Saturday, December 30, 2017

Blues blow late lead again, fall 4-2 to Stars

Questionable calls infuriate St. Louis; Dallas scores three times in 3:11 
late in third to overcome one-goal deficit after Tarasenko, Thompson score

DALLAS -- It was another loss for the Blues, but this one, even though some felt had the Edmonton feel to it that they have to lock down a one-goal lead late on the road, had some elements that they felt were out of their control.

The Blues lost a 4-2 decision against the Dallas Stars on Friday at American Airlines Center after squandering another road lead inside of five minutes to play.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues rookie Tage Thompson (right) celebrates after scoring with teammate
Alex Pietrangelo Friday night in Dallas.

But not without some controversial decisions by the guys in stripes and a decision coach Mike Yeo regretted making.

Alexander Radulov's go-ahead power-play goal with 2 minutes 21 seconds remaining in the third period was the difference after Stars captain Jamie Benn tied the game with 4:50 to play off a defensive zone turnover.

But what led up to the Stars' power play was what had the Blues incensed.

Joel Edmundson was called for a roughing minor with 2:38 to play after getting tangled up with Benn to the left of Allen.

In a 2-2 game where scrums occurred throughout the game, Edmundson was the only player taken off the ice by referee Kendrick Nicholson at the time after Benn's helmet came off as he and Edmundson were wrapped up. 

The Stars scored the go-ahead goal 17 seconds later when Radulov beat Allen, who was removed earlier in the period by league concussion spotters but returned, from the wall inside the right circle.

The Blues were none too pleased that Edmundson, who also received a 10-minute misconduct for firing the puck down the ice out of frustration for the call, was the only player at the time of a 2-2 game late in the third period taken off. Coincidental minors, they would have lived with. 

Needless to say, the Blues were not happy.

"The call at the end of the game was ridiculous," Yeo said. "There’s scrums all night and we end up short twice in those situations (Paul Stastny was called for roughing in the second period at 13:11). Not sure how you make that call, but it is what it is."

Edmundson was more diplomatic about the call but agreed to disagree as well.

The Blues had killed off 19 straight penalties and were 43 of 45 in the month of December before the Radulov goal.

"I didn't agree with the call," Edmundson said. "It's a tight game, it's kind of a rough game and when you only take one guy after that, it's a tough one to swallow, but I'm not going to make excuses for myself. There's three minutes left in the game, I can't take a penalty.

"Just a little scrum beside the net. He started it first, he kind of gave me a shove, so we kind of went back and forth, and then I just kind of grabbed onto him. When the whistle blew, I thought he was calling both and the next thing you know I was the only one. I was kind of choked about that and then ... it was kind of selfish of me to take that 10-minute. ... Yeah, I was really surprised. But like I said, I can't make excuses. Bottom line, I can't be taking a penalty."

What led up to the Radulov goal was also something that the Blues were not as upset about but felt was an incorrect call when after winning the initial faceoff, John Klingberg's shot from the blue line deflected off the glass and out of play by Tyler Seguin. Instead of the faceoff remaining in the neutral zone, the Blues felt the faceoff should have been moved to the neutral zone since the Stars played the puck out. Instead, they won a second draw and Radulov scored short side on Allen with Benn in front.

"Seguin, the boards and out, yeah," Blues left wing Alexander Steen said.

"Again, I think there were some things, again that were out of our control," Yeo said. "Occasionally you play a really good game and you don’t get rewarded. I think tonight was the case. Then again, we just need to make sure we stay positive and keep battling through this adversity. We've got to be a little better closing out games, there’s no question about that. I think we should have three wins in our last five. Instead, we have one, but we’re a tough team to play against still. We’re doing enough things and we have to do a few more things to get some more wins and it’ll turn around, I know that."

Oh, and there's that issue with Allen, who was bowled over by teammate Colton Parayko after Parayko took a hip check (with no puck in sight) from Tyler Pitlick. Parayko was falling and he fell over Allen with 18:47 remaining. Allen stayed in after being attented to by head athletic trainer Ray Barile but eight seconds later, league concussion spotters called down to have Allen removed. 

Carter Hutton came on and played 9:34, making two saves, and would have been the winning goalie because he came in down 1-0, but the Blues got third-period goals from Vladimir Tarasenko at 3:26 to tie the game 1-1, his first 5-on-5 goal since Nov. 21 (18 games), and Tage Thompson scored his second NHL goal 1:05 later to give the Blues a 2-1 lead.

But Yeo got word that Allen felt fine and pulled the trigger to put him back in with 9:05 remaining, with the coach later regretting doing so.

