ST. LOUIS — After watching his team allow 11 goals during back-to-back home losses, St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock didn't need security cameras to find the culprit.
"We're cheating all over the ice," Hitchcock said Thursday following a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings that came two days after a 6-1 shellacking at the hands of the Nashville Predators. "We're cheating to get on the offense, we're cheating to score. Our puck support is poor. Our team game's not good right now because we're cheating the game. We're cheating each other, we're cheating the game and we're paying the price for it."
A team that was 6-1 and drawing accolades from around the NHL is suddenly 6-4 and wondering exactly what happened to its winning formula of tight defense, goaltending and timely goals.
"It's everybody. It's hard work," Blues forward Alex Steen said. "We just need to be more supportive and help each other out, but it starts with hard work."
The Blues have suddenly become extremely loose on the back end, allowing 21 goals in the last five games, 15 in the last three and 11 in their last two.
"When you have this many players who are playing under the bar it's hard to win hockey games," said Hitchcock, who pointed to "individual agendas. What's good for me. How many times were you folks sitting in the stands saying shoot the puck onto the net? How many times did you say why did you pass it there to a covered person when you could have put it on the net? End of press conference."
Blues goalie Brian Elliott allowed five goals on 29 shots and there were numerous defensive breakdowns that led to scoring opportunities.
The Blues began the night 6-1-3 in their last 10 games at home against Detroit, including a 6-0 shellacking of the Wings in the season opener.
The last time the Blues lost back-to-back home games in regulation was Feb. 22 and March 1, 2011. Thursday also marked the first time the Blues have dropped three straight games in the Hitchcock era.
They also were facing 20-year-old Red Wings rookie goalie Petr Mrazek, who was making his NHL debut and began this season in the East Coast Hockey League.
Mrazek allowed one goal and stopped 26 of 27 shots to earn a victory.
Hitchcock wasn't finding any positives after the defeat.
"You hope that sooner or later the players have had enough and they're willing to make the changes necessary, but right now we're cheating the game," he said, echoing a familiar theme he used throughout his news conference.
It was the first night off in nine games for Red Wings starter Jimmy Howard. Mrazek was 16-7-3 in 25 games with Grand Rapids of the AHL with a 2.26 goals-against average.
For the second straight home game, the Blues fell behind during a listless first period.
Daniel Cleary gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead when he got not one, but two rebounds of his own initial shot and tucked a shot past Blues goalie Brian Elliott at the 5:14 mark.
"When a guy gets three or four whacks at it, it's obviously my goal to cover it up or get it in the corner," Elliott said. "But it's a whole system thing that we have to clean up in our defensive zone and I'm definitely part of that for sure."
Detroit defenseman Jakub Kindle made it 2-0 with a snap shot from out near the blue line that made its way through traffic and past a screened Elliott.
It was the first goal and first points this season for both Cleary and Kindle.
The Blues had a power play, lost it six seconds in on a boarding penalty called on David Backes, then regained it when the Red Wings had too many men on the ice.
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo scored his second goal in two games and third this season, pounding the puck into an open net after it was last touched by Alex Steen.
The good feeling from that goal was short-lived as the Red Wings got goals a minute and 31 seconds apart near the end of the period to establish a 4-1 lead.
Cory Emmerton collected his first goal of the season on a rebound in front. Detroit's Damien Brunner collected his fifth of the season with 56 seconds remaining in the period to create a three-goal deficit for the home team.
A breakaway goal by Detroit's Valtterri Filpulla with the teams playing 4-on-4 in the third period removed any further suspense from the outcome.