St. Louis Blues

Blues trend of strong goaltending, defense exposed in loss

It was a game that took the St. Louis Blues about as far away from their recent game scripts as possible, especially when it comes to defense and goaltending.

The Blues trimmed a 5-2 lead down to 5-4 late in the third period Friday before seeing their five-game win streak end with a 6-5 loss to a hungry bunch of Boston Bruins.

The Bruins had won only three times in its previous 10 games, while the Blues found themselves trailing an opponent for the first time in six games.

Typically solid Blues goaltender Brian Elliott didn’t get a lot of help, allowing five goals on 22 shots before being pulled after two periods.

Elliott entered Friday’s game having stopped 91 of of the last 92 shots sent his way. He was 11-1-1 since the All-Star break with four shutouts, including three in a row, and a .949 save percentage, but struggled a bit under relentless Boston pressure.

He was replaced by Jake Allen following the second period after allowing five goals on 22 shots.

Blues center Paul Stastny said this wasn’t a loss to pin on the goaltending.

“You always feel bad for your goalies,” Stastny said. “You feel bad just because they’ve had so many shutouts and have played well for us all year. In games like this when they let in a couple goals it’s always kind of falls on our shoulders, we know that and we tell them that.

“These goalies will always blame themselves, but it wasn’t (them). We’ve got to be better in front of both guys.”

Blues forward Jaden Schwartz, who scored his team’s first goal Friday, echoed the same sentiment when ti came to Elliott.

“That one’s on us,” Schwartz said of the loss, which came before a sellout crowd of 19,202. “We gave up way too many chances and made it tough on him. We’ll bounce back and so will he.”

Key sequence

The Blues got third-period goals from defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Alex Pietrangeo to cut Boston’s lead to 5-4 with 12 minutes, 22 seconds remaining. However, the Bruins caught a break when Blues defenseman Petteri Lindbohm was called for holding and Patrice Bergeron scored the eventual game-winner with 3:24 remaining.

“That last goal was just a fluky bounce off the boards where their guy misses, our guy misses and it goes on Bergeron’s (stick) and ends up being the winner,” Stastny said.

The Blues pulled Allen for an extra attacker and got a goal from Kevin Shattenkirk to cut the deficit to 6-5 with 20.7 seconds remaining, but the Bruins were able to close out the win.

“We weren’t ready to go,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who tied Pat Quinn for seventh on the NHL’s all-time list by coaching in his 1,400th career game. “We weren’t sharp, we weren’t ready to go. It was really an extension of the third period of the last game here.”

A Chicago win Friday moved the Blackhawks (45-26-7, 97 points) to within four points of the second-place Blues in the (46-23-9, 101 points) in the Central Division standings. Dallas leads with 103 points; all three teams have four games remaining.

The third period comeback began at the 3:56 mark with a goal by Bortuzzo, who cleaned up a rebound in the slot to beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask 3:56. Pietrangelo made it 5-4 when he took a pass from Paul Stastny and whisked a backhander past Rask for his sixth goal at the 7:38 mark.

Bergeron’s power-play goal effectively turned out the lights on any miracle comeback.

“It was tough to give us that last (one),” Pietrangelo said. “If you kill that off you’ve got two minutes left to score another one. We still scored five goals and we didn’t play the best that we can, so it’s something to build off of.”

The Blues’ bid for a season-high sixth win in a row was jettisoned during a second period that saw the Bruins erupt for three straight goals after the Blues tied it 2-2.

Rough start for Blues

Boston scored five times on 22 shots through two periods after being held to three goals or fewer in its previous 10 games.

The Blues took a 1-0 lead just under six minutes into the game when Schwartz broke in 2-on-1 with Jori Lehtera, then finished off a perfect saucer pass from Lehtera for his eighth goal in 29 games.

The goal gave Schwartz four goals and 12 points in his last 13 games.

Boston struck for two goals late in the first period against Elliott, scoring twice against a team that had surrendered only one goal in his previous five games.

Loui Eriksson got the first one on a breakaway after taking a long stretch pass from defenseman John Michael-Liles. David Krejci jumped on the rebound of a shot by Matt Beleskey for the second Bruins goal, which came with 3:25 remaining in the first period.

The Blues tied it 2-2 when Magnus Paajarvi poked a loose puck in front to Stastny at 5:39 of the second period. Stastny leads the NHL in scoring since March 9 with four goals and 16 points in his last 11 games.

Boston scored three times before the second period ended, with Beleskey getting the first one on a blast from the top of the left circle after the Bruins won a faceoff.

Blues winger Alexander Steen lost the puck in the corner after being tripped by Boston’s Frank Vatrano. The Bruins quicjkly gained control and Vatrano scored on a drop pass from former Blues forward Lee Stempniak.

After Elliott made several tough saves during a power-play frenzy in front, the Bruins’ Ryan Spooner rang a shot off the crossbar before Krejci scored his second on the night with screen help in front.

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders