Monday, December 21, 2015

Blues blow 3-0 lead, fall to Flyers

Medvedev's late third-period goal stuns St. Louis, which plays at Boston Tuesday

PHILADELPHIA -- When Magnus Paajarvi scored nine minutes into the second period, it gave the Blues a seemingly comfortable three-goal lead on the road. 

All was well.

"At 3-0, we loved the way the game was going," Blues captain David Backes said. 

Was going, being the prohibitive words here.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Alex Pietrangelo (left) and Jake Allen (34) look to fend off a scoring chance
from the Flyers and Matt Read (middle) Monday in a 4-3 loss.

The Blues had flirted with danger early in the second period after going up by two in the first, and got a fortuitous break gave them the chance to go up three. Then the Philadelphia Flyers kept coming ... and coming ... and coming. The Blues were in a track meet and the Flyers built off momentum. 

The Flyers came all the way back, getting a goal from Evgeny Medvedev with 3 minutes, 13 seconds to play and capped a four-goal comeback to stun the Blues, 4-3 at Wells Fargo Center.

The Blues (20-11-4), who head off to Boston to play the red-hot Bruins -- 11-1-3 in their past 15 games -- should have been talking about tying a season-high four-game winning streak. Instead, they were left to talk about arguably one of the uglier losses in recent memory.

It was their first loss (10-1-1) when leading after two periods and one they're lucky won't sit in their guts through the Christmas break.

"We've just got to keep playing that way and we don't," Backes said of playing with a lead. "Don't take care of the puck. They've got plenty of power to capitalize on chances. They get a shorty, gives them some life, a 2-on-1 not long after that that they capitalize on; now we're in a hockey game again. Foot off the gas once again and we can't put together a full 60, or we haven't put together a full 60 to bury a team when we've got a 3-0 lead, which seems like the logical thing to do."

The Blues, who got Paajarvi's breakaway goal 9:11 into the second to go up 3-0, had a chance to break the Flyers' backs with a power play goal. Instead, Philadelphia gets a shorthanded goal following a costly turnover from Kevin Shattenkirk, then another after Troy Brouwer lost an offensive-zone puck and momentum was on the Flyers' side.

"We kind of turned it into a track meet a little bit in the second, but the shorthanded goal against hurt us a lot, gave them momentum and then the second goal ... the third goal's going to to happen," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The second goal's what gave them the breathing room and then it just turned into somebody was going to score in the third.

"There was a lot of poor puck decisions in the second period. They made a lot in the first and we made a lot in the second. Both teams pressured each other, they dialed it up in the second and we started turning the puck over. We didn't manage it manage it very well at all. We didn't manage it on the entries, we didn't manage it very well in the zone. It was in the zone that really hurt us, in the offensive zone."

It was a good start to a road game for the Blues, who got goals from Robby Fabbri and Shattenkirk to go up 2-0.

Fabbri's sixth of the season and second against the Flyers this season came after Jori Lehtera fought off Brayden Schenn near the blue line for a puck, then Dmitrij Jaskin forced a Claude Giroux turnover in his own zone by knocking him off the puck. Jaskin would win the puck in the corner, have it behind the net and feed Fabbri in the slot for a one-timer 8:16 in.

Shattenkirk scored on the Blues' first power play, giving them seven goals in 12 tries over six games (five if you don't include Saturday, in which they didn't have one). 

Vladimir Tarasenko was able to fight off Matt Read, slide a cross-ice feed to Shattenkirk, who beat Mason with a one-timer from the left circle at 14:51.

It gave Tarasenko a six-game point streak (five goals, five assists) and 15 points in 12 games (eight goals, seven assists). Shattenkirk's goal was his 20th point in 19 games (five goals, 15 assists).

The Blues began to get scrambly with the puck but still managed to grab a 3-0 lead on Paajarvi's second of the season and first in 19 games.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare fell following Michael Del Zotto's drop pass at the Blues' blue line, Paul Stastny sent Paajarvi in alone on Mason, and Paajarvi calmly tapped a shot five-hole at 9:11.

All was well, right?

Not so fast.

"We played such a good road game, up 3-0," Paajarvi said. "It felt awesome. Credit to them, they stepped started to take over a little bit. Our special teams have won so many games for us and unfortunately we couldn't do that today. That's what's nice about a back-to-back. You keep in mind this game, but you can go tomorrow. Today's a tough one.

"We started not to forecheck as well and they took advantage. We started playing good again in the third and had good chances; I had one. It was unfortunate and it was a tough one for sure."

The Flyers came on strong and got two goals to get within one at 3-2 after a couple costly mistakes by the Blues.

Chris VandeVelde poked in a shorthanded goal after Jake Allen made a great sprawling left toe save on Bellemare's breakaway. Bellemare picked off Shattenkirk's cross-ice pass in the neutral zone and VandeVelde followed up the play after Alexander Steen couldn't clear the rebound as the puck lay by the right post at 10:03.

"It was right beside the post and I was just trying to cover it, make sure it doesn't go back at (Allen)," Steen said. "Right as (Allen) moves his pad, I kind of let up to put it in the corner and (VandeVelde) comes in from behind and jams it in. Tough goal at that time."

Wayne Simmonds scored 2:10 later after Shayne Gostisbehere picked off an offensive zone puck from Brouwer and send Simmonds and Jakub Voracek off on a 2-on-1. With David Backes defending, Simmonds fed Voracek, who fed it back to Simmonds for a quick one-timer over Allen at 12:10 to make it 3-2.

The Flyers came close to scoring at the end of the period on the power play with Lehtera in the box for high sticking Giroux, but Voracek sent a drive high with an open side in the waning seconds.

The Flyers would tie it 51 seconds in when Simmonds deflected Voracek's one-timer from the top of the right circle to tie the game 3-3 on that same power play, and the Blues were left scrambling to at least try to get a point, or somehow manage to get the lead again, which they had multiple chances to do so.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Kevin Shattenkirk scored to give the Blues a 2-0 lead, but the Philadelphia
Flyers stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to stun the Blues 4-3 Monday.

But instead, they were left to try and fend off the Flyers' chances of winning in regulation. 

"Yeah, unfortunately, it becomes that feeling," Paajarvi said. "It shouldn't, but I think that just comes natural unfortunately."

Medvedev came through the slot untouched as three Blues skaters went with Ryan White, who flipped a puck back to his oncoming defensemen and he beat Allen, who made 27 saves, high stick side.

"They're a hard forechecking team, but we're ahead of it for the first period when we're moving the puck ahead of them and making sure that they're not getting it stopped and we're out of the zone fairly quickly and into the other zone," Backes said. "That's a good recipe, a recipe where it's not getting in and they're turning back on us, point blank chances ... it's no good for winning hockey games, especially on the road.

"It's just our lack of burying that team when we've got a 3-0 lead and never give them life. You never know what this turns into and instead, get life and we're on the losing side, get zero points when we should have had two, I think."

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