"I think that looking back on that, that was a bad decision by me," Yeo said. "I think I put Jake and the team in a bad position there. It’s disappointing for our group not to get a win here tonight. I think we actually played a hell of a game and a couple things that were out of their control. 

"Again, the thought process was that Jake had been really good. He made a huge save on the 2-on-1 to keep it at 1-0 and then we got the lead, he was good. We felt that he was fine, but the league obviously made the call for him to come out and we got word that he was fine, so we put him back in. Again, that was a mistake on my part. It’s unfortunate for the players because they played their hearts out tonight, but I know if we keep doing that, we’ll get rewarded."

And to top all the calls late that affected the game, there was a delay when it appeared that the Stars were going to be called for too many men on the ice at 7:28 of the second, and out of all that, Radek Faksa was called four minutes for head-butting and Patrik Berglund got two for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Yeo said he got no explanation on that non-call either.

"No. They felt that it was inadvertent, so not a reason for them to call the penalty," Yeo said.

But in all that, the Blues feel they had a chance to close out a game, bottom line.

They have now lost five of six and seven of the past nine to fall to 23-15-2. 

It marks the 10th straight game they've scored two goals or fewer in regulation with a goalie in net (they won 3-2 in overtime over Buffalo on Dec. 10 and 3-1 at Vancouver with an empty-net goal on Dec. 23). They haven't scored in the first or second period the past two games and in six out of nine.

But then again, the two points were there for the taking.

"No, what we did at the beginning of the year, I think we buried them," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "Edmonton, same thing. We got away from the game that got us there and good teams are going to take advantage of that, right? You’re down by a goal, you’re going to start trying things that you aren’t when you’re tied or you’re ahead. We knew they were going to have a push, we just got to do the small things and limit those opportunities.

"... Yeah, we were good defensively for most of the game. We have been for a while now. We score a couple goals. We still got to find a way to find a way to consistently score more than that. We can’t be giving up what we’re giving up, especially at the end of games."

Going back early in the game, the part of lack of scoring really bit the Blues.

Despite getting a two-man advantage for 1:37 and got three shots on goal, they couldn't score. It makes a total of 6:38 of 5-on-3 play this season the Blues haven't scored, including being 0 for 6 and five of those power plays lasting 57 seconds or longer and four being a minute or more.

And not too long after, the Stars struck when Mattias Janmark knocked in a sharp feed from Jason Spezza at 3:49 for a 1-0 lead.

The Blues held a 30-20 shots advantage through two periods, but couldn't crack Stars goalie Ben Bishop.

Alex Pietrangelo and Paul Stastny missed out on high-grade scoring chances on the 5-on-3.

"We had some good chances on it, which we couldn't bury," Steen said. "They're off of broken plays. The actual setup part wasn't good enough. We got some chances on it."

"Yeah, obviously that’s an opportunity for us to grab the lead," Yeo said. "We had some good chances, too, just got to finish in that situation. That’s the way things have been going, but again, you have to build your game and you have to build the confidence in your game kind of before things start to turn around. Been in this situation a lot of times where you go through a skid where it just seems like nothing’s going right. Every game you find a way to get a little better, next thing you know, you start to get a win or two and then all of a sudden, you get on a real roll, and I’m confident that’s what our team will do."

Holding the lead late was problematic again.

A bad exchange between Allen and Edmundson led to Benn's tying goal.

Allen was behind the net and instead of playing the puck around the boards and perhaps out of the zone, he played it to Edmundson, who had his back to the ice and received the pass and was in the process of turning with it, but Benn was already coming with a full head of steam, intercepted it, and curled around the net. As Stastny was taking Seguin out of the play, he clipped Allen's right leg with his left skate, taking the Blues goalie down to the ice leaving the top portion of the net open for Benn to lift a backhand into tying the game 2-2.

"Yeah, I called for it," Edmundson said. "I did a shoulder check, but I didn't see Benn coming. He was along the boards, waiting for the rim. It was a good read by him. I could have chipped it or something, but I guess I'll take blame for that one, too. It's a tough play. I didn't see him coming over my shoulder."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen made 25 saves and was removed in the third period
for concussion protocol Friday against the Dallas Stars.

With the way things were going, it was a momentum-zapper, and unfortunately for the Blues, the game slipped away, much like the 3-2 loss at Edmonton on Dec. 21 when they squandered 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the third.

"Yeah, we played hard to get the lead," Pietrangelo said. "Then, we change our game. We just got to stick with what works."

Now the Blues fly home to do it all over again Saturday night at home against the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes, who have won four in a row and seven of eight.

"If we keep playing hard and we fight through this adversity, then we’ll be better for it," Yeo said.

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