Saturday, October 24, 2015

Shorthanded Blues rally, fall to Islanders in OT

St. Louis rallies from two-goal third-period deficit but fall on 
Grabovski goal despite missing several key players due to injury, sickness

ST. LOUIS -- Playing without five impact players because of injury, then finding out one out before puck drop that another player had gotten sick, the Blues were up against it in a number of ways against the talented New York Islanders.

But somehow, the Blues found a way to earn a point despite being disappointed with not getting two in a 3-2 loss to the Islanders on Mikhail Grabovski's overtime winner with 59.3 seconds remaining.

The Blues (5-2-1), who found out that Jaden Schwartz will miss at least the next 12 weeks with a fractured left ankle sustained at practice Friday; they're without Paul Stastny, who was diagnosed with a broken right foot that will have him out of action a minimum of five weeks, Robby Fabbri (concussion), Kevin Shattenkirk (lower body) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder), found out -- according to coach Ken Hitchcock -- that Scottie Upshall, who was pressed into a top-six role with the plethora of injuries, would be a late scratch after becoming sick.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (left) gets pulled down by Islanders
defenseman Brian Strait going for a puck Saturday at Scottrade Center.

"It just seems to be one of those weeks," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It really threw us for a curve. Nobody was ready for it and all of the sudden came on. (Upshall) got sick at 6 o'clock tonight and couldn't go. We jumbled lines all over the place. This was typical the last four or five days for us. It's been a roller-coaster. That's why I said we needed to get through today. We got a point today. We needed to get through today and get on and kind of settle things down."

But somehow, even after an inauspicious start to the game, the Blues found a way to overcome a 2-0 third-period deficit and arguably deserve a better fate in the game.

But Grabovski took a backhand pass from Frans Nielsen in front and redirected the puck past goalie Brian Elliott, who finished with 19 saves to fall to 4-0-1. 

"We weren't winning a lot of faceoffs and we weren't sharp off the bat," Elliott said. "We did a great job just kind of settling down in the third period and kind of taking over the game.

"That's what's frustrating. To lose in OT is a disappointment but you have to be happy with the one point and kind of move on from it and learn from that start. We had a lot of good things so you can't hang your head too much."

John Tavares extended his point streak to six games with his fifth goal, and Kyle Okposo scored for New York (5-2-1), which ended a four-game losing streak in St. Louis. The Islanders last won in St. Louis on Dec. 6, 2005, and had lost five straight overall against the Blues.

New York goalie Thomas Greiss is 3-0-1 after he made 38 saves. 

The Islanders penalty killing was exceptional. They were a perfect 5-for-5 and have killed 18 straight the past five games.

The Blues trailed 2-0 entering the third period but got goals from Colton Parayko and Alexander Steen. Parayko had an assist on Steen's goal.

"I think we might have had a little slow start personally," Parayko said. "As the third started, we took over completely."

St. Louis inserted defenseman Chris Butler into the lineup and was not in sync early. But the Blues felt like they deserved a better fate after a rough start. They got better as the game progressed. 

"I thought we really deserved more," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought we were a little bit sluggish in the first period. We weren't checking as hard as we've done. I thought we played great in the second and third. Guys gave a lot, gave a lot in the second and gave a ton in the third; missed a lot of chances in the second period, bang-bang plays at the net. We had some great opportunities there." 

Tavares, who had an assist in the Islanders' 5-3 home loss to the Boston Bruins on Friday, has four goals and six assists during his point streak. 

Okposo's power-play goal with 3:08 remaining in the first period came off a shot from the left circle with Anders Lee screening Elliott. The Blues goalie appeared to be in position, but the puck squirted through his pads for a 1-0 Islanders lead. 

It was Okposo's ninth point in 10 games against St. Louis. 

The Blues had the better of the play in the second period, but Griess made saves on all 14 shots he faced. However, the Blues had several high percentage chances they simply missed on.

"I thought we scored a lot of goals today," Hitchcock said. "We had a lot of bang-bang chances, especially backdoor plays."

Tavares converted on a Nikolay Kulemin pass, beating Elliott high stick side with 1:19 remaining in the second period to give New York a 2-0 lead. 

The goal seemed to zap the 19,186 inside the building.

"Elite players find a way," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.

Parayko scored to pull the Blues within a goal at 2:26 of the third period. His wrist shot from the right boards caromed off New York defenseman Brian Strait's shoulder and past Greiss, who never saw the puck. 

Parayko's goal ended a 103:33 goal drought for St. Louis. 

Steen's redirection of Parayko's shot with 9:09 remaining tied the game 2-2. The Blues pressed on for the game-winner in the third but came away empty-handed despite outshooting the Islanders 15-2.

"I don't know if it was that good, but it was much much better," Steen said. "It felt like we were starting to take back over. And a strong third period."

Steen had the best chance for the Blues in overtime. He was positioned at the bottom of the right circle and took a Parayko pass for a one-timer but didn't get all of it and missed the net.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Scott Gomez (93) moved the puck past the Islanders' Steve Bernier in 
action Saturday at Scottrade Center. The Islanders won 3-2 in overtime.

"I thought Steen had scored the goal there," Hitchcock said. "I thought that was in; I thought he had scored there.

"I think as a coach, you're sitting there on the bench, you know it isn't going to a shootout; something's going to happen. Something did. What's really interesting is if you look at the goals, they all come from the same situation. They all come from a turnover high in the offensive zone. That's where everything gets generated from. You can spend all day in the offensive zone and nothing happens, but it's the turnover in the offensive zone up high that causes all the problems because you're trying to defend tired people, you usually give an odd-man rush, which is what happened and then you end up getting scored on. You look at all the goals that get scored, I'll bet you 90 percent of them are exactly the same."

Not long after, Grabovski scored, and the Blues settled for the one point.

"All in all, we showed a lot of character," Steen said. "Good third period."

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