Friday night the Blues looked, once again, to turn things around and stop their losing skid. Early on it seemed they had finally found their game and would take it to the Anaheim Ducks, but St. Louis failed, again, to play a full sixty minutes of regulation. The Blues earned a point but were denied a game winning goal in overtime and saw first timer, Nick Bonino score in the shootout to give the Ducks the victory, 6-5 at the Scottrade Center, their first win there since April of 2010.
Coach Hitchcock shuffled up the lines Friday night looking to get some sort of spark from his team and the Blues came out buzzing in the 1st period, putting pressure on the Ducks defense from the drop of the puck and kept it on in the offensive zone but didn’t come away with a lot of good scoring chances right away. Thankfully, the Blues appeared to have rediscovered both their forecheck and backcheck and some hard work from Jaden Schwartz on the fourth line earned the Blues a quick power-play. On the ensuing man-advantage, Alex Steen sent a wicked wrist shot from the blue line past Ducks netminder, Viktor Fasth, to take the lead 1-0. The Blues have scored on special teams now in each of their last five games.
St. Louis really had the Ducks on their heels, spending essentially the entire first half of the period in the Anaheim zone and had out-shot the Ducks 6-0 to that point. Just when it seemed the Blues were building some momentum though, some sloppy stick-handling by David Perron led to a turnover. The resulting rush gave the Duck their first shot on Brian Elliot, which took them almost 11 minutes to get, and it went right through him to tie the game 1-1.
Earlier in the season, the Blues had done a very good job of gaining the offensive zone and sticking to their game-plan of getting the puck in the zone and down low, creating time and space to work the puck around and score goals. In this case, Perron, in my opinion, tried to do a little too much with the puck and coughed it up, something I’ve seen him do quite a bit during this stretch of four losses in a row. It looks like he’s pressing, “squeezing the stick too tightly,” as the players say, and trying o force things that aren’t there, something teams do when they’re not winning, and he’s certainly not the only one doing for St. Louis right now.
The Blues didn’t allow themselves to get steamrolled like they had in the 1st period of their previous three games, storming back at the end of the period to take a 3-1 lead going into the break. David Backes notched their first even-strength goal in over 180 minutes at 15:30, scoring off of a blocked shot, and Perron scored with under a minute to play, banging in a big rebound to give the Blues back the momentum they’d lost earlier. For the first time in a week the Blues had taken charge of a game. Anaheim has allowed more first period goals (17) than any team in the NHL.
The 2nd period started much as the 1st ended, with the Blues cycling in the offensive zone and not giving Anaheim much chance to catch their breath, looking much like the team who’d gone 6-1 in its first seven games. It only lasted about half the frame though, and the Ducks worked themselves back into the game with strong forechecking. At 12:40 the wheels started coming off for the Blues. They seemed to lose their transition game, were sloppy with the puck in their own zone and left Teemu Selanne uncovered down low to make it 3-2. Only forty-five seconds later the Ducks struck again to tie it up 3-3, the defense once again getting caught flat-footed leaving Andrew Cogliano alone at the side of the net to flip in a rebound.
Not wasting any time, Anaheim and their speedster line scored again less than a minute later to take the lead, as Bobby Ryan scored his 2nd of the night, really exposing the Blues lack of backchecking and unfortunately, a struggling Elliot. The tide had turned against St. Louis in a big way.
The Blues started the 3rd period down 4-3 and took a bad penalty in the first minute, only the second minor penalty called to that point, but were able to kill it off and then tie the game on a fluky goal by TJ Oshie, getting some help from Backes as the pair barrelled into the Anaheim zone and literally skated through the defense to poke the puck through Vasht.
The goal gave the Note a little life and a jump in their step as they picked up the forecheck again and were able to sustain pressure on the Ducks in the offensive zone, cycling the puck even through numerous line changes. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to score during that time and eventually luck went against them. Roman Polak broke a stick as Anaheim was starting a rush, and while he was able to get back it proved to be too late and Saku Koivu scored at 13:41 take back the lead. It was a bit deflating, but the Blues help their ground and a less than two minutes later were awarded another power-play. This time they cashed in, taking advantage of a beautiful hold-in by Vladimir Tarasenko and tying the game once more on a rebound goal by Chris Stewart.
The game moved to overtime where, with just 22 seconds remaining, Ian Cole managed to take a loose puck in the high slot and fire what he thought was the winning shot, momentarily sending the crowd into a frenzy. Unfortunately, Patrik Berglund had been checked into the crease and was draped over the back of Vasht. While no penatly was called on the play, the goal was disallowed and the overtime ended still knotted up 5-5. The teams moved to the shootout.
The Blues scored three times in the 1-on-1 session, which saw rookie Tarasenko take his first attempt, ringing one off the post. In the end, Elliot was unable to make one more save, and Bonino scored to seal the victory for the Ducks.
The Blues let one get away Friday night, a game they should have won in my opinion. They couldn’t keep their proverbial boot on the opposition’s throat and put the Ducks away, and now they’ll have barely any time to regroup before facing the LA Kings Monday night. The Kings will be coming off a heartbreaking loss in Detroit Sunday, and St. Louis will look for a win against the team who swept them in the playoffs last season.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!