Blues unable to cool off Anaheim

2013-03-11T01:05:00Z 2013-03-25T20:59:59Z Blues unable to cool off AnaheimBy Jeremy Rutherford 314-444-7135

ANAHEIM, Calif. • The Blues had a chance to wrap up their five-game road trip with a winning record and end Anaheim’s 10-game winning streak at Honda Center on Sunday night.

The ever-productive Patrik Berglund handed the Blues a one-goal lead early in the third period with his team-high 13th goal of the season. But the Ducks tied the score 1 minute, 30 seconds later, and then scored the game-winner on the power play after a questionable penalty against the Blues.

In a battle between the Nos. 1-2 power-play units in the NHL, the first-place Ducks converted when Corey Perry redirected a shot with 14:40 remaining in regulation. Perry picked up his second of the game on an empty net with 40 seconds to play.

So the surprising Ducks, now 18-3-3 on the season, stretched their home-ice streak to 11 games and ended the Blues’ five-game trip with a record of 2-3.

There were varying opinions on how the Blues lost Sunday’s game in the third period. One view few could argue was that the team was fatigued while playing its seventh game in 11 days. They had energy, but did they have enough wherewithal?

“I don’t think we were tired; we did have a tough game (Saturday) but I think everybody looked good,” said forward Ryan Reaves, who netted Blues’ first goal Sunday. “I think it’s just been kind of the same old story: Once a team starts pushing back in the third, we kind of start fading.”

“It’s true,” Berglund said. “It’s frustrating and it’s hard to talk about now, find the words. We talk a lot about being a four-line team and we need everybody. (But) everybody wasn’t there, including myself.”

Berglund was “there” early in the third period, putting the Blues ahead 2-1. With the help of a screen from David Backes, Berglund scored his fourth goal in his last four games on the team’s first shot of the frame.

According to Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, his club didn’t fade the rest of the period. The shots were even the remainder of the way with six apiece.

“I don’t agree with that,” Hitchcock said. “We had a 2-1 lead, we were in good shape and we made a couple of mistakes with the puck. We didn’t recognize who we were playing against. We tried to make an extra play with the puck, got stripped and the next thing you know it’s in your net ... we had it right where we wanted it and let it off the hook.”

A turnover by Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo kept the puck in the Anaheim offensive zone, and after a point shot, Bobby Ryan scored on a rebound for a 2-2 score with 16:49 left in regulation.

On the game-winner, too, the Blues had multiple chances to clear the zone and failed before Perry scored.

After the game, the Blues were more concerned about those failures than they were pointing the finger at the officials, who put the Ducks on the power play with a suspect tripping call against defenseman Roman Polak.

“Penalty or not a penalty, we kill it and go,” Backes said. “That needs to be our mind-set rather than worrying about the refereeing. That’s part of being mentally tough.”

Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak didn’t have much of a chance on the goal, as Perry redirected a shot by teammate Ryan Getzlaf.

Halak gave up two goals on just five shots in the third period Sunday but was strong much of the game.

In the opening period, Halak used his blocker to brush aside a high-quality scoring chance by the Ducks’ Peter Holland. He turned in another on a shot by Brandon McMillan.

Halak’s nine first-period saves helped the Blues hold on to a 1-0 lead, which they had compliments of Reaves’ first goal of the season. Three nights after fellow fourth-liner Scott Nichol lit the lamp for the first time this season, Reaves tipped in a shot by defenseman Wade Redden just 6:09 into the game.

Reaves’ score marked the fifth straight game in which the Blues netted the first goal and it also ended Anaheim’s shutout streak at 135 minutes, 32 seconds on home ice.

In the second period, the Blues erased a Ducks 5-on-3 power play. The trio of Vladimir Sobotka, Backes and Pietrangelo wiped out the bulk of what started as a 1:35 two-man advantage. The Ducks had just one shot, a stop by Halak on Teemu Selanne.

The Blues came out of the situation with their 1-0 lead intact, and actually went on the power play after Perry was whistled for interference. But instead of extending their lead, the Blues surrendered their fourth short-handed goal — tied with Buffalo for most in the NHL this season.

Anaheim’s Emerson Etem chipped the puck ahead to Andrew Cogliano, who had a step on David Perron and outraced him the rest of the way before beating Halak.

The Blues bounced back after that, but then “took our foot off the gas,” Backes said. “And you can’t do that, especially against a team with their potency up front. We did that and the result is hanging Jaro out to dry, who played a heck of a game for us.”

Jeremy is a reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @jprutherford.

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