Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Third period costly for Blues in loss to Kings

Pair of Jackman mistakes lead to goals;
Oshie apparently OK after hit from Doughty

ST. LOUIS -- For a team that just hasn't been scoring many goals on average this season, there's a fine line for the Blues between winning and losing.

And when your steady-solid defenseman, who's been a rock on the team so far through the first quarter of the season, makes a couple costly mistakes that end up in the back of the net, it becomes difficult for the Blues to win hockey games.

Barret Jackman, known for his solid play thus far, coughed up a couple goals that led to the first two Kings goals, and unsung hero Willie Mitchell, playing in his 664th career game, scored the game-winning goal with 5 minutes 49 seconds remaining as the Kings slipped past the Blues 3-2 Tuesday night before 18,178 at Scottrade Center.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Roman Polak (left) battles the Kings' Dustin Brown (middle) on
a shot that comes in on goalie Jaroslav Halak Tuesday night.

The Blues (10-8-2), who lost for only the second time in regulation in 10 home games (7-2-1) and play tonight in Pittsburgh, have scored three goals or fewer in 16 of 20 games this season. And as coach Ken Hitchcock, who lost for the first time in regulation as Blues coach (4-1-2), put it, there's not a big margin for error with the team.

"When you're scoring two goals a game, you're living on a fine line," Hitchcock said. "We've been on the right side of it for the most part. But we're going to have to get extending ourselves a little bit better if we expect to win."

But Hitchcock did point out on Jackman, "He's a pretty solid guy. He'd be a stand-up guy with it, too. Tough plays."

The Kings' Anze Kopitar scored the tying goal 7:36 into the second, a power play goal after Mike Richards picked off Jackman's turnover in the right corner, feeding Kopitar in the crease, who beat Jaroslav Halak.

Richards broke a 1-all tie in the third when Andrei Loktionov picked off another Jackman puck, fed Richards in the slot and he beat Halak cleanly 4:41 into the period.

"The first one on the PK, I just made a bad read with good players on the ice," Jackman said. "I thought the play was in the middle, but obviously it wasn't and they jumped on it and scored.

"The second one, the puck just bounced over my stick. It was going the wrong way and I couldn't recover."

Alex Steen and Vladimir Sobotka scored for the Blues, who only lost for the second time in regulation in 10 home games. Jaroslav Halak stopped 25 shots.

"I think the last two games in the last two periods, we've probably come off it a little bit in the third period," Hitchcock said. "We've kind of been the team making a few mistakes. We've made a couple errors in our own net that have ended up in our net or ended up us taking a penalty to give the momentum back to the (opposing) team.

"It's a frustrating loss for the players to battle back like we did and give it up so quickly. It's a tough loss."

The Blues were quietly not pleased with a play at the end of the game in which Kings defenseman Drew Doughty took the Blues' T.J. Oshie hard into the corner boards late in the game. There was only a two-minute cross-checking penalty issued, but Oshie skated off the ice with a trainer holding his left shoulder and head.

"The end result is a two-minute penalty and a face-off outside the zone," Blues captain David Backes said. "They might as well just run clock on that.

"I guess if that's the extent of it, that's a good way to kill the clock ... no hold's barred at the end of the game. But it can't come down to the last three seconds. We should have been in better position, where it's us closing out that game."

Hitchcock said he didn't see the hit immediately after the game but when asked about Oshie, "He's good."
(Getty Images)
Blues defenseman Ian Cole (23) is being trailed by LA's Justin Williams in
action Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.

The Blues, got took a lead just 1:07 into the game on Steen's team-leading eighth goal, tied the game 2-2 when Sobotka finished off Matt D'Agostini's drop pass into the left circle. Sobotka one-timed his second of the season past Jonathan Bernier with 7:32 to play but coughed up the lead less than two minutes later when Mitchell's shot from the left point got through a Scott Nichol screen and past Halak at the near side.

"The third goal was disappointing because we came off of coverage," Hitchcock said. "We got beat to the puck below the goal line and we had couple people go for a skate instead of just stopping and playing. Those are the things in the third period that we want to see things change. ... Just stay with it."

The Blues' Patrik Berglund nearly untied the game twice in the ladder stages of the second period, once after stripping a puck at the blue line shorthanded and creating a 2 on 1 breakaway. But Berglund couldn't finish his shot as Bernier made a shoulder stop. Berglund also saw Bernier rob him in the slot on a backhand shot after taking Sobotka's saucer feed.

"He's playing a solid game. He's just not burying the chances," Hitchcock said of Berglund, who now has one goal in 11 games. "That's emotionally draining for him. He's had a lot scoring chances ... at least since I've been here. He has a lot of responsibility here.

"The difference for us was when we had all the chances in the second period and we couldn't grab the lead. For me, that was disappointing."

* NOTES -- The Blues placed defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo on injured reserve, retroactive to Friday. They have recalled defenseman Cade Fairchild from Peoria. Fairchild has two goals and four assists in 17 games and a team-leading plus-13.

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