The St. Louis Blues dropped the second of their Florida match-ups Saturday night, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2. The Bolts scored twice in the 3rd period to send the Blues packing with only their 2nd loss in regulation. The Blues got goals from Alex Pietrangelo, his 4th in as many games, and Jaden Schwartz, his 3rd, in the losing effort. Jaroslav Halak allowed the four goals on just 25 Tampa shots.
The Blues looked over matched Saturday night by the speed of the Lightning forwards. Control in the neutral zone was key and too often St. Louis mis-fired on a pass or allowed Tampa Bay to skate behind their defense. Usually the Blues are very good at keeping a body back behind the play to stop odd-man rushes before they happen but the Lightning were too fast.
St. Louis took the first lead of the game on Petro’s goal, a seeing-eye wrister from the blueline, about eight minutes in, but a turnover in their zone allowed Alex Killorn to tie it up just past the halfway point of the period. Tampa Bay took the lead in the 2nd period on a beautiful play by Steven Stamkos, though the cynic in me thinks Petro committed too quickly and could’ve played the puck better. Let’s face it though, Stamkos is one of the best goal scorers in the NHL.
The play started when the Blues turned the puck over entering the offensive zone and the Lightning got behind the defense. St. Louis would then turn the tables and tie the game with a dazzling steal and score by Schwartz, courtesy of a nifty “high-hoister” up the ice (thank you, John Kelly) from Kevin Shattenkirk. Schwartzy picked Matt Carle’s pocket and then beat Ben Bishop stick-side.
While the Blues outshot the Lightning 14-10 in the 3rd period, their pressure on St. Louis native Bishop wasn’t enough to crack the Tampa Bay goalie’s solid game. The Lightning took the lead for good at 8:37 on a tip-in by Brett Connolly. Halak really never had a chance as a slap-shot from out high changed direction about 10 feet out in front and found its way through traffic to beat him.
Valtteri Filppula put a backhander past Halak with 4 minutes left to essentially ice the Blues for good. Tampa Bay never seemed to slow down and the Blues looked like they were chasing them for most of the game. It was quite a contrast to the heavy, plodding at times, game played by the Florida Panthers and it shows in the 8-2 Tampa Bay record.
St. Louis is back in action tomorrow night in Montreal before heading back to Scottrade Center for a 5-game home-stand. Jaro should be back in goal and we may see the forward lines shuffled slightly as Coach Hitchcock tries some new combinations still looking for more scoring from the 2nd and 3rd lines.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!