Saturday, March 29, 2014

Blues fall flat against desperate Stars in 4-2 loss

Sloppy play, costly turnovers hurt St. Louis, 
which fell behind Boston for the top spot in the NHL

ST. LOUIS -- Playing another desperate team fighting for a playoff spot, the Blues ran into the resistance Saturday night from the Dallas Stars they failed to get from the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.

The Blues will get into situations like their 4-2 loss to the Stars Saturday night where games won't look perfect.

But in the eyes of coach Ken Hitchcock, there was a culmination of things that happened in the game that have led to this loss.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Alexander Steen (left) is tied up by Stars forward Jamie Benn Saturday
at Scottrade Center. Steen scored twice but the Blues fell 4-2 to Dallas.

"I thought we were just sloppy. We were sloppy," Hitchcock said. "I think where we were not very competitive or out of sync was in our own zone. We gave the first goal away twice. We ran around on their third goal. We went chasing hits on their third goal. Fourth goal, we jumped by it twice. That's sloppy. 

"I think we got away with it against Minnesota and we scored, got the lead, but we were doing the same stuff early then. [Dallas] scored on their chances tonight. We had a lot of chances, but we didn't score. They compete. They're in desperation stage, they're competing hard." 

The desperate Stars do not hold one of the two Western Conference wild cards into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they are within reach. 

Colton Sceviour's first two-goal game in the NHL started a five-game trip off right Saturday at Scottrade Center. 

The Stars (35-27-11) ended a four-game road losing streak, won for the fourth time in five games, and reached 81 points. The Stars are now only one point behind the Phoenix Coyotes, who fell 3-1 to the Minnesota Wild. Dallas still trails the Wild by four points.

Cody Eakin had a goal and an assist for the Stars, who got a goal from Antoine Roussel and 33 saves from Kari Lehtonen. Shawn Horcoff assisted on Sceviour's goals, and Jordie Benn had two assists.

The Blues (50-17-7) were looking to jump back over the Boston Bruins in the race for the Presidents' Trophy but lost in regulation on home ice for the first time in 11 games (8-1-2). 

Boston leads St. Louis by one point (108-107) after a 4-2 win against the Washington Capitals earlier Saturday. 

Alexander Steen scored twice for the Blues in his 600th NHL game, and Kevin Shattenkirk had two assists to set a career highs in assists (35) and points (44). Ryan Miller stopped 23 shots and is 9-3-1 for St. Louis since being acquired Feb. 28.

"It was a gritty game," Steen said. "Obviously they got a good start and they got a good bounce on their fourth one. It's tough. We feel like we'd been all over them in the third period, had some good chances. They get the fourth one. We were a little late tonight."

The Blues have gotten 18 points in the past three games from the Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie line, got little to nothing from the guys behind them. And that what concerns Hitchcock, who said: "What we are right now is too inconsistent. We've got too many players who are having good games and then are following it up with poor games. Right now, we can't afford to do that. Have to send a few messages here in the next couple games and see if we can get everybody's attention."

Those messages will come on Monday, when the Blues hit the ice for practice after a day off. It's not rocket science to think Hitchcock will blow his forward lines up looking for more consistency.

"It alarms you, but you've just got to get back to work," Hitchcock said. "What we really needed today was for other people to step up and didn't get it. That's what we needed. We've counted on one line for a good portion of the time, now we needed other people to step up today, didn't get it. That's what worries me. We need other people to grab the rope here a little bit. The Backes line isn't going to be perfect every night, but this was a real opportunity for other guys to really step forward, really help us. That's what we need."

The Stars played with the lead for all but 3:53. They converted a Blues turnover into the first goal, Sceviour's first of the game less than four minutes after faceoff. 

In an attempt to whip the puck around the boards, Blues forward Steve Ott whiffed. Horcoff passed to Sceviour in the slot and he beat Miller from in tight. Ott played played with Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow, and that line was a combined minus-5. 

The Stars were being outshot 8-0 in the second period, but Sceviour gave Dallas a 2-0 lead when Horcoff's shot was stopped by Miller but caromed off Sceviour's right leg 7:21 into the period for his seventh of the season. Vernon Fiddler's assist was the 200th NHL point. 

The Blues made it 2-1 when Steen redirected Alex Pietrangelo's shot-pass from the high slot over Lehtonen with 5:44 left in the second on the power play. 

Eakin restored the Stars' two-goal lead 25 seconds later with a redirection off a Jordie Benn shot from the blue line. 

Steen's first two-goal game since Dec. 19 (29 games) made it 3-2 49 seconds into the third period. The Blues' second power-play goal came on a one-timer from the top of the right circle that beat Lehtonen inside the near post.

"I think we came into the third period with the mindset that we were going to turn this around," Steen said.

The Stars had other ideas. They would restore a two-goal lead when a puck skidded past Shattenkirk at the right point and Roussel broke free. He beat Miller upstairs 7:56 into the third period.

"In the beginning, I think they really earned (breaks)," Steen said. "That's what happens sometimes. Towards the late stages of the game, I thought we had them on the ropes a little bit. That fourth one was tough."

Shattenkirk said it was a do-or-die play he felt he had to make.

"It was a tough play," he said. "If Alex Steen kind of gets in (Roussel's) way a little more, it's probably an interference penalty also. He has to let him to. It was a tough position. It was a tough hop, especially at 3-2. When we're down by a goal, you're trying to create some offense there and hold the blue line. If we're up 3-2, I'm probably backing off that and letting him come. It's just a situation of the game. If it bounces the other way for us, maybe we're scoring a goal. It's something that's a little high-risk, high-reward. You hope it works out and you try to keep your team in the game."
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Defenseman Roman Polak (pictured) and the Blues had a tough night in
a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars Saturday night.

(Momentum) was changing," Hitchcock said. "They had no scoring chances. Their breakaway was their own scoring chance in the third period and they scored on it. We were in their zone the whole time. I think if we would have tied it up, we would have won the hockey game. Every time we made a push, they scored two or three shifts later. In one case, the next shift."

Miller, whose goals-against average is 2.18 and save percentage is .912, was down on himself following the game.

"I've got to manage the puck better," Miller said. "I know guys are driving the net and I'm trying to keep ahead of those guys. I didn't feel like I had a situation where I could just knock it down. And bad play. I've got to know what's coming at me, all my options.

"The third goal was just a poor decision on my part. I put the puck in a bad spot and we can't recover. It's got to go behind the net or it's got to be a better lead for the defensemen. Really those two goals in the second just better puck management."

No comments:

Post a Comment