Saturday, January 23, 2010

Not again! Blues blow another big lead at home

Third time this season at Scottrade team blows
3-0 lead, fall to Ducks 4-3 in shootout

ST. LOUIS -- Where have the Blues and their fans seen this before: a three-goal lead at home seems to be an automatic win, right?

Unfortunately, this is the Blues, where no leads -- three goals or not -- are not automatic.

And in the end, instead of celebrating a solid win and earning two points in the standings, the Blues are scratching their heads wondering what just transpired.

For the third time on home ice, the Blues blew a 3-0 lead -- twice in the third period.

Bobby Ryan capped off a remarkable comeback for the Anaheim Ducks with his second goal of the game with 30 seconds remaining to tie it, and James Wisniewski, who had never attempted a shootout in his career, ended it with a shootout goal in the seventh round as the Ducks earned an improbable 4-3 win over the stunned Blues and their 19,150 fans Saturday at Scottrade Center.

The Blues also lost home games on Dec. 12 against Edmonton (5-3) and on Dec. 31 against Vancouver (4-3 in overtime) in which they blew 3-0 leads.

The Blues (22-21-8), who forged ahead with two second-period goals by Andy McDonald and B.J. Crombeen, thought they had put the Ducks (24-21-7) away when T.J. Oshie scored 3 minutes, 35 seconds into the final period.

But the hard-charging Ducks took it to the Blues as if they were dealing with a wounded unit out there. They pounced and pounced and pounced. And the Blues continued to regress in their own end as if they were hiding in a bunker.

Scott Niedermayer began the comeback, and Ryan completed it with a rebound goal of a Ryan Getzlaf bomb just outside the left circle that nearly split goalie Chris Mason's helmet in half.

It was another contest in which the Blues frittered away precious points in the standings, and instead of being tied with the Ducks in points, the Blues now trail Anaheim by three points and a host of other teams by more.

"When you don't play your game, you can't expect results," said Blues coach Davis Payne, who witnessed his first 3-0 lead gone bad as the other two were under Andy Murray. "We didn't play our game in the third period.

"It's up to that group of five going over the boards to make sure we're playing our game, shift after shift. We didn't have enough of that consistently from the time we had the 3-0 lead on. It started to kind of creep in there in the second period as well. ... We can't sit here and talk about lessons. We've got to play our game in the third periods. It's a 3-0 lead with 15 minutes to go. That's 15 minutes of work."

Mason, who was bombarded with shot after shot in the third as Anaheim blitzed the Blues 17-3 in the shot department, was a helpless bystander as his teammates failed to lend the proper support in front of him.

"It's a terrible third period," Mason said. "We score that goal and we're up 3-0. I don't know if we think the game's over, but we got caught there without the third guy against the Getzlaf-(Corey) Perry unit and they scored a goal and got back in the game and had momentum the rest of the game on."

Oshie, who scored on a picture-perfect backhand that gave the Blues a three-goal lead, thought he had given the Blues a three-goal lead again with 11:05 remaining, but his shot from close-in range was blocked by defenseman Steve Eminger. The Ducks stayed within two goals, continued to peck away and eventually evened things before getting the shootout winner.

"Whoever blocked it, it was a great save," Oshie said. "I replayed that one about five times in my head since the game ended. Maybe I wanted to hold onto it and just put it upstairs and I could see (Alex Steen) on my backside, maybe throw it to him for an empty net. Things go through your head like that after a loss over and over again. If I could have it back, obviously I'd change it. At that moment, I was just trying to get it in."

Niedermayer scored off a 3-on-1 rush after Barret Jackman fell down in the neutral zone 5:13 into the period, then after a McDonald turnover, Ryan snapped a one-timer in with eight minutes to play and suddenly, things became quite uneasy in the building.

"We were flat. It seemed like we weren't attacking," McDonald said. "They just took it to us. It seemed like we were reacting to what they were doing instead of initiating. You can't do that. You've got to keep your foot on the gas and keep playing like we did in the first two periods.

