Corey Perry scored twice and Jonas Hiller made 29 saves Sunday night as the red-hot Ducks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 in Anaheim. Ryan Reaves notched his first goal in 28 games and Patrik Berglund posted his team leading 13th of the season. Jaroslav Halak stopped just 18 shots in the loss.
The Blues scored first for the 5th straight game Sunday, and while their penalty killing was good, particularly in the 2nd period when St. Louis held the Ducks in check during a 5 on 3 advantage, Anaheim’s special-teams still made the difference in the game. Giving the best power-play in the NHL seven opportunities is never a good idea, and the Blues couldn’t stay out of the penalty box.
I’m not going to blame the loss on the referees, but Dan O’Halloran and Kyle Rehman, along with linesmen Mike Cvik and Jonny Murray combined for one of the worst officiated games I’ve seen all season. Calls against both teams Sunday left me scratching my head and wondering if the NHL will ever take time to look deeper into the issue. This certainly wasn’t the only game this year to see questionable calls, but I think we’ve seen a much lower quality of refereeing during this lockout-shortened season.
After taking a 1-0 lead at 6:09 on his 1st of the year by Reaves on a tip-in of a Wade Redden shot from the point, the Blues played a very solid 1st period. They were backchecking, covering for each other on defense, and backing up Halak. Throughout the 1st period, and most of the 2nd, St. Louis did an excellent job of clearing their own zone quickly and moving the puck up ice against the very speedy Ducks.
St. Louis looked to be on their heels a bit in the 2nd. Anaheim’s forecheck seemed to wear the Blues down and forced three Blues penalties. The Ducks then tied the game at 8:24 of the 2nd period when Andrew Cogliano took a turnover up the ice and beat Halak in the waning seconds of a Blues power-play, the 4th short-handed goal St. Louis has allowed this season.
The St. Louis line of TJ Oshie, David Backes, and Jaden Schwartz played well, showing the most energy of all the Blues forwards but the team as a whole appeared to be getting tired as the 2nd wore on. Five road games in 8 days can do that to a team, but everyone is playing a lot of games in a short amount of time this season, and the winning squads are adapting. The Blues didn’t do a good job for an entire 60 minutes Sunday and sloppy play in his own zone by Alex Pietrangelo nearly led to an Anaheim goal but Halak made a big save. Kris Russell took a hooking penalty inside the last minute of the 2nd.
The Blues killed off their penalty to open the 3rd period then quickly took back the lead. Bergie scored on the man-advantage at 1:14 to make it 2-1, only their third power-play goal in nearly their last 30 chances. It’s been said a lot lately and bears repeating: good things happen when you get the puck to the net. St. Louis was able to get far more of their shots through traffic, but still didn’t really test Hiller. Sometimes quantity outweighs quantity, but it wasn’t the case Sunday.
The Ducks took control in the final 18 minutes of the game, and took advantage of mistakes by the Blues. Another turnover by Petro in his own zone led to Bobby Ryan tying it up 2-2 at 3:11. Two minutes later the Ducks finally broke through the St. Louis penalty kill as Perry scored his first of the night on the power-play to give Anaheim the lead for good. It’s been part of the pattern this season for the Blues- costly turnovers lead to goals and the team can’t recover, gives up another one. It seemed only a matter of “when” not “if” the Ducks would score with the man-advantage.
Looking more and more out of gas, the Blues missed chances to tie the game and finally, with about 2 minutes left, Coach Hitchcock pulled Halak for the extra attacker. St. Louis barely managed a shot on Hiller before Perry got control of a loose puck and fired it down the ice and into the empty Blues net at 19:20 to make it 4-2 to all but ensure the win for the Ducks.
Missed chances, bad calls, not enough rest, and defensive miscues. They add up to another loss in a game the Blues could definitely have won, being up 1-0 and then 2-1 in the last 20 minutes. With a day off Monday and coming back home to play San Jose again, I’m hoping we’ll see Jake Allen back in net to stay. This team needs a spark and he’s been one of the few to provide it consistently this year. Despite their more aggressive play, the team needs more production from Backes and Oshie. The possibility exists that Andy McDonald and Alex Steen might return this week as the Blues play three in-a-row at Scottrade Center. Will it be too little, too late?
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!