Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sloppy Blues fall 3-1 to Panthers

MacKenzie's two goals, St. Louis turnovers, 
lack of puck management lead to home loss

ST. LOUIS -- No rhythm, no puck management and turning pucks over like a hot potato were recipes for disaster for the Blues against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Fourth-line center Derek MacKenzie scored two goals in a game for the second time in his career to help the Panthers defeat the Blues 3-1 at Scottrade Center in front of 15,395 disinterested fans.

The Blues (15-7-3) lacked any kind of punch, and it was evident from an lackadaisical first period from both teams, who combined for seven shots (4-3 in favor of Florida). St. Louis got its first shot on goal with 4:23 remaining from Vladimir Tarasenko but once again, there was no bite in the opening 20 minutes.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55) battles with Florida defenseman
Brian Campbell for a loose puck near the Panthers goal on Tuesday.

The slow start seemed to keep both teams bogged down for the start of the second until the Panthers took advantage of the Blues' miscues.

Once those miscues started to occur, whether it be in the offensive zone with sloppy passing or poor puck possession, the Panthers (11-9-4) took advantage of each miscue.

"All their offense started from us turning the puck over either in the neutral zone or in the offensive zone," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's where all their fast breaks started.

"... Everything's work-based and when you play with a work base, you play in straight lines, you don't play cute, you get on the grind, you wear teams down. That's how we're built; we didn't want to play that way today. We didn't give Florida near the respect they deserve. We didn't want to play that way today. We wanted to play a slow east-west game and we couldn't. Until we switched all the lines up in the third period, we never really started to dig in the way we needed to play. It's disappointing."

Brandon Pirri scored his fifth goal on a breakaway after Tarasenko's offensive-zone pass was picked off. Pirri deked to his backhand and slid the puck through Jake Allen's pads at 12:18. 

MacKenzie took advantage in the slot after Steve Ott lost control of a spinning puck. He beat Allen with a slap shot at 12:31 of the second period for a 2-0 Panthers lead. 

David Backes pulled the Blues within one 21 seconds after the MacKenzie goal when his spin shot from the slot caromed off the skate of Panthers defenseman Dylan Olsen. But another St. Louis turnover, this one by Kevin Shattenkirk in the neutral zone, led to MacKenzie's second goal of the night and third of the season. He skated into the Blues zone and beat Allen from distance with a wrist shot with 3:19 remaining in the second to make it 3-1.

The Blues, who were credited with 10 giveaways, lamented their game as turnover-based and one that they'd rather just throw away the film on.

"All over the ice it seemed real sloppy; a lot of turnovers, myself included," Ott said. "You chase the game when you turn over the pucks as much as we were doing tonight. It just seemed like we couldn't get anything going, like we were chasing throughout the night too much.

"... It's one of those games you have to throw out the window and regroup quickly and be ready to hit the road."

MacKenzie's only other two-goal game came on March 12, 2011, with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Roberto Luongo made 29 saves, including 17 in the third period, for his 16th career win against St. Louis.

"Kind of a sloppy game, especially through neutral zone, they played a pretty passive system and did a good job of clogging things up," Shattenkirk said. "That's where we really looked out of sorts, it didn't give us a chance to get our speed going into the zone and establish a forecheck. Everything else was just a little off tonight.

"They did a good job, they weren't overly aggressive," Shattenkirk said. "They were when felt like they could be. For the most part, they played a good passive and patient system and were able to kind of confuse us a little bit and get us off of our deliberate game and those simple and easy plays that we make so often."

Hitchcock said this sort of game has been building up in bits and spurts in recent games but hasn't fully engulfed the Blues for an entire game. Tonight was the culmination of it all.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Alex Pietrangelo and the Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau
battle for a loose puck as Blues center Kyle Brodziak joins in.

"We've rescued ourselves and we've seen it in spurts, but you just can't play sideways and expect to score goals in this league," Hitchcock said. "You've got to really play to the net and when you play the way we're playing right now, you're not going to have much success. You might get a goal here or a goal there, but you're not going to have success playing this way.

"It's puck management through the neutral zone, in the tough areas. You make a decision. It's either going in and you're going to maintain your momentum or you're going to try and make something crazy happen and that's what we did. We tried to make crazy things happen when there was nothing there and paid the price dearly because of it."

Allen made 12 saves before Brian Elliott replaced him for the third period; Elliott made eight saves.

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