Friday, April 1, 2016

Bruins best Blues in wild 6-5 affair

Uncharacteristic mismanaging of pucks, mistakes cost St. Louis 
chance to move into tie for first in division despite late comeback

ST. LOUIS -- It was an out-of-character game of sorts for the Blues Friday against the desperate Boston Bruins.

The Blues have been so sound, especially defensively and managing the puck. And when mistakes were made, goalies Brian Elliott and Jake Allen were there to save the day.

Call it a blip on the radar; the Blues hope it's nothing more than that, but their quest for the Central Division title took a hit with a wild 6-5 loss to the Bruins before 19,202 at Scottrade on Friday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing Troy Brouwer (top) battles with Boston's 
John-Michael Liles for a loose puck Friday

Elliott, who came in 10-0-1 with a 1.41 goals-against average and .951 save percentage his past 12 starts, including 4-0-0 with a 0.25 GAA and .989 save percentage since returning from a knee injury, was pulled after allowing five goals on 23 shots, and the Blues (46-23-9), who saw their five-game winning streak snapped.

Boston (41-29-8), in a fight for its playoff life, remained one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division after the Red Wings clipped the Minnesota Wild 3-2 on Friday.

Boston, which was 1-6-0 the past seven games and scored only 10 goals, burst out in a big way and build a 2-1 lead after one, then scored three unanswered in the second to grab a 5-2 lead in the second period before the Blues came on and made it interesting to get to within one on two occasions.

Patrice Bergeron scored his 30th goal, Boston's second power-play goal, with 3:24 remaining to make it 6-4 on a shot from the slot. The Blues challenged goalie interference but the call on the ice stood.

Kevin Shattenkirk scored for St. Louis with 20.7 seconds left with a sixth attacker to make it 6-5. The game ended with the Blues on a power play.

"We weren't ready to go," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who coached in his 1,400th NHL game to tie Pat Quinn for seventh place all-time. "We weren't sharp, we weren't ready to go. It was really an extension of the third period of the last game here. We kind of backed off a little bit there and we weren't ready to go tonight. We got going a little bit at periods of time. We had a stretch in the second period where we were good. Obviously a big push in the third period when we scored the third goal, but we weren't sharp and even saying that, we scored five goals. Some of the goals were really good. They were hard-working goals, but we weren't sharp with the puck and we weren't really sharp in our defending, our communication."

David Krejci had two goals and two assists, Loui Eriksson and Matt Beleskey each had a goal and assist for the Bruins.

"You see Detroit won, we don’t want to wait until the last minute," said Bruins coach Claude Julien, who coached in his 700th game behind the Boston bench. "Hopefully this gets us back on track here. They are not easy games, but as I told the players before the game anybody in this League can win on any given night so why not us? Just go out there and play to win and we did just that." 

John-Michael Liles and Torey Krug each had two assists, and Tuukka Rask made 25 saves to win for the second time in six games.

"It was kind of nerve wracking at the end of the game but we got the job done and at this point of the season that’s all that matters," Krejci said. "Must win. I think we played with desperation and showed it tonight from the beginning." 

The Blues trail the Dallas Stars by two points and a tiebreaker for first place in the Central Division. Each team has four games left. 

Paul Stastny had a goal and assist for the Blues, David Backes and Troy Brouwer each had two assists and Elliott made 18 saves before being replaced at the start of the third period by Jake Allen, who made four, and took the loss.

After Stastny tied the game 2-2 at 5:39 of the second period, the Bruins scored three goals in an 8:23 span to take a 5-2 lead. 

Beleskey scored on a slap shot from the high slot, beating Elliott after Krejci won an offensive-zone faceoff from Jori Lehtera to make it 3-2 at 9:51. Frank Vatrano made it 4-2 at 15:27 when he scored from the slot off a Lee Stempniak feed, and Krejci used Eriksson as a screen to beat Elliott at 18:14 for a power-play goal to make it 5-2. Eriksson had an assist for his 500th NHL point. 

"We were a little bit sloppy in our own zone and in the neutral zone had a couple turnovers," said left wing Jaden Schwartz, who gave the Blues a 1-0 first-period lead. "They're a good team, a desperate team. They took advantage of some mistakes we made. We had a good push there in the third, got some good momentum and hopefully we can continue that the next few games.

"They're a desperate team, they were on us quick. They have some defensemen that can make some plays. They worked hard, but we've got to execute a little bit better."

The Blues made it 5-4 with goals from Robert Bortuzzo at 3:56 and Alex Pietrangelo at 7:38 of the third period.

"In the third, I thought we had our compete level rise a lot," Pietrangelo said. "We had some really good opportunities offensively and getting the puck out of our zone with some ease.

"Especially in the first two periods, especially in the first we should have raised our work ethic a bit. We knew they were going to come at us pretty hard. That's a desperate team."

The teams combined for three goals in 2:31 of the first period. 

Schwartz put the Blues up 1-0 when he converted Lehtera's saucer pass at 14:04, but Eriksson got behind Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson after a stretch pass from Liles and beat Elliott on a breakaway at 14:45 to tie it 1-1. Krejci put Boston up 2-1 at 16:35 when he got behind Edmundson and followed up a Beleskey slap shot. It was the first time since March 16 (six games) the Blues trailed in a game.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players Magnus Paajarvi (56) and Paul Stastny celebrate a Stastny
goal as Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask looks on in disgust.

Boston's two goals came on three shots. During the Bruins' previous seven games, they scored 10 goals. 

Elliott is still unbeaten in regulation in his past 13 starts, and the players took full responsibility.

"In games like this when they let in a couple goals, it always kind of falls on our shoulders, and we know that," Stastny said. "We tell them that.

"These goalies will always blame themselves when it was just too many odd-man rushes, too many second looks. We can't rely on our goaltending that much. It’s not a recipe for success."

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