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Bad habits return for Blues in streak-snapping 6-2 loss to Buffalo

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Blues Sabres Hockey

Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period of a game against the SBlues on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman discusses the splendid play lately from Blues goalie Jordan Binnington. Also, a happy birthday shoutout to former Cardinal Glenn Brummer of "BRUMMER'S STEALING HOME, HE IS ... SAFE!!" And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat.

BUFFALO — Just in time for Thanksgiving, some bad habits reappeared for the Blues on Wednesday night in KeyBank Center.

Porous defense, costly turnovers, missed scoring chances, faulty decision-making — you know, the same issues that reared their ugly heads during the team’s record-setting eight-game losing streak a couple of weeks ago.

It’s a crazy league this season. Prior to their 6-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blues had followed that eight-game skid with seven straight victories. No one in NHL history had ever done that before.

Buffalo had lost eight in a row before walloping Montreal and St. Louis by a combined score of 13-4 on back-to-back nights.

The New Jersey Devils, of all people, suddenly look like a league power with 13 straight victories before Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Toronto.

In Philadelphia, John Tortorella was the talk of the league in early November for the job he was doing reviving the Flyers. And then, the Flyers went winless in their next eight games (0-5-3) since handing the Blues their record-setting eighth straight loss on Nov. 8.

“That’s the league,” defenseman Colton Parayko said. “There’s no easy games. Every team’s tough. Everybody’s got good players that can make you pay. ... Take the night off anywhere, teams are going to get points. That’s just the way it goes.”

The Blues had too many scoring chances Wednesday to claim that they took the night off in western New York. But they certainly weren’t anywhere near their “A” game.

“We didn’t play our game at all — what we’ve been doing the past seven,” Brayden Schenn said. “We probably thought we’d come here and we were feeling it a bit. And maybe we thought the game was easier than it is.

“There’s no guaranteed wins in this league. We turned over the puck too much and fed into their offense. They’re highly skilled and dynamic young guys, and they took it to us tonight.”

That they did, and it started quickly.

Monday at home against Anaheim, Noel Acciari scored just 11 seconds into the game — for the sixth-fastest goal to open a game in Blues history.

They were on the other side of a quick goal Wednesday when Jeff Skinner scored 18 seconds into the game for Buffalo.

“Yeah, we got scored on right away,” coach Craig Berube said. “That didn’t help. Kind of a nothing play to be honest with you.”

Alex Tuch sent the puck behind the net for Skinner, who skated to the front of the net and beat Jordan Binnington with a shot from a bad angle. For one, the Blues were a little casual getting over to Skinner, which seems strange considering he’s scored 307 career NHL goals. For another, Binnington didn’t block off the near side — the shot went over his shoulder, stick side.

“Skinner made a great shot, pulled it off the wall and banked it in off Binner,” Schenn said. “It’s a world-class shot. And then we kind of held our own through the rest of the first.”

It was an evenly played first period that ended with former Blue Tage Thompson going to the box for tripping Nikita Alexandrov. Just 53 seconds into the second period, Buchnevich scored a power play goal on a play where the puck deflected in off the leg of Buffalo defenseman Mattias Samuelsson.

That tied it at 1-1, but things went south for the Blues just two minutes later. Schenn got pinned against the wall by Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin losing the puck against the half wall by the Blues’ bench.

JJ Peterka scooped up the loose puck and off went the Sabres on a three-on-two rush that became a three-on-one when Niko Mikkola left the ice too early for a defenseman change. Torey Krug hopped on the ice in place of Mikkola just in time to see the Sabres race by. Dylan Cozens scored the goal at the 2:53 mark of the period; the Sabres led 2-1 and never looked back.

“We got squeezed off there; we've got to make a better play than that,” Berube said, referring to Schenn. “And then we've got to reload on it, and we didn’t because of the turnover. (The Blues had two other forwards stuck in their own zone.)

“And (Mikkola) can’t change on the play. We've got to read better, you know. We made bad reads tonight.”

Next came two power play goals by Buffalo against a sagging Blues penalty kill unit that ranks 30th in the league with a paltry 68.2% efficiency rate.

Early in the third period, the Blues had an apparent second goal by Buchnevich wiped out by a successful offsides challenge by Buffalo. (The offending Blues player was Vladimir Tarasenko.)

Next came a pair of goals by Jack Quinn on poorly defended two-on-one rushes, and then Schenn scored the second Blues goal with 1:04 to play. And that was that.

“We didn’t check hard enough,” Berube said. “They got some real good skill over there, and they exposed us with it tonight. Beating our guys one on one, it happened too many times tonight.

“Our penalty kill made two mistakes — (and it’s) in our net. Where we shouldn’t make mistakes on it. We know where we’re supposed to be.

“And that’s the game for me.”

Now, the key for the Blues is to make sure one bad game doesn’t snowball into two or three. Or eight.

“I think you just realize what you’ve been through and what we did to get out of it,” Schenn said, referring to the eight-game losing streak. “And now, you've got to stop it right now.

“We’re going to play two good teams in Florida that are very capable of winning hockey games. The mindset going in there is: no easy games. You can’t take your foot off the gas or have letdowns like we did previously in the year.

“We know we’re a good team in here, and we’ll wash this one away and go from there.”

The Blues play at Tampa Bay on Friday and at Florida on Saturday.

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman discusses the exciting Noel Acciari, who scored twice in the Blues’ big win on Monday night. Also, a happy birthday shoutout to Scarlett Johansson! And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat.

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