Saturday, December 3, 2016

Little's OT goal gives Jets 3-2 win over Blues

St. Louis extends home point streak, plays 
sloppy game, ends 17 seconds into extra session

ST. LOUIS -- The buildup had been there from the past few games, and the Blues got away with points on each occasion during this five-game homestand.

Saturday, the Blues got a point, but in coach Ken Hitchcock's words, they were lucky to get one.

The Blues looked sloppy, lethargic and slow, played sideways when they had the puck, which was not often.

Bryan Little's goal 17 seconds into overtime gave the Winnipeg Jets a 3-2 victory against the Blues before 19.362 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues left wing Dmitrij Jaskin (right) chases Jets defenseman Paul Postma
during action Saturday. Jaskin scored, but the Blues lost 3-2 in overtime.

Little was the beneficiary of rookie Patrik Laine's backhand bass through the crease on the backdoor past Alexander Steen and Little, who along with Laine had a goal and an assist, slammed the shot home past Carter Hutton to end a six-game road losing streak (0-5-1).

The play started off the opening faceoff when Little won the draw from Steen back to Dustin Byfuglien, who started with it behind his goal. Byfuglien fed a streaking Laine, who had all sorts of room on his forehand before pulling it to his backhand by Alex Pietrangelo before feeding Little.

The Blues never touched the puck in the extra session.

"'Vladdy' (Vladimir Tarasenko) and I got a little mixed up at the front and we gave them a little bit of space," Steen said. "He made a nice play back door.

"We got mixed up in front and that gave Little that little bit of space. I was trying to back check."

Hutton, who made 20 saves, had to respect Laine coming down the left side looking at his right.

"I didn't think we were going to get beat backdoor because it looked like a 1-on-1 to me, so I'm just playing the player and it's not really my guy," Hutton said. "Obviously it's frustrating, right? If I know he's going to get beat, I know that, but it's one of those things. 

"I'm not sure. I'm going to have to look at it again obviously. Laine is the best goal-scorer in the league, so I'm just doing my job. I don't know, it sucks obviously, right? Away she goes."

Little said: "All I had to do was put it in the empty net there."

Chris Thorburn scored shorthanded for the Jets (12-13-2). Michael Hutchinson made 20 saves.

"I don't know where the two Blues guys were," Laine said. "That was a good find from 'Buff' and that was a 2-on-1. I saw Little going backdoor and I just wanted to pass it to him and it was an awesome finish." 

Steen and Dmitrij Jaskin scored for the Blues (14-7-4), who earned a point for the 12th straight home game (9-0-3) but had their six-game winning streak at Scottrade Center come to an end.

The Blues also ended a streak of nine straight games scoring three goals or more.

"I don't know if we thought the opponent was something different than what they were," Hitchcock said. "We certainly didn't want to play the way we have or the way we're supposed to. We played slow, east-west, not skating.

"I think we looked like a distracted team again. We looked like a team that's won a lot of hockey games and wanted things to be a little bit easier and you get that sometimes. ... I think we were fortunate to get a point, so we'll take the point and move on."

Right from the get-go, something just didn't seem right with the Blues.

The Jets were putting pucks behind the Blues, who in turn were not crisp on zone exits, nor were they sharp with the puck in the neutral zone and putting them behind the Winnipeg defense.

"It's not weird. It's back to the beginning of the year game," Hitchcock said. "We want to play a different way. ... We grabbed it a little bit in the second, but we didn't want to play the game we had to play out there against them, so they looked faster than we did."

The Jets capitalized on a took a 1-0 lead on Thorburn's shorthanded goal at 12:27 of the first period, which came off a 3-on-1 after Tarasenko whiffed on a wrist shot from the right circle.

The Jets' penalty kill unit was on its toes and was ready to move quickly up ice after Tarasenko's whiff on the power play, and Blake Wheeler's saucer pass was perfectly in stride for Thorburn to finish off.

It was a sign of things to come for the Blues, who allowed multiple odd-man rushes.

"You have to engage and you've got to move your feet," Hitchcock said. "We wanted to play the game flat-footed and sideways and slow it down. We were caught in this rut earlier in the year, got out of it and did a great job, went back in it today."

The Blues finally grabbed the game, scored twice and appeared ready to seize control.

Steen's 200th NHL goal was at 5:16 and came off an outlet pass from Pietrangelo and ensuing slap shot that may have glanced off defenseman Jacob Trouba's stick past Hutchinson to tie the game 1-1.

Jaskin's first of the season came 2:10 later. It was his first in 35 games and came after he kept a puck in the offensive zone after coming off the bench, then had possession of it for eight seconds before getting into the middle of the ice, turning and firing a slap shot through traffic.

"It was a good shift," Jaskin said. "Sometimes it happens. Keep the pucks on our sticks. Have good shifts.

"... It's been a while. I'd be happier if we won. It's nice."

But the Blues' bubble burst when the Jets and Laine tied it at 9:18 of the second on a give-and-go with Little.

Laine's goal, which tied him with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead, was a build-up for the rookie from three-quarters of the ice, in which he perfected a give-and-go with Little, who split Blues defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Carl Gunnarsson before beating Hutton between the pads.

"I think if you look at their second goal, that was our game," Hitchcock said. "A chance to go north with the puck and we turned it over twice on the line and it's in our net. That was the game for us. Got beat back up the ice too many times."

And to make matters worse, the Blues' power play, which was 0-for-4, had a chance with 2:22 remaining to perhaps steal the second point in regulation, but much like the three they got in the first period, very little rotation, ineffective movement and insufficient zone time.

"It didn't surprise he," Hitchcock said. "I think the power play was a reflection of our whole game, slow, methodical, unaware. We had a lot of culprits out there today. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) slides the puck by Winnipeg's 
Mathieu Perreault on Saturday at Scottrade Center.

"We had a lot of ... other than (Patrik) Berglund and Jaskin, you wouldn't be overly thrilled with some of the performances today. I think we were fortinate to get a point, so we'll take the point and move on, but we didn't want to engage in the elements that we had to engage in. Therefore we looked out of sync."

Jaskin said: "When I was out there in first period, I think it was great, had bunch of shots, didn't go in, think as game went on, ice not at best, couldn't keep in on sticks. Couldn't get it in.

"I was more pissed about my penalty. That was stupid. It was a great time to score but we didn't and they got one after."

The Blues, 3-0-1 on the homestand, wrap it up Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens.

* NOTES -- Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo left the game early in the second period with a lower-body injury. Hitchcock said Bortuzzo is day-to-day and with the team off Sunday, no further update will come until Monday.

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