Thursday, February 4, 2010

Blues fall behind early, lose to Sharks 4-2

Team can't sustain momentum from victory Wednesday in Chicago

ST. LOUIS -- After a solid road victory in Chicago Wednesday, the Blues had little time to dwell on two important points. After all in the NHL, you're only as good as your next game.

Lined up against arguably the best forward line in the NHL, the Blues were faced with the daunting task of setting the tone early against San Jose's Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, who came into Thursday's game with 192 points in 56 games among them.

But just 21 seconds into the game, the Sharks' trio had already set the tone, and San Jose's top billing in the Western Conference was rightfully justified as they never relinquished a lead and doubled up the Blues 4-2 before 19,150 at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (25-23-9), who were looking to go a season-high four games over .500, could not build off Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Blackhawks as they were looking to knock off the top two Western Conference teams in a span of 24 hours. Their home woes, despite being better in recent games, is not helping matters, as the Blues are now 9-15-5 on home ice, including 8-15-5 at Scottrade.

Instead, they head into their next game Saturday staring the Blackhawks in the face once again, a team that will be looking for retribution after falling on home ice for only the sixth time this season and try and keep the Blues from climbing that crowded conference ladder.

"Certainly not the start we wanted," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "We talked a lot this morning and a lot today about turnovers and the pucks that we had to make sure got in behind people. That first goal was a contested puck, no question, but a puck that we needed to get into the offensive zone in order to get our change. They made that one count."

The Blues, who also failed to get a puck in deep on the second goal that Ryane Clowe would bury and make it 2-0 7 minutes, 53 seconds into the game, were fighting from behind the entire night but could never get it back to even despite getting a Patrik Berglund power play goal 9:46 into the first.

"The (second) one was a neutral zone situation where a puck didn't get all the way deep," Payne said. "We get a good finish there by D.J. (King) but lost track of the puck and all of the sudden, get numbers coming back against us. It's not a great recipe against a hockey club like that.

"We got the game to 2-1 off the power play and I thought from that point forward ... I'm not sure how the chances are going to boil out, but I thought especially in the first eight minutes to start that second period there could have been a different fate in store if we could have found one to go in."

The Blues have been plagued by turnovers and when they compound matters by not getting pucks in deep, their opponents seem to get some free speed going through the neutral zone and making it easy to get into an easy-flowing transition game.

"We've preached about getting the puck deep," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "A few times in the first five minutes, we didn't do that and didn't get some momentum on our side. Just some little things like that cost us. I think the third period, I think we had the pressure on them. We just couldn't get any bounces.

"We gave them the first one. They're very dangerous and they pride themselves on turnovers and stealing pucks. When you give them opportunities in the slot, they're going to bury them. All three of them have great shots."

Ty Conklin was in goal for the Blues and fell to 0-6 in this building (he's 1-6-0 overall on home ice, which included a "home" win in Sweden) and stopped 27 shots but really felt like it was not one of his better nights.

"I think the difference was in goal, obviously," Conklin said. "(The Sharks' Thomas Greiss) played well and there's a couple I'd like to have back.

"I thought we played a really good game. I think there's a goal or two I'd like to have back. For the most part, especially given the fact we played back-to-back games, we were as good or better, I thought, tonight."

With the Blues down 2-1, a power play goal by San Jose's Devin Setoguchi was what swung the game back in the Sharks' favor.

Setoguchi curled himself around Jackman in the right corner, burst in front and slid a soft backhand past Conklin, a goal the veteran netminder said was the difference.

"From my perspective, somewhere you've got to find an extra save," Conklin said. "... I thought the winning goal was the one I'd really like to have back. At the time of the game, that's a save that ... it's a 2-1 game, a game we're fully in, and that's one I wanted to stop.

"He just beat me to the middle of the net. That's how he scored. He just beat me to the middle of the net. He didn't surprise me coming out of the corner."

Jackman gave credit to Setoguchi.

"I'm just trying to angle him off the puck and he made a decision to go back," Jackman said. "Normally guys will go behind the net and try and make a play on the opposite side, but he cut in front and slid one by Conks."

The Blues would put 37 shots on Greiss, who allowed some very generous rebound attempts that the Blues were somehow not getting to.

"I thought the first half of the game, at least through the first two periods, we took some routes that didn't keep us in that area where there were some pucks," Payne said. "If you noticed in the third period, we made more of an attempt to make sure we stopped right at the top of that area and get people all the way there. (Greiss) was still able to find either a body for the puck to hit or a way to make the save."

Alex Steen's shot from the right circle glanced in off Sharks defenseman Jay Leach's right skate that made it 3-2 8:39 into the game and the Blues found life -- or so they thought.

"We had a good mindset coming out for the third, got it to 3-2," Payne said. "We just wanted to continue with the pressure, continue with our game. I felt we were in striking distance, but that fourth one kept us away."

That fourth one came off the stick of Scott Nichol, whose blast from the top of the right circle beat Conklin stick side with 4:48 remaining.

"They took it to us for that first 30 seconds, ends up in a goal and we start the game with our tails between our legs," forward David Backes said. "Obviously, a very good opponent but even tougher when we put ourselves behind the Eight-ball like that to begin with."

* NOTES -- King returned to the lineup tonight, his first action since Nov. 24 when he broke his right hand in a fight with Dallas' Krys Barch. He replaced Cam Janssen (healthy scratch) in the lineup. ... B.J. Crombeen (lower-body) sat out his second straight game. ... Defenseman Darryl Sydor was also a healthy scratch.

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