Poor start costs St. Louis on back-to-back games, third in four nights
By LOUIE KORAC
CHICAGO -- The Blues just can't seem to win in this building.
Even after a big push in the third period after falling behind by three, United Center frozen water has not been kind ice to the Blues in recent memory.
Chicago made it 11 wins in the last 12 against the Blues here, including eight in a row, as St. Louis fell to 1-7-4 at the Madhouse on Madison despite a valiant effort late after falling 3-2 in the Blackhawks' home-opener before 21,455 spectators.
The Blues' T.J. Oshie (74) tries to cut to the net with Chicago's Nick Leddy
in pursuit Tuesday night at United Center.
Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Viktor Stalberg scored for the Hawks (3-0), who won the battle of unbeaten Central Division teams and jumped ahead of the Blues (2-1) by two points. Corey Crawford made 32 stops, as the Blues outshot the Hawks 34-27 in the game.
Andy McDonald and T.J. Oshie scored for the Blues and Brian Elliott stopped 24 pucks in a losing cause.
Both teams were playing their third game in four nights, but the Blues were coming in off a tough 4-3 shootout win at Nashville Monday night while the Hawks rested after back-to-back games out west.
Early in the game was a tell-tale sign for the Blues, as they were sloppy at the outset, getting caught pinching into the offensive zone with their defensemen and allowing odd-man rushes, but Elliott was sharp early on in goal. Puck management was an issue.
"Our goalie held us in there in the first period early, but you can't make puck errors against this team," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We just didn't manage it very well, especially on a back-to-back night.
"We had an uneven game. We played uneven. We were poor early, then very good for stretches, but too many poor decisions against a very good team. Just light ... light with the puck and in the offensive zone. It wasn't what they did in our zone, it was what we did entering their zone and they transitioned quick. They caught us for odd-man rushes early."
One too many pinches and coughed up pucks led to a 3-on-0 -- yes, three against zero -- rush for the Hawks, and Kane converted a Sharp pass, cutting through the crease and sliding a backhand past Elliott 7 minutes, 20 seconds into the opening period for a 1-0 Chicago lead.
"The start killed us," McDonald said. "... I thought we mis-managed the puck early in the game. It seemed to take us a while to feel comfortable making the plays in our own zone, the plays in the neutral zone. Maybe a little had to do with how hard they were coming, but we've got the skill to make plays and manage the puck better than that. I think it ended up costing us."
The Blues were fortunate to only be down a goal, as Elliott was able to turn back early chances by Bryan Bickell and Brandon Bollig and then stop Patrick Sharp on another one-timer. Most of Chicago's chances came off six odd-man rushes in the period.
"Mis-managing it and poor reads," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We didn't play our game, we didn't play smart. We gave them too many odd-man rushes. Fortunately, Brian did a great job of keeping us in it. You can't give a team with that much skill those kind of opportunities."
The Blues had a chance to tie it when McDonald fed Alex at the side of the goal late on the Blues' first power play, but Steen's one-timer caromed off the skate of Marcus Kruger to keep it a 1-0 game. Vladimir Tarasenko also had a terrific chance on a rebound but his shot from a sharp angle was trapped by Crawford's glove.
Seabrook's power play goal was a deflection of Duncan Keith's shot from the blue line redirected through Elliott's pads 8:21 into the second that gave Chicago a 2-0 lead, but even down two after 40 minutes, the Blues felt like they had something left.
But Stalberg's wrister from the right circle using Chris Stewart as a bit of a screen beat Elliott on the short side just 2:09 into the third that gave Chicago the lead it would need in the end.
The Blues' Kris Russell (4) and Chicago's Jonathan Toews battle for a loose
puck in Tuesday's game in Chicago.
That's because the Blues had a push, and the end of the game was evident the Hawks needed every bit of what they got. McDonald got his second goal in as many nights, his eighth point (six goals) in six straight games against Hawks and 11th point in last 10 meetings between the teams. He took a pass from Steen and broke Crawford's shutout bit 4:40 into the third to make it 3-1.
Then Oshie scored a power play goal, the Blues' sixth power play goal in nine tries this season, with 5:07 to play to make it 3-2 and put the Hawks on their heels.
The Blues pushed again and again, as Stewart had a golden chance in the slot, but his snap shot was kicked out by the right pad of Crawford with 4:02 to play. The Blues pushed in the final minute but couldn't get the equalizer.
"We've got lots of spirit, but as I told the players, comeback hockey's losing hockey," Hitchcock said. "You can't mount comebacks all the time and expect to win hockey games.
"We got away with one yesterday (in Nashville) and we got caught on it today. We broke even on the weekend on the road, but we can't play this way and expect to win hockey games. We'll have to smarten up to get to the next level. This is a very good team, and they give us a very good evaluation of ourselves."
* NOTES -- The Blues' last win in this building came nearly three years ago, on Feb. 3, 2010. ... Wingers Jamie Langenbrunner and Matt D'Agostini made their season debuts, replacing Scott Nichol and Ryan Reaves in the lineup. ... Steen played in his 500th NHL game. ... Alex Pietrangelo's game-tying goal at Nashville was the 100th point of his brief NHL career. ... Sunday's home game against the Minnesota Wild, originally scheduled for 5 p.m., has been moved back to a 7 p.m. start to accommodate national television (NBC Sports Network). The Feb. 11 game against the Los Angeles Kings, originally slated for 8 p.m., was moved up to a 7 p.m. start.
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