Thursday, October 12, 2017

Blues fall for first time this season, 5-2 to Panthers

Second period mistakes, failure on quality power-play 
opportunities cost St. Louis; Dunn scores first NHL goal

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Well, they weren't going to go 82-0-0.

The Blues' hot start to the season was in full throttle as they headed for sunny Florida to wrap up the final two games of a season-high tying four-game trip. But the Blues, looking to make history with their fifth consecutive win to start a season, saw that come to an end with a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday before 10,846 at BB&T Center.

Vince Dunn scored his first NHL goal, but there was not much else to be happy about for a first loss of the season.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Brayden Schenn (10) fends off Panthers defenseman Aaron
Ekblad during action Thursday at BB&T Center. 

After taking a 1-0 lead, the Blues (4-1-0) surrendered three goals in a span of 6 minutes, 16 seconds and could never quite grab the game again despite numerous opportunities on the power play (17 of their 39 shots at Roberto Luongo came with the man-advantage, including 10 in the second period that saw the Blues have a 5-on-3 for 1 minute, 3 seconds).

It was a night where the game could have been grabbed, but lost in an instant with mistakes that turned into goals and the first loss of the season after trying to play catch-up.

"That's all it takes, against a team like this with that much skill, a couple breakdowns, then then score a power play goal and we don't score on our 5-on-3," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who had two assists to extend his point streak to five games to start the season and nine dating back to last season but was minus-3 for the game. "It snowballed quick, but starting with me, it wasn't good enough. We kind of played into their hands. Our structure wasn't where we needed it to be. That's the result."

"We had our moments, but we couldn't bury on a couple power plays," defenseman Joel Edmundson said. "They just kept the pressure coming and we didn't really respond to that. We've got to forget about this game and be ready for Tampa."

A great start to the second period by the Blues saw them go up 1-0 on Paul Stastny's power play goal, also extending his point streak to start the season to five games 1:14 into the period, but that's when the Blues had some uncharacteristic breakdowns.

Twelve seconds after Stastny's goal, Ian McCoshen's first NHL goal tied it 1-1, and then the Blues coughed up the puck in the neutral zone and allowed Trochek's shorthanded tally to put Florida up 2-1 at 2:45.

Coaches always harp on the next shift after scoring a goal as the most important of the game. The Blues just grabbed momentum with the Stastny goal, and coach Mike Yeo sent on the line of Oskar Sundqvist, Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin to go with Pietrangelo and Edmundson. But Edmundson got caught up in the neutral zone trying to pinch on a puck, then the forwards found themselves caught deep before McCoshen took a pass from Connor Brickley and beating Jake Allen with a slapper.

"Disappointing moment there for sure," Yeo said. "We've got to be sharper. You've got to come on the ice and know in a situation like that, number one, you grabbed a little bit of momentum, you want to make sure you continue to push forward with that and know that they're going to have a push there at that moment. That was obviously a key factor in the game tonight.

"We just got loose in our coverage and an awareness factor as far as coming back in the zone."

"They just kept on pushing and we really had no response," Edmundson said. "That's what lost this game. We've got to push back in those situations. Tonight just didn't go our way. We've got to have a short memory. We knew we weren't going to win them all. It's a tough one to swallow, but we'll get over it."

On the Trochek shorthanded tally, Pietrangelo had to race up a bit in the neutral zone for Vladimir Tarasenko's pass, got to it and tried to chip off the wall a backhand to Stastny, but Colton Sceviour got a piece of it, the Blues were caught heading up ice and Sceviour sprung Trochek in before beating Allen with a snap shot high glove side.

"I put it in Paul's feet and we all just got caught going the wrong way, myself included," Pietrangelo said. "That happens. We're trying extra hard trying to get that next one back." 

McCann's power play goal at 7:42 made it 3-1 on a redirection in the slot after the Blues were whistled for a delay of game/faceoff violation.

"There's lots of parts that were good, to be honest with you until we scored the first goal, and then I thought we started beating ourselves," Yeo said. "They played a great game over there for sure, and that's a very good team. We knew we were going to have to play a strong, smart game and I didn't think that we did that. You look at that first goal and then all of the sudden, we give them a shorty and we give them power plays that we gave them. That's obviously a bad recipe against a good team."

