Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Shorthanded Blues miss scoring chances, fall 3-0 to Lightning

Battle of NHL's two top teams goes to Eastern Conference leaders; 
Vasilevskiy strong with 32-save shutout; St. Louis laments missed opportunities

ST. LOUIS -- It's hard to imagine pulling positives in a shutout loss. But if the Blues can take that effort against that team and drag it into any night against most opponents, they will more times than not come out on the winning side of things.

In a battle of the top two teams in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Blues 3-0 on Tuesday before 18,290 at Scottrade Center playing without three key injured players (Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeeser) but probably played the better all-around game except one key area: finishing.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55) looks to win a puck battle with the
Lightning's Vladislav Namestnikov on Tuesday at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (21-9-2), who saw their four-game winning streak end, failed to finish and the Lightning (22-6-2), the top scoring team in the NHL with 113 goals who have won five in a row, were able to finish on some opportunistic plays, including a couple turnovers that led to goals.

But the bottom line is the Blues, who outshot Tampa Bay 32-25, couldn't solve Andrei Vasilevskiy.

"I think guys competed hard tonight," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "I thought for the most part we limited them to not a lot of quality scoring chances, I thought the PK was really good (3-for-3). We knew we were going to have to play tight, and I thought we created turnovers, we generated some opportunities and obviously there are some nights the goalie deserves credit and that guy's pretty good.

"Obviously the game is made up of a bunch of little plays and we had some opportunities there that we wish we had back, but he made some saves, too. It's a good hockey team that we played tonight and I thought we gave ourselves a good chance, we just didn't finish, we didn't capitalize, but if we keep playing like that, we'll get good results."

The Blues, playing rookies Vince Dunn and Jordan Schmaltz, who was recalled earlier in the day when the Blues put Pietrangelo on injured-reserve retroactive to Saturday, played structured defensively and limited the high-powered Lightning. 

But missing out on multiple scoring opportunities, including a trio of 2-on-1's in the second period and Vladimir Sobotka missing a wide open net in the third period that would have tied the game 1-1 really typified the night.

"I think we had our fair share of chances," Blues left wing Alexander Steen said. "I think they capitalized on a couple of theirs and they won the game on it.

"I'd say it was our finish tonight. I also think we were a little bit too much on the outside. I think when we had some chances, the goalie had good look at the pucks. We were a little too perimeter tonight to generate or to force one of those to go in."

Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, and Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson scored for the Lightning.

It was Vasilevskiy's third shutout of the season; he leads the NHL with 20 wins. He became the sixth goaltender in NHL history to reach the 20-win mark within his first 25 appearances of a season.

Vasilevskiy was pulled here in a 5-4 Blues victory on Dec. 1, 2016 after allowing four goals on 16 shots.

"It's a pretty good feeling especially after last year I played half a game and gave up four goals," Vasilevskiy said. "It wasn't my best game. But as I say, the guys played pretty well and we all deserved the shutout.

"They're definitely the best team in the West. It was a tough challenge for us but the guys played pretty well in front of me. Overall, I thought we played well. I played my game too."

Jake Allen made 22 saves.

It's the third time the Blues were shut out on home ice in 17 games, but there wasn't much discouragement.

"Just look how tight the game was all the way through," said Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, who played a game-high 27 minutes, 44 seconds. "We definitely had our chances. Great saves by their goalie. I think that they do a great job of protecting their net, helping out with the second opportunities. But I obviously thought we did have our chances. We played well, we had some (offensive) zone time and things like that. I think it was just a good hockey game." 

The Blues missed a chance to tie the game when Sobotka took a pass from Vladimir Tarasenko and missed a wide-open net at 12:07 of the third period. Sobotka shot through the crease with Vasilevskiy out of position.

"I missed the empty-net. It is what it is," Sobotka said. "... It happens. I missed the net and it could be 1-1. They score next shift. Just slid off. It just hit the front of the stick, not the back of it. Kind of landed on my stick, but I missed it."

And in most cases, when one team misses, the other capitalizes, and Kucherov made it 2-0 with his 21st goal of the season on a shot from the high slot high over Allen's stick side at 13:37. Kucherov tied Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for the NHL lead.

Point gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead with 45 seconds left in the first period after a Blues offensive-zone turnover by Dmitrij Jaskin led to an odd-man rush for the Lightning. Point's shot from the slot hit the crossbar but he followed up his rebound.

"I don’t really think I could pinpoint one thing," Parayko said for the lack of offense. "I just think that’s just the way it goes. That’s human nature. We all can’t score every single game. But at the same time, yeah, I don’t know, I just think it was a good game, it was tough, they play a good defensive game and their goalie made some really good saves. Obviously Jake did too, he kept us in the whole game. Like I said earlier, it was just a good hockey game."

Allen had a simple answer.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen makes one of his 22 saves in a 3-0 loss to the
Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

"I just didn't think we made it hard enough on Vasilevskiy," he said. "He's the best goalie in the league this year, and it's not even close. We put pucks on net but pretty easy for him."

And it makes the Blues feel like they had every chance to win.

"I think tonight we were disappointed that we didn't get the win," Steen said. "Big parts of our game, I thought out d-core played solid. I would have liked to earn one of those bounces. We were just a little too much on the outside."

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