Monday, January 25, 2016

Hawks dump Blues 2-0

St. Louis shows life early, can't beat 
Crawford to finish trip 1-1-1 with three goals scored

CHICAGO -- The game was there early on for the taking, a chance to finish a tough three-game trip with five of six points and leave on a good note into an extended week-long All-Star break.

But the Blues, who were head and shoulders better than the Chicago Blackhawks, who looked tired in their own building, a building where the Blackhawks have been tough on the entire league. But the Blues allowed a good hockey team to find its legs and begin to push back.

The pushback came in the second period, and the Blues were the ones that appeared tired and ready to crawl into the All-Star break after falling 2-0 to the Blackhawks at United Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Troy Brouwer (36) has a shot blocked by Blackhawks defenseman Niklas
Hjalmarsson Sunday night in Chicago.

It was a chance for the Blues (28-16-8) to pull within two points of the division-leading Blackhawks (33-15-4), who got a second-period goal from Artemi Panarin and a power play goal in the third from Andrew Shaw.

The Blues, who finished their three-game trip 1-1-1, good for three points despite scoring only a mere three goals, outshot Chicago 12-6 in the opening period but Corey Crawford, who registered his NHL-leading seventh shutout, kept his team at a level playing ground, and the Blues missed out on some quality scoring chances to get a lead, force the opponent to chase and perhaps dictate on your own terms.

That wasn't the case, and Chicago slowly found its legs.

"I thought their team looked tired in the first period and we didn't take advantage of it," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "And then I thought we looked tired in the second and third. I thought both teams had their moments. First period was a good one for us but I thought after that, we didn't create many scoring chances at all. We didn't have any offensive energy."

Said captain David Backes: "I think we carried the play. Hit a cross bar, hit a goalie in the mask and had a few other good chances. Things happen like that sometimes. The second period, we've got to follow it up with the same sort of intensity and effort. Law of averages will work itself out after a while. But we take a step back, they take a step forward and they were able to get a goal on a pretty nifty 3 on 2 with a back-checker. Then the power play goal, (Dmitrij) Jaskin is falling already trying to play the puck and their guy ends up falling on the play. Whatever; we've got to kill a penalty and keep it a one-goal game and have a chance at the end. If there's any glimmer of hope, I think our 6-on-5 at the end was probably the most proficient 6-on-5 we've had in a long time with shots and rebounds and collecting it again and not just letting them clearing it into an empty net."

Getting the first goal normally doesn't affect the Blues one way or the other this season (they came in just 17-6-4 when scoring first, 11-9-4 when the opponent scores first), but Chicago was only 3-11-2 when the opponent scores first but 29-4-2 when it scores first.

"I think we have to find a way to get a goal there and try to get the lead in the first," center Paul Stastny said. "I think we had a little more jump than they did to start. We had a good first period, especially in this building, and we couldn’t get out of it. Then weathered the storm there in the second for a while, then they made a nice play there. It was an unfortunate, I think the bounce hit 'Shatty' and then at which point, playing against that team, it’s tougher. We tried to come around late, but it was a little too late for that."

Chicago was ripe for the taking, but as often is the case for the Blues when a game is winnable, the inability to finish goals is typically what's been problematic.

Chicago got better in the second period and finally broke the stalemate when Panarin's one-timer from the left circle deflected off Kevin Shattenkirk's stick and beat Brian Elliott, who was brilliant allowing four goals in three road games, upstairs 15 minutes, 26 seconds into the second period for a 1-0 lead. Panarin converted Patrick Kane's cross ice backhand feed.

The goal broke Chicago's goalless drought at 154:43.

"That's what good teams do if you let them hang around," Backes said. "We should have buried a few and kept on our game for 60 minutes and I don't know if they can have that push."

Then when Jaskin was falling trying to play a puck, he tripped Andrew Desjardins 4:14 into the third, and Shaw gave the Blackhawks the cushion they needed when he tipped Marian Hossa's one-timer from the top of the right circle over Elliott's glovehand at 4:56.

The Blues pulled Elliott, who made 23 saves, with two minutes remaining and started to pepper Crawford again but to no avail.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Paul Stastny (26) looks to pass a puck with Blackhawks
defenseman Michal Rozsival nearby.
"We did the same thing in Colorado," Hitchcock said. "We created a lot of chances in the first half of the game, but not many in the second half of the game, and that's what we've got to address. How can we sustain the type of offensive energy that we need to continue to put pressure on people.

"We look at this road trip, to come out of this thing with three points and scoring three goals, pretty fortunate. Our goaltender was our best player. Detroit, he was our best player and in Colorado. You're not going to win many games scoring at the rate we are on the road, so it's something that over the next week, we're going to have to address on how we play our lineup because we're going to have to obviously coming back, we're going to have to get a lot more production than what we're having right now.

"Elliott really did a job for us to get us the three points because we're not scoring. We're not scoring, we're not showing the tenacity and energy to score the greasy goals and that's something that we're going to have to address."

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