But St. Louis missed out on a terrific chance to get right back in the game after a late-period 5-on-3 for 1:03. The Blues produced six shots but nothing past Luongo, who tied former Blue Curtis Joseph for fourth on the all-time wins list for goalies with win No. 484.

"We've got to score on the 5-on-3," Stastny said. "We had a 5-on-3 for ... even if it's over 40 seconds, you score, usually you win the game. If you don't score, usually the other team wins the game. It happens like that all the time. For some reason, our 5-on-4 is better than our 5-on-3. We've got to fix that and almost simplify and get more shots and really kind of out that foot down when we get a chance to get that next goal.

"But it was a lot of stuff, top to bottom. First of all, we should never let up a shorthanded goal when we're on the power play. It's 1-1 and have a chance to make it 2-1 and they take the momentum, they take the lead there and then they score another special teams' goal. Over-backcheck there on the fourth one. ... I thought we had a lot of chances offensively. Some turnovers here and there, but maybe there's one or two that we want back. I think earlier in the year, we were finding ways to win. Today, we lost. You've got to take the positives out of it, but defensively, a little more communication. I think it gets a little too quiet sometimes and then worry about Tampa tomorrow."

"That could have got us in it, for sure," Yeo said. "You need to score 5-on-3 and certainly when you're down by a couple goals heading into the third, that was obviously a big lift for them.

"It's one thing to have plays, but you have to create the scrambles and the numbers around the net situations. The first one was nice, 'Petro' gets a real good shot and 'Schenner' (Brayden Schenn) gets a real good second whack at it, but their goalie makes a nice save. But it can't be one of those; we've got to try and generate more than that. But I did look after the second period and we had 17 shots on goal on the power play. The power play was doing a lot of good things, it grabbed us the lead. Obviously that's a moment where we need to score there."

Schenn thought he had scored in the second to make it 3-2 at 10:05 of the second period on a tipped puck of Robert Bortuzzo's shot, but referee Frederick L'Ecuyer immediately waved it off and review was conclusive to uphold the call on the ice.

The first period saw the Panthers get the early jump, outshooting the Blues 7-0 and 11-4 at one point thanks in large part to the Blues having to kill two early penalties, including a four-second 5-on-3. But the Blues came back and had the last nine shots at Luongo in the period for a 13-11 advantage.

"We just couldn't find our way," Pietrangelo said. "It seemed like it kind of summed up the night. We seemed a half a step off. Just couldn't get a stick on the bounces. It's not good enough. We know that. When you lose 5-2, it's not a good feeling in here.

"We had 40 shots and probably half of them came on the power play. We've just got to find a way to get the puck in the back of the net. We're getting the looks that we want. We're getting shots. You've just got to get results."

The Blues had a Jaden Schwartz break-in on Luongo get thwarted that could also make it 3-2, and seconds later, Aaron Ekblad made it 4-1 at 3:16 and that pretty much was the final nail.

Nick Bjugstad beat Edmundson to the edge and score at 14:02 before Dunn wired a shot high glove side on Luongo from the high slot with 1:09 remaining.

"We felt like we were right in it and then maybe we opened up too much to not give ourselves a chance," Yeo said. "But they played a really good game. They defended us really hard. You have to try and make a push at some point there.

"We've got a chance to have a really good trip or a so-so trip here. Obviously our next game's a big one for us. It's always going to be about how you respond. You have to make sure you that you come back to the rink, you prepare, and for us, it's about our game. We'll look at this the same way we did the other ones. There's some areas that we have to be better in. We can talk about missed chances and what-not, but we gave up five goals. You're not going to win like that and too many quality chances, so we have to tighten up."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Oskar Sundqvist (right) fights off Panthers center Derek 
MacKenzie for the loose puck of Florida's 5-2 win on Thursday.

"When we were down 3-1, we were still pretty positive on the bench," Edmundson said. "I thought our first half was pretty good. Second half, they just took control and we didn't really respond."

"'Schwartzy' almost had that one and I think 20 seconds later, they score," Stastny said. "That's hockey, that's how fast things change. One big save at one end, then they come back down the other end. We had that work early in the year for us, and now it went the other way."

Of the Blues' 39 shots, Schenn led the way with nine, followed by Pietrangelo (seven) and Dunn (five) as the three combined for 21.

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