Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blues' home slide continues with 2-1 loss to Sharks

Long day after tough travel ends with fifth straight loss on Scottrade Center ice

ST. LOUIS -- Using a tough travel route back to St. Louis from Vancouver was the perfect excuse for the Blues Tuesday night.

But nobody wanted to use it after another loss on home ice.

Tim Kennedy's fluky goal that handcuffed Jake Allen in goal with 6 minutes, 58 seconds remaining was enough to allow the San Jose Sharks to snap a seven-game winless skid with a 2-1 victory over the Blues Tuesday night at Scottrade Center, the Blues' fifth loss in a row on home.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Patrik Berglund reacts after scoring for the Blues Tuesday night.

The travel-weary Blues, who saw their three-game winning streak -- all on the road -- end, tried to will their way to two points. But the Sharks had other ideas. They had problems of their own.

On a day in which the Blues arrived 12 1/2 hours prior to the puck drop against the Sharks -- or 14 hours after they were scheduled to arrive -- because of mechanical issues with the team's charter flight out of Vancouver, the Blues had steam early but ran out of fizzle.

And for coach Ken Hitchcock, it was an all-too-familiar theme that has seen the Blues get outscored 23-9 in the five home games that's seen the Blues go 0-4-1.

"This is common what we've been doing the last four or five games at home. It's the same stuff," an agitated Hitchcock said. "Too many passengers. Too many people not pulling their weight. Too much skill ahead of work on certain guys ... same guys. Night-in and night-out at home. We don't do it on the road, but we do it at home.

"We're not good enough, we're not skilled enough to play that way, but that's what happened. When you put skill ahead of work, maybe you get away with it a little bit, but to do it constantly, too many guys want the game to be a little bit easier. That's the difference."

Kennedy fired a shot from a sharp angle inside the left circle that squirted through Jake Allen and into the goal. Joe Thornton also scored for the Sharks, who came in 0-4-3 in their last seven games after starting the season 7-0-0.

Allen, who was 3-0-0 in his first three decisions since being recalled from the Peoria Rivermen of the American Hockey League, called it an unfortunate play that went against the Blues.

"It was a bit of a knuckler, sort of wobbled on me and I didn't even know it squeaked through me," Allen said. "That's the way the game goes. Those things happen sometimes. I wish it didn't. Tough way to go down.

"It's unfortunate what happened yesterday (with the team's travel issues), but we can't use it as an excuse. It happened. We're here tonight to play. We had our moments, but we weren't as consistent as we were on the road. Hopefully, we bounce back and get that back tomorrow (at Colorado)."

Patrik Berglund got the Blues rolling, but they couldn't get much else mustered. The Blues' fifth straight loss at home is something that hasn't happened since dropping five in a row from Dec. 18, 2009-Jan. 2, 2010.

"It's a natural instinct. You're at home, you want it to be easier," Hitchcock said. "That's just the way it is, a natural human tendency.

"I don't look at it (as a missed opportunity on home ice). I look at it as we have to get people to change. These are veteran players that we have to get to change. We have to work with them to figure it out. That's what we have to do. There's a reason we score one goal. Our goalie was great tonight. We didn't give up much after the first six minutes, but we didn't get much either. It was an unfortunate second goal, but when you're constantly scoring one goal at home, there's a reason ... you're not going in the hard areas. You're not doing the hard things. You're not competing near hard enough to score."

The Blues were a bit sluggish at the outset but were able to get through a pair of early penalty kills. Allen was also able to get some key stops, including one on Joe Pavelski in the slot after a turnover less than two minutes into the game.

But the Blues held the Sharks without a shot over the final 10:19 of the first period and built a 1-0 lead when Berglund, who has a goal in a career-best four straight, scored his team-leading ninth of the season 12:54 into the game. Vladimir Sobotka was able to curl around the San Jose goal and thread a pass to Berglund into the low slot, and the Blues' center was able to push it under through Antti Niemi's right arm.

But the Sharks began to take the play over and would get the typing goal.

Thornton's first goal in 10 games tied it for the Sharks, after he collected a rebound off Dan Boyle's shot from the slot 3:55 into the second period after Berglund had a chance to get the puck out but reverse-pivoted back around the net. The puck never made it out of the zone.

It was the Sharks' first regular season goal in St. Louis since Devin Setoguchi scored here Dec. 18, 2010, a span of 148:51.

And in the third period, when the Blues typically dominate the ice and dominate the puck, they didn't have much until the final five minutes or so when they were already down a goal.

They didn't get their first shot on net in the period until 7:16 remaining and they never seemed to get much of a push.

"We had a tough day of travel, but it's no excuse for the loss tonight," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "We just didn't do the things that we needed to do. We didn't get enough shots on net. When you don't shoot the puck, you don't create any havoc in front of their net and you don't create opportunities to score."

Hitchcock, who didn't name any of the forwards, did point a finger at his top two defensemen, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. They were a collective minus-3 in the game and had five of the team's eight giveaways.

"Both of them could probably play better, that would help us," Hitchcock said. "Both guys need to play better.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' Jaden Schwartz (9) and Ryan Reaves (middle) battle for a
loose puck against the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night.

"They're our top players, they're like a lot of our top players at home. They're just probably likeneed to play better."

The Blues boarded a plane -- again -- after the game and flew to Denver for a game against the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night.

Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal as the Blues search for their fourth win in a row away from the suddenly not-so-friendly home ice.

"It's unfortunate what happened yesterday, but we can't use it as an excuse," Allen said of Tuesday's game. "It happened. We're here tonight to play. We had our moments, but we weren't as consistent as we were on the road. Hopefully, we bounce back and get that back tomorrow."

* NOTES -- Jackman jumps into a sixth place tie all-time in the games played list with his 614th in a Blues uniform, passing Al MacInnis and tying Barclay Plager. ... Thornton and former Blue Michal Handzus won a combined 22 of 25 faceoffs in the game. The Blues were 46 percent (31-for-68) as a team on the faceoff dot.

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