Monday, February 22, 2016

Blues lose game, Elliott in 6-3 defeat to Sharks

Team falls behind by three goals early, 
lose goalie in first period with lower-body injury

ST. LOUIS -- A season-high five-game winning streak has come in all shapes and forms for the Blues.

They won with stellar goaltending (obviously), playing structured defense, taking advantage of strong special teams units and in a case like Saturday, put the puck in the net with regularity and authority.

Much of the above went out the window Monday for the Blues against the San Jose Sharks in a 6-3 loss before 19,371 at Scottrade Center that yielded another injury.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jake Allen (right) had to come on in relief of the injured Brian Elliott on
Monday in a 6-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks. 

Brian Elliott, who came in as the NHL leader in goals-against average (2.06) and save percentage (.931), was the latest to fall victim to injury when he departed 12 minutes 59 seconds into the game with a lower-body injury following the Sharks' third goal.

Elliott tried to skate off in the crease after falling a bit awkwardly trying to smother Logan Couture's goal. But after being looked at by head athletic trainer Ray Barile, Elliott departed and on came Jake Allen, who made his first appearance in six-plus weeks.

Coach Ken Hitchcock didn't have an update on Elliott but hasn't ruled him out moving forward. He said they'll have a better evaluation in the next day or so. 

"Seems to be order of the day (and) of the year, eh? We'll have to sort out," Hitchcock said. "We've got a day off tomorrow. We'll sort out what we're going to do. We'll have further evaluation on Brian. If Brian can't go, then it's Jake's turn now."

Allen said of the injuries: "It's getting a bit old, you can say that to say the least. But we really have no control over it. It's unfortunate that we don't. I'm not sure exactly what the prognosis is with Brian, but hopefully it's very minor and nothing too crazy. It's unfortunate. It's another body we've lost, probably some of the most man-games in the League, but we've battled through it and we have to find a way on Thursday." 

Joe Thornton had a four-point game (two goals, two assists) and Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture each scored twice for the Sharks, who tied the NHL lead for most road wins. The Sharks (32-21-5) won their 21st road game, which tied the Washington Capitals for most in the League. 

Marc-Edouard Vlasic had two assists and Martin Jones made 25 saves for San Jose, which is 14-3-3 in its past 20 games and has scored four or more goals in four of the past six. The Sharks are 21-9-2 away from SAP Center.

The Sharks capitalized on the top penalty kill unit in the NHL coming into Monday by scoring twice, and Thornton benefited from another four-point game in St. Louis. He got a goal and three assists in St. Louis on Oct. 15, 2013 and has 39 points since Dec. 15, most in the NHL and 53 points in 46 games against the Blues.

The Blues (35-18-9) had their five-game winning streak come to an end. Elliott made 12 saves, and Allen made 15 saves in his first game since Jan. 8. He was activated off injured reserve Sunday.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and two assists, David Backes scored his 200th NHL goal, Jay Bouwmeester scored and The Blues fell to 7-2-1 in February, with both regulation losses against San Jose. 

Hertl gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead off a wraparound following Thornton's flip pass behind the net at 4:44 of the first period on a play where the puck got past Bouwmeester, who was tied up along the boards with Joe Pavelski, and then Patrik Berglund. 

The Blues' penalty kill was put to the test early again and this time, for five minutes after Ryan Reaves was ejected from the game for boarding Matt Tennyson 8:37 into the game.

After Ryan Reaves was ejected from the game for boarding Matt Tennyson at 8:37, Hertl scored again on a loose puck in front at 10:18 for a 2-0 Sharks lead.

Reaves was going back into the Sharks zone and try to finish a check, but caught Tennyson high and drove his head into the boards, causing the Sharks defenseman to hit the ice hard.

"The game's moving real quick out there," defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. "Things are happening. 'Revo' plays the game hard and on the edge but he's never known to be malicious or anything like that. Obviously a tough situation for a guy to go down on their squad like that and for us to lose 'Revo,' but that's sports. Things are happening real quick out there."

