Saturday, January 23, 2016

Blues lose another late lead to Avs, fall in shootout

MacKinnon ties it for Colorado, Landeskog 
nets lone goal in SO spoiling Elliott's 40-save effort

DENVER -- An eerily similar occurrence developed for the Blues here at Pepsi Center against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. It started in this building 16 days ago.

And unfortunately for the Blues, a similar script by the same player stole two points in regulation and in the end, the Blues had to settle for one point when the same player that decided the game for Colorado that night, also decided it on this night.

The only difference: this time it came in a shootout loss.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brian Elliott (1) made 40 saves for the Blues but it wasn't enough in a 2-1
shootout loss to the Avalanche.

Nathan MacKinnon, just like he did here on Jan. 6, tied it with 53.7 seconds remaining in regulation and the Blues clinging to a one-goal lead, culminated with Gabriel Landeskog scoring the lone shootout goal in the Avalanche's 2-1 victory against the Blues before 16,366.

The Blues (28-15-8) led here 3-2 when MacKinnon scored with 1 minute, 29 seconds remaining and the Avalanche (25-21-3) playing  with a sixth attacker. Landeskog scored the winner in overtime then.

Those two players teamed up to get the better of the Blues (2-0-3 in their past five road games) again.

MacKinnon's tying goal came with the Avalanche using a sixth attacker, and Landeskog scored in the first round of the shootout, and Semyon Varlamov was not to be denied on shootout attempts by Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko and Troy Brouwer.

"We were in good control," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We made a mistake at the end icing the puck and that set them up for more zone time. It's something that we'll talk about it tomorrow. We were managing it well, made the mistake when we won the faceoff. We played off the glass instead of direct play. It allowed them to gain another faceoff in our zone.

"We made two or three mistakes on cross-crease stuff. Our defensemen got pinned at the goal. We had stick in the wrong lane there, but it was set up by the icing."

Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk iced the puck playing it off the boards that gave Colorado another offensive zone draw, one in which the Blues lost and Matt Duchene made a cross-ice feed to MacKinnon, who made no mistake one-timing a shot from the left circle past Brian Elliott, who was spectacular for the Blues making 40 saves and two of three in the shootout.

"Up until that point, we played a really good game," Shattenkirk said of the tying goal. "It's a tough one. Credit to them. They really do a good job with their 6-on-5. They gain control of the puck, they throw a lot of pucks and bodies to the net and I think that's what kind of opens that play up. That puck goes to Duchene there and we all kind of converge on the net waiting for a puck to be thrown into the chaos. He's a great player and makes a heck of a play to MacKinnon there. It's tough. You want us to try and stay aggressive on 6-on-5 and limit their time and space, but they did a good job of pushing us back on our heels there and it's two games in a row that we'd like to have the last two minutes back."

Elliott tried to go post-to-post but said he couldn't get through a mass of bodies.

"We did a good job in the third period, I thought," Elliott said. "We weren't giving them too much and then once it went 6-on-5, they were just kind of finding seams and they're good at that. I had to kind of front Duchene's shot and just kind of got tangled up in the pile trying to get back over. It's a bang-bang play. 

"It was just like a pile of guys. That stuff happens. ... It's frustrating. You play 60 minutes like that, or 59, and you don't come out with a win. It's frustrating, but it's a lesson you've got to put teams away. We played a good game, but it's frustrating not coming out with a 'W.'"

The winner looked like it was going to come off Steen's stick in overtime, but Varlamov, who made 33 saves, kicked out his right pad on Steen's one-timer after taking a saucer feed from Tarasenko.

"I think he made a good save, but I don't get (the puck) where I want it," Steen said. "It's a great pass, but it's a little bit tight into the skates where it's tough to get the elevation. I tried as hard as I could to get that puck up. If I just get it up, it's in."

The Blues led 1-0 on Steen's second-period goal and appeared poised to win another tough, gritty road game after losing defensemen Alex Pietrangelo for nearly seven minutes in the second when he blocked a Duchene shot and Colton Parayko had a deep gash after getting hit in the mouth. He missed eight minutes, got stitched up and was back out there.

"We only played 12 minutes with six defensemen," said Hitchcock, whose team won 2-1 in Detroit on Wednesday with five defensemen the entire game. "We're going back and forth with five guys. Everybody should be fine for tomorrow."

Neither team scored in the first period, but both goalies came up with big saves to keep it scoreless.

Varlamov prevented Robby Fabbri from scoring on his 20th birthday on a breakaway with a right pad save with 6:25 remaining in the first.

Elliott then made his presence felt with a quick right pad save on a John Mitchell shot from the slot on Colorado's first power play with 5:21 remaining in the period.

The second period was destined to have no goals as well, but the Blues took advantage of a turnover and broke the ice on Steen's 15th of the season.

Brouwer intercepted former Blues draft pick Carl Soderberg's clearing attempt by batting the puck out of mid air, fed Steen in the right slot and his one-timer squeezed through Varlamov five-hole at 17:57.

A clock malfunction came and it was stuck at 2:39 remaining, and the rest of the period was played with the public address announcer giving the time remaining for the final 2:03.

Soderberg thought he tied the game with 13:44 remaining when he jammed a puck through Elliott's pads. But referee Kelly Sutherland made an emphatic no-goal call, believed to be because he lost sight of the puck, but when asked, Elliott said, "You can't spear the goalie to cause a goal, so it's no goal anyways."

The Blues will play at Chicago on Sunday before getting a much-needed break for a week during the All-Star break. And they'll need it with the battered and bruised bodies they have had to endure all season.

There was a differing opinion on if there have been some points lost in the third period.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Troy Brouwer (left) celebrates with Alexander Steen after the Blues scored
in the second period. The lead couldn't hold up in a 2-1 shootout loss.

"We're getting points. That's all that matters. Now we're getting points," Hitchcock said. "We've got to take this one. When it gets to a shootout, on the road with what we're dealing with, pretty happy. Move forward and we're playing Chicago."

Steen said, "Not tonight. We lost one. We should have had this one. We let them get too much momentum in the third period, but I think if you look over the last seven or eight games, it's been a battle. The boys have been battling hard. You see the guys after the games put everything we've got into it. We're working."

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