Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Offensive struggles continue for Blues in 2-1 loss to Jets in SO

Game marks fifth time in six games St. Louis 
has scored one goal or less; Elliott strong again

ST. LOUIS -- Yes, the Blues had their offensive struggles solved for one game.

Or so they thought.

But just when they solved their power play struggles before scoring three times against the Minnesota Wild and once more Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets, the even-strength goals have been problematic and were once again in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Jets at Scottrade Center.

Mark Scheifele scored in the fourth round of the shootout against Brian Elliott, and Connor Hellebuyck thwarted the Blues (30-17-9) on four attempts.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Brian Elliott tries to make a save through a screen set by the
Jets' Dustin Byfuglien (33) on Tuesday.

But for the Blues, this marks six games and they have scored only four even-strength goals. 

A prime example of the lack of success came against the Jets (24-26-3) was a result of little zone time.

"I don't think we competed in the offensive zone at all," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We didn't compete for the puck. Our goalie was our best player again, played great.

"... We didn't compete for the puck in the offensive zone. Pretty simple. So, lots of opportunities to do it and when you don't have the puck, you can't score. We didn't have the puck. Pretty simple."

It was the Blues' first game playing without top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and defensively, along with the continued stellar play of goalie Brian Elliott, there were little to no issues in that department. But continued lack of putting pucks in the net -- it was the fifth time in six games the Blues have scored one goal or less -- keeps this team from sustaining any sort of winning streak.

"We competed defensively because we had to," Hitchcock said. "Like I said, the puck is part of the game, there's a reason you score goals 5 on 5, there's a reason you create multiple chances. You have to work, you have to compete when you have the puck and not be discouraged because you're getting checked. There's a reason why we're scoring just one goal. Pretty simple. 

"We've needed the power play the last two games, thank God, but we just don't, we don't compete when we get checked in the scoring areas near as hard as we have to. And that's what we're going to talk about."

Scheifele scored in the fourth round and beat Elliott with a wrist shot to the glove side, just under the crossbar. It was his first NHL shootout goal in four tries.

Winnipeg got a goal from Bryan Little. Hellebuyck made 21 saves.

Colton Parayko scored for the Blues and Elliott made 32 saves. He is 5-0-2 in his past seven starts against the Jets and fell to 3-2-2 the past seven starts despite a strong 1.27 goals-against average and .958 save percentage.

"I don't think it was competing," Elliott said, disagreeing with his coach. "I think if you talk to the guys, they all worked hard, they felt like they worked hard. It's just getting opportunities. 

"(Winnipeg) did a good job of kind of gathering the pucks and breaking it out. Sometimes, the harder you work, sometimes it goes the opposite direction for you. They did a good job. You've got to tip your hat to them a little bit. I don't think any guy on our team didn't work hard tonight."

Little put the Jets up 15 seconds into the second period after Elliott couldn't handle Dustin Byfuglien's fluttering puck from the point that was deflected by Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Elliott tried to catch the puck but dropped it in the slot, and Little was there for the quick shot and a 1-0 Winnipeg lead.

The Blues had a chance to clear the puck, but Shattenkirk fanned on a clearing pass, keeping the puck in the Blues' zone. 

"It was spinning up in the air and you kind of lose it up in the lights and stuff," said Elliott, who has allowed a goal or less in five of the past seven starts but is 3-2-2 with a 1.27 goals-against average and .958 save percentage in that span. "No excuses; they capitalized on it. It's frustrating that that's the one they get, but we reacted and 'Pary' had a big goal for us on the power play that was an unbelievable shot. That tied it up, but 1-1 going into the third in a tight game, it's a team that was desperate on the other side to get a win. We felt like we were in a good position."

Parayko tied it at 2:27 with the Blues’ fourth power-play goal in eight tries in two games after they had gone 0-for-24.The rookie defenseman took Jori Lehtera's spin pass straightaway at the blue line and beat Hellebuyck with a slap shot for his first goal in 21 games. 

"(Robby) Fabbri, (Troy) Brouwer and 'Lehry' there, they were moving the puck great down low," said Parayko, who had a terrific chance to win it for the Blues near the end of overtime. "'Lehry' with an unbelievable pass, kind of behind his back and just opened up a lane for me to kind of take the opportunity to step into one. Great screen by Brouwer and overall, just overall great play by the forwards.

"With a situation like that, I had an open lane right down the middle. Can't really pass up those opportunities on the power play. That's something we strive for is get pucks to the net. That's what it's going to take."

A scoreless first period produced big saves by each goalie. 

Hellebuyck robbed Blues forward David Backes from point-blank range with 5:50 remaining after Backes intercepted Mathieu Perreault’s pass. 

Elliott came up with a glove save off a Blake Wheeler shot with 4:40 remaining in the period after the Jets cycled the puck to the high slot. 

The Jets barely missed taking the lead with less than seven minutes remaining in the third period. Defenseman Tyler Myers' wrist shot from the right point deflected off teammate Andrew Ladd in the slot, hit the crossbar, bounced down and trickled wide of Elliott.

Shattenkirk felt the Jets simply had their 'A' game.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55) has his shot stopped by Jets goalie
Connor Hellebuyck on Tuesday during a 2-1 shootout loss.

"We didn't really get much time in the offensive zone. Their forecheck was really good. They read it really well," Shattenkirk said. "They read when it was time to finish checks, and they also read when it was time to anticipate where the puck was going and keep their pressure, keep their team speed. We struggled with it. We have to make more in-game adjustments and try to find a way to break that and keep it simple but at same time, when that happens, everyone starts to get a little disconnected, and I think a little talk and a little more game planning and just saying we're going to do one thing and stick to that and then we can kind of work ourselves out of it."

Every time the Blues put the puck in the offensive zone, the Jets seemed to always find a quick outlet, or had an easy time of moving it out.

"I didn't find it frustrating. The players probably found it frustrating, but it is what it is," Hitchcock said. "It's up to us to fix it. Pretty simple fix, quite frankly. We all talk about line combinations and chemistry -- you've got to play harder than this. A lot harder than this. You've got to compete at a lot higher level than this, bottom line."

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