Backes said of Reaves: "He's been awesome for us finishing checks and giving us energy. He's obviously remorseful right away when you see the guy bleeding and then not getting up from it. He's trying to hit and separate guys from the puck and just kind of a goofy turn. He's a big boy and I think a little adjustment on the angle and he kind of slides on the wall, no harm no foul, but the end result is a guy that's down and hurt. Unfortunately he's out of the game, we're killing a five-minute penalty and I think we've paid our penance for that crime and we'll move on for hopefully a full roster in the next one."

Bortuzzo took a slashing penalty and gave the Sharks a two-man advantage for 1:36, and Couture was on the doorstep and poked one past Elliott for a 3-0 lead at 12:59. 

"First of all, we're taking way too many penalties," Hitchcock said. "It's been going on for a little while; we got away with it. Didn't get away with it tonight. That's something as a group we've got to address. That's on all of us. Just far too many careless penalties, careless stick fouls. It's really putting a burden on some of our PK guys. 

"Second thing for me was you can always tell our readiness to compete by the way we play in our own zone, and we weren't very competitive in our own zone in the first period and it showed in shots on goal. That's just a readiness to play. That's on us, too. This is something we got and will have to deal with. We weren't ready."

Said Backes: "I don't think it's a great way to start. We get scored on again in the first couple minutes of the game. That's not the way we're looking to get going in front of our own fans and seems like we're killing for next while. By the time we get out of that, they're 3-0 and we've dug ourselves a nice hole."

Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk summoned for head athletic trainer Ray Barile to look at Elliott, who departed the game after trying to take some quick pivot skates in his crease. 

The Blues got a goal back when Backes' power-play goal came off a goalmouth scramble following a Jaden Schwartz shot from the slot with 2:24 remaining in the first to make it 3-1. 

The Blues cut the San Jose lead to 3-2 when Tarasenko's wrist shot from the right circle beat Jones high short side at 11:25 of the second period, but Couture scored 20 seconds later to restore a two-goal lead when he tapped in Vlasic's left point shot.

"I really thought when we made it 3-2, I thought we could have build some good shifts off of that," Hitchcock said. "We would have really been in good shape, but to get scored on right away, took all of the air out of the balloon for us."

It was a shift where off the faceoff, Robby Fabbri tried to flip the puck back to defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who jumped up but the Blues had to go back and retrieve a puck that never should have entered their zone. Then, they got beat along the wall in board battles before San Jose was able to get a point shot that hit bodies in front changing direction, and Couture popped home an easy bleeder to zap the Blues of their momentum.

"We got beat three times in our own zone down low, then got beat to the net on the shot," Hitchcock said.

"That's the turning point," Backes said. "When we get the second one, before the crowd can even calm down, it's a two-goal game again. That next shift after a goal's got to be our best shift of the game. They made a push and put it right back in the back of our net kind of a goofy play. We want to stay on the attack, stay in the offensive zone rather than get under our heels and let them change momentum again.

"We felt we had the momentum at that point. You take one breath and all of the sudden, it's a two-goal game again. They stole the momentum and we had to work to get it back. Then it's (4-2) I believe and we get stuck ... I don't know if it's a change that leaves 'Eddy' all alone, but they're able to find a loose puck and make it a (three)-goal game. We needed them to work for everything they got tonight and I think they had too much easy play in the offensive zone. They've got dangerous guys and they made good on it, but we were chasing it the whole time."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Patrik Berglund (21) moves the puck away from the Sharks'
Matt Nieto on Monday night.

Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson whiffed on a cross-ice pass, lost the puck and Thornton beat Allen from the slot five-hole at 7:26 of the third to make it 5-2. 

Bouwmeester's slap shot from the blue line beat a screened Jones at 9:50 of the third to make it 5-3. The Sharks challenged goalie interference on Jaden Schwartz, but the call stood. 

Thornton scored an empty-net goal at 18:35.

"We kind of got ourselves in a hole, kind of got away from some of the jump we had. I thought we came on stronger as the game went on, but give a team like that a lead like that, it's tough sledding," Bortuzzo said.

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