Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Penalties, Ovechkin hurt Blues in 4-3 loss to Capitals

Washington captain nets hat trick; St. Louis hurt 
itself with four first-period penalties that coach called "dumb"

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock summed up the Blues' 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night succinctly.

"Dumb penalties again," Hitchcock said.


The Blues took four minors in the first period, and that was a bad recipe for a team coming off an emotional win, one in which they absorbed a season-high 41 shots and was very draining in a 4-2 win at Boston.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players Dmitrij Jaskin (23) and Vladimir Tarasenko (right) look on
after Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (middle) scored his third goal of the game. 

The Blues lead the NHL with 108 penalties and are tied for first with the Calgary Flames with 95 minors. Not exactly the kind of statistics one wants to be at the top of the league on.

The Capitals (12-5-2) have this sniper named Alex Ovechkin, and Washington's captain scored three goals, the second game in succession he's done so against the Blues, including that first-period power play goal that put the Blues (11-7-3) behind and had them chasing another game.

"That's a discipline problem," Hitchcock said of the penalties. "It's not role players that are doing it. We're having the same people hurt us taking penalties. It puts it in our hands and we'll have to do something and then when we mounted the comeback in the second period, got some momentum back, we got beat up the ice on two of the rushes. We got caught on the rush and got beat up the ice."

Hitchcock talked pregame that the Blues had to get through the first period against a well-rested team. But it looked a lot like Tuesday in Boston. The Blues trailed 1-0, but on Wednesday, it was more penalties than it was turnovers.

The fourth penalty finally cost them after Kyle Brodziak was called for an offensive zone slashing, Ovechkin made the Blues pay with a power play goal from the left circle, a wrist shot high glove side that grazed off goalie Carter Hutton but couldn't get enough to keep it out at 17:28 to give Washington a 1-0 lead.

The Blues took another too many men penalty 5 minutes, 32 seconds into the game, and Jay Bouwmeester was whistled for slashing, giving the Capitals a two-man advantage for 33 seconds. 

The Blues escaped that, and they got by killing off David Perron's interference penalty that negated a Blues power play five seconds into it, but the Brodziak penalty finally got them.

"We took too many penalties in the first and gave them a lot of momentum," Brodziak said. "I thought 'Hutts' did a great job keeping it to a one-goal game when it could have been a lot worse than what it was. Second period, we come back with a little bit of jump and got a little bit better. The game was still close, but then in the third, they got a couple goals on us that obviously killed us.

"Especially like we did in the first, we took so many penalties where you just feel like you're chasing the game after that and you're spending too much energy trying to kill the penalty, chasing after pucks. We've just got to do a better job managing the game early on and giving everyone a better chance of getting involved in the game."

Hutton, who made 21 saves, robbed Justin Williams on one power play with a right pad save from the slot; he also made an acrobatic stop in the second on a Andre Burakovsky shot that was destined for the short side top shelf. 

Ovechkin struck again, and it came from the left circle, but this time, a one-timer off John Carlson's pass at 10:12 after Ovechkin just missed from the same spot. The Blues failed to cover the most obvious shooter on the team, and Ovechkin made it 2-0.

But Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored twice, answered 36 seconds later to cut the Capitals lead to 2-1 after a Dmitrij Jaskin pass. Tarasenko was terrific kicking the puck to himself to control it for the first shot, which Holtby saved, but Tarasenko from a sharp angle fired in the rebound with a wrister at 10:36.

Down 2-1 going into the third, the Blues pressed, but Washington put the game out of reach with two goals in 22 seconds.

Evgeny Kuznetzov converted Dmitry Orlov's cross-ice backhand past Hutton after Kuznetzov beat Alex Pietrangelo down ice at 6:31 and Ovechkin completed the hat trick with a laser snipe off a 2-on-1 at 6:63 after the Blues lost the puck in the offensive zone despite winning the faceoff, making it 4-1.

"He's a good player, scores a lot of goals," Hutton said of Ovechkin. "When you give him that kind of time, he makes you pay.

"... I've got to be better. Can't really worry about playing back-to-back or whatever it is from my point of view. It's a good hockey team. Ovechkin beat us tonight."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players (from left) Robert Bortuzzo, Vladimir Tarasenko and Dmitrij
Jaskin celebrate Tarasenko's goal in the second period of a 4-3 loss.

The Blues didn't go quietly when Pietrangelo scored a power play goal off a rebound of a Paul Stastny shot to make it 4-2 with 1:15 remaining, and Tarasenko, who has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 10 games, scored a backhand with 28.4 seconds remaining after the Blues pulled Hutton to cut the lead to 4-3 but could never get another shot at tying it. Perron's assist on the goal gives him a six-game point streak (two goals, six assists). 

"We were chasing it quite a bit," said left wing Jaden Schwartz, who has a five-game point streak with an assist Wednesday and nine points in eight of the past nine games (five goals, four assists). "... We had a chance going into the third period. It was 2-1, a good spot and 'Hutts' played great. Didn't execute in the third.

"We've had a good run here. A couple days to recover and get going again."

The final goal line could read something like this: Russians 6 (Ovechkin 3, Tarasenko 2, Kuznetzov), all other nations (Pietrangelo, Canadian) 1.

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