Blues come to life in third period, but still lose to Ducks

News-DemocratJanuary 18, 2014 

— Another team from California kicked sand on the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

This time the Anaheim Ducks took their turn, posting a 3-2 victory before a standing-room-only crowd of 19,910 that dropped coach Ken Hitchcock's squad to 1-7 against California teams this season.

In six of those eight games, the Blues were digging out of 3-0 holes in the first period.

That 1-7 mark includes three losses to San Jose, two to Los Angeles and two against Anaheim. During the eight games against the California teams, the Blues have been outscored 31-19.

The Blues were listless for two periods Saturday, then came to life in the final 20 minutes when they fired 17 shots at Anaheim goaltender Frederik Andersen.

They got goals from Barret Jackman and Jaden Schwartz to cut the Ducks' lead to one, then pulled goalie Brian Elliott for an extra attacker following a timeout with a minute and 7 seconds remaining.

T.J. Oshie got a shot on net with 2.6 seconds left, but the Ducks held on.

"Listless first two periods will dig you a big hole in this league and against good teams like Anaheim ... to try to come back is a pretty tall order," Blues captain David Backes said. "We made a pretty good push there, but it just wasn't our brand (of hockey) for 40 minutes --and that bites us in the butt."

Or as Blues coach Ken Hitchcock succinctly put it, "It's really just the same movie, different day. We're going to have to figure out a way to fix it."

It was the Blues' third loss in four games on the heels of a seven-game win streak. Hitchcock seemed to be sending a message with some of his postgame commentary.

"We've got too many cracks and holes in our game right now and maybe against a lesser opponent we can win, but not against significant opponents," he said. "One of the problems is we have the same players playing well night in and night out.

"We all know who they are, they're playing exceptional. But we need way more people playing that way if we're going to win hockey games."

The Ducks (37-9-5) had won 18 of their previous 19 games before a 4-2 loss to Chicago on Friday night and have lost only three times in regulation since Nov. 18.

Meanwhile, the Blues (32-10-5) had Friday off and seemingly got a break while facing the Ducks' backup Andersen instead of starter Jonas Hiller.

Elliott saw his franchise-record streak of 13 straight home wins come to an end.

"Tonight I think throughout our lineup we were dead in the first two periods and then finally showed some life," Jackman said. "It's too little too late."

After going through one of their best offensive runs of the season with 21 goals in 12 periods, the Blues have taken a definite step back. They have only six goals in their last 12 periods and the only goal they scored in Thursday's 4-1 loss to Los Angeles came on a penalty shot by T.J. Oshie.

Jackman took away the threat of a shutout Saturday when his shot from the left point made its way past Andersen with 10:48 remaining.

It was Jackman's second goal this season.

Blues winger Jaden Schwartz cut the deficit to 3-2 with a power-play goal that deflected in off Andersen with 5:29 remaining.

In the first period, the Blues' top line of Oshie, Backes and Alexander Steen -- who was playing his first game after missing the previous 11 with a concussion -- was held without a shot.

While Elliott was 9-1-1 in his previous 10 starts, he began the night only 1-2-2 against Anaheim during his career with a 3.83 goals-against average.

Ryan Getzlaf's 25th goal put the Ducks on top 1-0 just 5 minutes, 27 seconds into the game.

Corey Perry appeared to partially fan on his set-up try, but the puck still came to Getzlaf and he found the net. Getzlaf has five goals and 10 points during a seven-game scoring streak.

Anaheim struck for two more goals in the second period. The first came after a Blues turnover as a shot by Matt Beleskey trickled through Elliott and across the goal line at the 2:27 mark of the second period.

"It was a hard shot; I tried to squeeze it," Elliott said. "I thought I'd get the whistle. It's a goal you definitely want back. That's the game."

Cam Fowler gave the Ducks a 3-0 lead on a blast from the top of the left circle for his fifth goal this season.

When the Blues were trying to gain some much-needed momentum thanks to a four-minute power play late in the second period, Backes was called for interference.

"I need to be a lot better than I was tonight," Backes said. "I take a penalty that negates most of a four-minute power play for us. Those types of plays have bit us in the butt and that's unacceptable on my part."

It was a common theme echoed by Blues players and Hitchcock.

"We're a team right now that needs everybody engaged," Hitchcock said. "We need four lines (and) six defensemen playing to their potential and both goalies playing well. We're not a team that can have one or two people carry us.

"We need everybody engaged and right now we don't have everybody engaged."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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