Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Blues blow late lead, win on Steen OT goal

Predators overcome 3-1 deficit to force extra 
period; Lehtera, Fabbri, Jaskin combine for five points

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues were in control on the scoreboard at least in their game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

Two points seemed to be in the bag. But there seemed to be a bit of uneasiness to  the final stretch.

The Blues needed an Alexander Steen goal with 58.2 seconds remaining in overtime to give them a 4-3 win against the Predators at Scottrade Center, but it was two points earned the hard way.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Alexander Steen (left) beats a pair of Nashville players to score the OT
goal in a 4-3 Blues win against the Predators on Tuesday. 

The Blues (23-12-4) were having flashbacks to Philadelphia, a game they blew a 3-0 lead and eventually lost 4-3 on Dec. 21. This time, they led 3-1 with under four minutes remaining. But goals from Shea Weber and Colin Wilson in a span of 2 minutes, 20 seconds saw a 3-1 lead evaporate. They earned the point getting it to overtime but would have been incensed had they lost the game.

But Steen got a breakout pass through the Nashville zone from Paul Stastny and took a wrist shot past Nashville goalie Carter Hutton. 

"Yes, and good first pass by 'Petro' to go to 'Stas' as opposed to me," Steen said. "And 'Stas,' I knew he was coming to me. Nice play."

The Blues outshot the Predators 6-0 in overtime with the majority of zone time and capped it with Steen's winner.

"We started with the puck, which is huge in OT and kind of waited for our chance to shoot," Steen said. "We didn't waste anything. For the most part, we were pretty good in OT. It's all puck possession."

Dmitrij Jaskin had a goal and an assist, Kevin Shattenkirk and Robby Fabbri scored, and Jori Lehtera had two assists for the Blues. Goalie Jake Allen made 30 saves to defeat the Predators for the third time this season. 

St. Louis, which has won six of eight, is an NHL-best 17-5-0 against the Western Conference. 

St. Louis defeated Nashville 2-1 here on Dec. 17 but according to coach Ken Hitchcock, the Blues got too comfortable in this game.

"... If you're sitting on the bench, you're hoping you get to the end of the buzzer because we weren't really in control of anything. Other than the first two-thirds of the first period, which was exceptional, we weren't in control of anything. We were trying to keep up to them and they were trying to keep up to us, but neither team was checking very well. Both teams looked like they were a little bit tired for whatever reason. When you come off your checking against that team, you're going to get beat."

Mattias Ekholm had a goal and an assist, and Shea Weber and Colin Wilson scored for the Predators (18-12-7). Carter Hutton made 21 saves; he is 0-2-3 against St. Louis. 

The Predators are 0-6 in overtime this season. 

"It's a huge character (point), especially against a team that defends so well usually as a team," Weber said. "This team, when they get a lead, it's so hard because they collapse and they block a lot of shots. The way Allen's played against us this year too. 

"I think that was the first time we've scored even strength on them this year, so to get two late, that's a big deal for us here and to get one point in a division game is big."

Weber's 11th of the season cut the lead to 3-2 on a quick shot from the high slot after taking Roman Josi's feed with 3:52 remaining, and Wilson collected a rebound and beat Allen with 1:32 remaining after the Predators pulled Hutton. Ryan Ellis' shot from the blue line pinballed off Troy Brouwer and Carl Gunnarsson before fortuitously falling to the top of the crease, where Wilson easily tucked the puck into the empty net.

The Blues had to find a way to regroup, and quickly.

"They turn it on, trying to get anything, get a couple bounces," Steen said. "The last one was really unfortunate. It's going away and hits something and goes back the other side and they've got two guys just standing there. It's unnecessary, it's things that we can't let happen. We have to shut them out when the score is 3-1."

"Everyone was staying positive," Fabbri said. "It wasn't over when they came back and we knew that. Just sticking to what got us that lead was what we did."

Fabbri broke a 1-1 tie on a give-and-go play with Lehtera. Fabbri skated toward the slot and pulled the puck around sliding defenseman Seth Jones before beating Hutton with a wrist shot five-hole 12:04 into the second period to give the Blues a 2-1 lead.

"Lehtera did a great job, took two guys with him," Fabbri said. "He gave me that lane to the net there. Jones went down and when I went around him, he sort of hit my stick. Five-hole wasn't necessarily where I was going, but it counts."

Shattenkirk gave the Blues a 3-1 lead when he took a breakout pass from Lehtera and beat Hutton with a slap shot from the top of the right circle 1:55 into the third period.

Jaskin's first goal in 20 games put the Blues ahead 1-0. He was able to tip Jay Bouwmeester's shot on goal, then collect the rebound and backhand it past Hutton 9:38 into the first period.

The Predators tied it 1-1 on Ekholm's shorthanded goal, his first goal in 21 games. Fisher won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Ekholm, who seemed to catch Allen off guard with a quick shot inside the near post at 14:00.

"We had a great start and the first goal was exceptional, and then when we got scored on, we sagged, and it took us a whole to catch it back up," Hitchcock said. "Then when we started to play again, we started to play, but we were vulnerable defensively. We had too many just-abouts. We were vulnerable back there, so I think we became hesitant and when you become hesitant defensively, that's usually when you get in trouble.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) moves the puck past Nashville center Mike
Ribeiro on Tuesday. Lehtera has two assists in a 4-3 OT win.

Things looked good for the Blues after Shattenkirk's goal, but they caught themselves fending off a late Nashville push and had to refocus on getting a second point.

"The win's the win at the end of the day but to give up with five minutes left a two-goal lead and let them back in the game and give them hope, it's not the right thing to do and we all know that," Allen said. "You can't really say anything about it now, but we wish we could take those five minutes back and do it a little differently, but we got the win, we found a way, and move on to the next game." 

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