ST. LOUIS — Allowing a goal just 12 seconds into the game helped set the tone for a somber Thursday evening by the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.
Numerous Chicago fans in the arena roared their approval after a 3-0 win. It was the Blackhawks' seventh victory in a row as they stretched their NHL-record consecutive points streak to 20 games at 17-0-3. Chicago has nailed down 37 of a possible 40 points.
"It's a terrible start on our line's part," said Blues captain David Backes, whose line includes T.J. Oshie and David Perron. "We've got to be better in setting the tone for our team. I don't know if there's a worse way to do it, 12 seconds in and giving a goal up. That's on our shoulders and we acknowledge that."
A sellout crowd of 19,533 was still settling into its seats when Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored just 12 seconds after the opening face-off. With little in the way of defense to stop them, the Blackhawks moved in quickly and Brandon Saad set up Toews in front.
"Lack of communication between the backchecker and the left defenseman," was the explanation given by Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team had trouble climbing out of that hole the rest of the night.
The Blues definitely created a few moments, but found themselves being somewhat less than the aggressors against a focused Blackhawks club.
"I think our whole performance was OK, but that's not enough to beat a team like Chicago," Hitchcock said. "We made too many mistakes in critical areas offensively and defensively to be effective. I don't think we went at the net hard enough and I think we got beat at our net a few times. That was the difference in the hockey game."
The Blackhawks have earned at least one point in 26 straight regular season games dating back to last season.
The Blues (10-7-2) finished a rough month of February at 4-6-2 and again were unable to generate much offense at home. Playing without injured forwards Alex Steen, Andy McDonald and Vladimir Tarasenko, they were 0-for-4 on the power play and are now 0-for-13 over the last five games.
Of the Blues' 53 goals this season, 21 were scored in four games. That includes the 6-0 win over Detroit in the season opener. The Blues have scored one goal or fewer in five of their last seven home games. Thursday marked the first time they had been shut out at home since March 1, 2011, a 6-0 loss to Calgary.
"We need a better performance, it's as plain as that," said Backes, who left the game early in the second period and later returned following a collision with Chicago's Saad. "We didn't have it and the result's 3-0 at home in front of another sellout. Our fans deserve better and I think everyone here knows that we've got more. It needs to come out right away."
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford did not return for the second period after making six saves in the first. He was replaced in goal by Ray Emery, who finished the combined shutout by stopping all 15 shots he saw.
A power-play shot from the right point by Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk appeared to be deflected and hit the goalpost in the second period. Shattenkirk was asked if the Blues felt a bit overmatched against the NHL's hottest team.
"I don't think so," he said. "We were generating quite a few scoring chances in the second period there I don't think we've ever felt outmatched against anyone. I know we lost two guys this week, but we certainly didn't come into it thinking about that and worrying about that."
Blues winger Chris Stewart was alone in front on another chance, but Emery made the save when Stewart couldn't get his shot over the goaltender.
Late in the period, Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook made a nice play to keep the puck out of trouble on a wraparound try by Blues center Scott Nichol.
"We just got out-battled and outworked," Shattenkirk said. "It's tough to see, but that's a team that's playing their best hockey. That's a team that's playing hockey the right way and that's what we were doing so well last year. We need to get back to that."
Blues defenseman Barret Jackman was honored in a pregame ceremony for playing in 616 games, the most by a defenseman in franchise history. Also taking part in the ceremony were some of the former Blues defensemen he passed, including Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger and Bob Plager. Also on hand was Helen Plager, the wife of former Blues defenseman and coach Barclay Plager.