Blues' best chance came in the second period with 12 minutes, 16 seconds remaining when somehow, Jori Lehtera couldn't redirect Perron's pass past Reimer to tie the game. 

But the Blues' grind line of Brodziak, Upshall and Reaves got the life back into the team and the building when Brodziak tied the game 2:54 into the third period when his shot from the slot was deflected in front after good initial work from Reaves, who threw the first backhand on goal to Upshall tipping the loose puck to Brodziak in the slot before the finish.

"We had a good shift and created a couple chances and found a way to bury one," Brodziak said. "We thought we were going to have a chance to get another one."

Allen did his part.

He was making quality saves throughout, including a barrage of stops as the Panthers sent the kitchen sink at the net midway through the third to keep it a 1-1 game.

Allen faced 17 shots in the third before the bitter final one got past him.

"Yeah, he was great, he gave us every opportunity," Yeo said of Allen. "I think even when we scored that tying goal, that's where you'd like to grab that opportunity and go for the throat. I thought that they did a much better job than us of grabbing that moment. You saw the three, four shifts that they had after that, how they just generated the momentum, and they grabbed the game back from us and we've got to be stronger in that area. We've got to recognize what's at stake at that point and how to go about it. It's kind of a disappointing night, I know it's a good team over there, I know that they've got skill. It's an underrated group of defensemen, how they execute, how they move the puck, how they skate, and I think we let that group play that type of game. That group of defensemen, I don't think we were hard enough on them and that was the result that we saw."

And now it's time to rest up and heal up for guys that are battered and bruised but having to think about this will be hard.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players from left Kyle Brodziak, Ryan Reaves, Colton Parayko and
Joel Edmundson celebrate Brodziak's goal Monday night.

"Well, we'll get the rest that we need and part of the rest is mental, but we have to understand that we've got a great challenge coming up and I hope that we get excited for that," Yeo said. 'I still think that we're in a position where if we can take care of what we need to take care of then we'll be where we need to be. That's my focus. We have a group that's good enough, there's no question. I know that this is a group that hasn't really been in this situation before, so it's a good experience. We're going to have be mentally tough, we're going to have to make sure that we bounce back from losses in the right way and make sure that we handle the wins the right way as well. For me, I'm very frustrated and disappointed about this game tonight. But once the clock turns to midnight, I will start looking forward and get excited about the opportunity towards the end of the season here."

"Yeah, it's tough but you shut your mind off, you prepare for a good long stretch to close the season," Upshall said. "We're in a big fight for a playoff spot right now. We all realize what's at stake now and we're going to come back after the break with our best foot forward."

* NOTES -- Steen played in his 800th game. ... The Blues announced that their April 2 game against the Nashville Predators has been changed from a 5 p.m. puck drop to 3 p.m. as part of 'St. Louis Fan's Ultimate Sports Day,' as the Blues and Cardinals continue to collaborate as One Nation. The Cardinals will open their 2017 season against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium at 7:30 p.m. later that night. 

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