Thursday, January 14, 2016

Blues have no energy in 4-1 loss to Carolina

Hurricanes win fourth straight against 
team with zero energy; Elliott frustrated in loss

ST. LOUIS -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said he could see it coming Thursday morning.

Then five minutes into the first period, his intuitions unfortunately came to fruition.

The Blues looked listless and lethargic in a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at Scottrade Center before 19,282 hopeful fans that were stoked during the pregame ceremonial puck drop when Blues chairman Tom Stillman and Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III, in a show of solidarity for the city in light of Stan Kroenke moving the Rams to Los Angeles, joined in unison to drop the first puck.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (41) and Hurricanes center Jordan
Staal try to move out of the way from an airborne puck Thursday.

From there, it was all Carolina (20-18-7), which won its season-high fourth straight game with their dads in attendance.

The Blues (25-15-7), who saw their modest two-game winning streak stopped, got a goal from Jori Lehtera and Brian Elliott made 21 saves before being replaced in the the third period by Jordan Binnington, who made his NHL debut and stopped three of four shots.

But playing with a makeshift lineup missing six injured regulars, including goalie Jake Allen (lower-body injury), defensemen Jay Bouwmeester (upper body), Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) and forwards Jaden Schwartz (fractured ankle), Steve Ott (hamstring) and Magnus Paajarvi (upper body), the Blues had zero in the tank.

"We got nothing. We got nothing," Hitchcock said. "We don't have any energy. We're running on fumes right now. You could see it five minutes into the game. 

"You can get upset by it, but we've got to play a game on Saturday; we've got to focus on Saturday. We've got to find some energy. Take tomorrow off, gas everything (up), get 10 minutes in on Saturday morning and put it all into Saturday night. That's what we've got. There's no point beating it down. We make so many uncharacteristic puck errors, we get beat at the puck, lost a lot of puck battles that we normally win. Not taking anything away from Carolina, but we had nothing from start to finish. We're going to have to find the energy to play on Saturday."

It got worse on the injury front when the Blues lost left wing Alexander Steen after Brett Pesce's goal in the third period after defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, in a bit of frustration, whipped the puck out of his goal and on the follow-through, hit Steen in the mouth. Steen left the ice and did not return.

Hitchcock said there would be an update on Steen's condition Friday and only said, "He's out right now."

Jeff Skinner had a goal and an assist, Pesce, Brock McGinn and Riley Nash scored for the Hurricanes, and goalie Eddie Lack made 23 saves; he is 6-0-0 in his career against St. Louis. 

The win was Carolina's first here since Dec. 11, 2010, and they did it with their fathers in attendance.

"They were just a step ahead of us," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of the Hurricanes. "We were slow with our puck movement. We got better as the game went on, but still not up to the way. We usually play pretty fast puck movement-wise. They out-supported us. We were just a step behind."

Captain David Backes, who was a minus-3 in the game, took it a step further and said he's to blame.

"Our hallmarks on games past weren't there," Backes said. "We weren't taking care of the puck and then every time we were turning the puck over and then a few missed assignments. I'm on the ice for three even-strength goals against. That's unacceptable. I'll shoulder the burden for this one and need to be better to help our team (and) give us a chance to win. I'll put that right on my back and own it and we've got to be better on Saturday."

Mistakes all over the ice hurt the Blues, and it was evident that there was nothing there physically or mentally.

"It starts with what we do with the puck," Backes said. "If we get it to the end wall and make them break it out, it's a lot more difficult and if we're in the neutral zone turning it over or if we're getting just inside their line and they're able to quick-up with their speed and how well they skate, giving them that extra 75 feet is not ideal by any means. They were in our zone and winning 1-on-1's and finding the loose guy was something that we had trouble with and they were able to capitalize on a few of them."

Skinner was in the right place at the right time after Andrej Nestrasil's shot from the slot was blocked by Vladimir Tarasenko. The puck caromed to the side of the net where Skinner was parked and he popped the puck past Elliott 1:49 into the second period for a 1-0 lead after getting the puck under control by kicking it in front of him. 

Blues defenseman Chris Butler's turnover on an outlet pass along the left boards was picked off in the neutral zone and led to Carolina's goal. 

Pesce's power-play goal, a shot from the left point that deflected off Blues defenseman Colton Parayko's stick and through Elliott 3:22 into the third period, gave Carolina a 2-0 lead. McGinn then scored off a slap shot from the left circle after the Hurricanes won an offensive-zone faceoff to make it 3-0.

Elliott's night was done, and he showed his frustration as he departed the ice by smashing his stick into the stick rack next to the Blues' bench.

"Without him in the first two periods, we're in a world of hurt," Backes said of Elliott. "He played really well. At the end there, they were just trying to save him a little bit because he's got the steering wheel of this group for however long Jake's out and give 'Binner' a little look in the NHL. Kind of fun to see a guy get into his first game, but he ends up seeing a guy come right down Broadway."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Carolina's Elias Lindholm (16) tried to work around in front of the Blues'
goal with defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in pursuit as Brian Elliott watches.

Lehtera scored 20 seconds after McGinn; he followed up Joel Edmundson's shot and backhanded the rebound high into the net to make it 3-1. 

Nash's first goal in 31 games, a short-side wrist shot that beat Binnington off Ron Hainsey's outlet pass, came with 3:39 remaining to make it 4-1.

"The real issue is we've got nothing in the tank and we've got to find some energy," Hitchcock said. "That's the bottom line."

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