ST. LOUIS — Five goals in five games is not going to get the St. Louis Blues into the playoffs.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock likes to talk about hockey's "fine line" and his team was skating on the wrong side of it Sunday in a 2-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
It was the Blues' second straight loss following a five-game winning streak. With seven games left, each point is extremely valuable.
The Blues have five goals in the last five games and thanks to shutouts by Brian Elliott still managed to win three of them. Elliott saw his shutout streak end at three and his consecutive scoreless streak end at 214 minutes.
"At this time I think everybody's on the fine line," Hitchcock said. "You need something positive to happen, somebody to step up and get us to the next level. We're playing pretty well 5-on-5; our penalty killing gives us a chance every night.
"But whether it's top players scoring or whether it's a little bit more contribution from the power play or whatever, that's the edge. We have to find that edge."
The Blues were 0-for-3 on the power play Sunday and are mired in a 6-for-72 stretch over their last 27 games. The Blackhawks (32-5-4) won their fifth straight behind shutout goaltending and 30 saves from Corey Crawford.
Elliott spoke of the urgency the Blues need if they hope to secure a playoff spot.
"It's playoff hockey," he said. "We've had that kind of situation for a while now and with seven left it puts things into perspective. You've got to get things done and you've got to get them done now."
The Blackhawks scored off a Blues turnover and added a short-handed goal by Marian Hossa to create more than enough offense.
"It's a good measuring stick, they're a good team over there," Elliott said. "We know we're going to have go through someone like that right off the bat, but we've got to solidify a playoff spot first. The seven left are crucial."
At 23-16-2 with 48 points, the Blues are four points behind No. 4 seed Los Angeles but only three ahead of No. 10 Columbus.
"That's the thing about the West, it seems to never be over," Blues captain David Backes said. "If you're (seeded) between four and 12, every game's huge. Especially down the stretch run with seven to go, every two points is going to be critical including tonight. Unfortunately these two are behind us now."
A goal by Bryan Bickell following a Blues turnover ended Elliott's shutout streak at 214 minutes.
Blues rookie Vladimir Tarasenko was tripped up trying to get off a shot in the slot and play headed the other way, but there were still other defenders to beat.
"We're in a position to shoot the puck, we stickhandle it, try to put it through someone's legs ... five seconds later it's in our net," Hitchcock said. "Not the way you're going to win against good teams."
Chicago's Viktor Stalberg crossed the blue line with speed and headed toward the net, dropping the puck to Bickell. Elliott was scrambling to reach the post, but Bickell put his first shot off the post before tucking in the rebound between the post and Elliott's outstretched glove at the 4:13 mark.
It was the first goal allowed by Elliott since one by Stalberg late in the third period on April 4 in Chicago.
Hossa and Sheldon Brookbank each hit goalposts with shots in the second period or the Hawks lead would have been bigger.
The Hawks got a short-handed goal when Jonathan Toews won a faceoff in the Blues zone and Hossa rifled in a quick shot off the leg of Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
Hossa has 18 goals in 37 career games against the Blues.
"I was tracking it on the glove side and it went off his shin pad through my legs," Elliott said. "You're going to get some bounces to go your way and some go the other way, they even out in the wash."
A rollicking first period included plenty of big hits and intensity. It was capped off by a brawl in the corner with just under two minutes left following Kevin Shattenkirk's hit on Chicago's Andrew Shaw.
Perhaps it was only fitting that the U2 song "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was playing in the background.
Elliott was called upon for several big saves, perhaps the best when he robbed Dave Bolland on a rebound attempt.
The Blues were blanked for the fourth time this season, but Elliott's goaltending wasn't the problem Sunday.
"He was pretty darned good tonight, too," Backes said. "We're not going to live by that sword and die by that sword, but he had some spectacular saves and a (shutout) stretch there that was pretty phenomenal. Fact of the matter is you can't live on a goose egg from the other team every night."