"Our thirds ... it's just the same story. We've had it how many times this year. We've gone into a third period with the lead and we can't find a way to keep it going. ... It just seems like we're waiting for them to score, to take it to us instead of initiating."

Breakdowns tend to wind up in the Blues' net, and again, they did Saturday.

"We made a positional mistake on their first goal," Payne said. "We either got caught out there too long or in too deep. Niedermayer beats us up the ice and Jax got caught in a moment of indecision there on the puck and the next thing you know, you've got a 3-on-1 coming at you.

"From that (first goal) there, we didn't skate, we didn't play our game. Not just talking about getting into the offensive zone, it was about applying pressure and getting good, consistent returns and sticks in areas that doesn't allow them to come through the neutral zone clean. We didn't finish some of our jobs in the defensive zone. Consequently, they get extra time, they get extra possession, they get extra pressure.

"We have a breakdown on their second goal. Bobby Ryan's a guy we should be aware of standing between our circles. He finishes that one. And just some pressure back to your net in the defensive zone on the tying goal."

The Blues seemed to be getting their game together under Payne. They even went through a stretch of home games last week in which they outscored opponents 5-0 in third periods that resulted in a season-high four-game winning streak.

"I think we're so successful tonight in the first 40 minutes because we're always in their face, we always got the puck deep, we forechecked, we were moving our feet," forward Keith Tkachuk said. "For whatever reason after you get up 3-0, you know they're going to come hard. It's natural for a team when they're down and they're getting grief from their coach.

"For whatever reason, we're back on our heels and that can't happen. It's just unfortunate because we kissed that game goodbye. You've got to keep going after them and we didn't do that."

The game was tied 2-2 after the best-of-3 shootout, with Oshie and Brad Boyes getting goals for the Blues, while the Ducks countered with Perry and Getzlaf.

Both teams went scoreless the next three rounds before Jonas Hiller made a save in the seventh round on Paul Kariya, who came in 12-for-25 in his career in shootouts. That's when Wisniewski, a defenseman, stepped to the dish and he made good on his first career attempt.

"My gloves get real sticky when they start getting wet so they don’t slide on my stick," said Wisniewski, a former Chicago Blackhawk. "Right before the shootout, I told Sluggo (Ducks equipment manager Doug Shearer) baby powder because baby powder makes the gloves slide. He looked at me like 'C'mon. Let's get real here.' So like the fifth or sixth round comes and I'm like, 'Give me the baby powder. You never know.' He gave me the baby powder. I put it on. (Ducks coach) Randy (Carlyle's) like, 'Wiz, you're up.' I went in there and pulled one out of my treasure chest and it went in."

It went in and out went the air from the building's seams.

"I'd obviously like to stop the last one there, all of them for that matter," Mason said. "It should have never got to that point. It's too bad. I thought we gave away two points to Anaheim tonight."

* NOTES -- The Blues played without forward David Backes (upper-body) and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (lower-body). Payne said both were day-to-day.

Defenseman Darryl Sydor played in his third straight game after being a healthy scratch in six straight and 11 of 13 games.

"It's not the first time I've had to do this, so mentally I'm there," Sydor said. "I understand what kind of work you have to do off the ice, how you have to take care of yourself. I find that you get in better shape when you don't play. You're doing the extra skates and you come into the game and it doesn’t feel too bad. Obviously there are some nerves, you want to do well. It takes a few shifts, but you keep them short and you move forward."

1 comment:

  1. I know this is NOT going to be a popular idea... but I think I would have put out Winchester BEFORE guys like Walt and Kariya... though we only saw him a few times last year (where he did win a shoot out) he is a sniper in practice...

    I do not know if he would have had the confidence to take it... but hiller would not have known what to expect... and it could have turned out as it did tonight, but I think it would have been a good move (even though most fans would have been unconvinced of his usefulnes... unless he scored)