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Blues

Blues happy with trip despite loss

St. Louis Blues v Columbus Blue Jackets

Blues goaltender Jake Allen stops a shot as Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (left) ties up Columbus left wing Nick Foligno (71) in second period action during a game between the St. Louis Blues and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, April 5. (Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com)

COLUMBUS, OHIO • Overall, the Blues’ four-game trip was a resounding success despite Friday’s 4-1 loss to Columbus.

The Blues’ inability to run their winning streak to seven games, sweeping the four-game trip, cost them a chance to jump into the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference standings. On a night No. 4 Los Angeles and No. 5 San Jose were idle, the Blues remained No. 6 in the standings.

But staring at a schedule that sees seven of their last eight regular-season games at Scottrade Center, the club put itself in a solid position by grabbing six of eight points on the four-game jaunt.

“We had a very good road trip,” said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who scored the team’s lone goal Friday. “We’ve been playing with a great level of competitiveness, playing smart road games. It’s tough to end it with this, a sour taste in your mouth. But we can’t forget about what we’ve accomplished and now we go home to a nice little home stand, and that’s going to be just as important.”

The Blues were going for the season sweep Friday against Columbus, but after the Blues took a one-goal lead in the first period, the Blue Jackets responded with four unanswered goals to close out the series 3-1.

In their third game in four nights, and fourth in six nights, the Blues played a strong first 10 minutes in the first period but faded the rest of the way. Thus the Blues’ six-game winning streak, which was tied for the longest in the NHL, ended at six games and its five-game streak on the road also came to a close.

After three consecutive shutouts, Blues goaltender Brian Elliott was given the game off in favor of Jake Allen, who backstopped the team to a 3-1 win over Columbus on April 5. But on Friday, Allen surrendered four goals on 19 shots, with one coming on a double-deflection and another on a 2-on-1 rush by the Blue Jackets.

“I think we came out pretty good for a team that played last night and traveled,” Blues captain David Backes said. “The second period, they stepped it up and we didn’t have a ton of response to that. They were willing to get to those areas. Tighten up the defensive part but also need to create a little more on the offensive side.”

The recent work of Elliott and the defense, winning their last three games in shutout fashion, had somewhat covered up the Blues’ offensive woes. The team has just five goals in its last four games, albeit three of those were wins.

On Friday, the Blues got their one goal out of the way early, scoring on a wobbly attempt by Shattenkirk. With Vladimir Tarasenko creating a screen in front, the puck sneaked by Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, handing the visitors a 1-0 lead just 1 minute, 26 seconds into the game.

But after falling behind, the Blue Jackets, who entered the night last in the NHL in goals per game (2.28), took it to the Blues.

A blast from the point by Adrian Aucoin was deflected not once but twice on the way to the net, with Cam Atkinson touching it last before it went into the back of the net for a 1-1 score with 5:28 left in the first frame. The goal ended the Blues’ overall shutout streak at 215:56.

The Blues were zero for three on the power play in the opening 25 minutes of the game, as their problems continue on the special-teams unit. The group has scored just three man-advantage goals on 39 attempts in its last 15 games.

“I thought our power play took our energy out of us,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I’ve think we’ve lived on this fine line for a while. We made some mistakes checking-wise for me, but I think when you’re scoring one goal a game and you’re not going in those hard areas … (Columbus) scored three goals when they went into the hard areas and we weren’t able to do that today.”

After defenseman Barret Jackman denied a wraparound attempt in the second period, keeping the score knotted, Columbus’ Artem Anismimov pumped in a rebound for a 2-1 Blue Jackets lead. It marked the first time the Blues had trailed since Chicago took a 2-1 lead in the second period April 4.

Despite its lack of scoring, Columbus built a record of 10-1-3 in its last 14 home games before Friday night. The Blues might have been happy with a one-goal deficit entering the third period, but with 1:24 left in the second, Ryan Johansen scored on a rebound for a 3-1 lead.

Hitchcock mixed up his offensive combinations in the third period, but while his club outshot Columbus 32-19 for the game, the Blue Jackets picked up a goal by Marian Gaborik for a 4-1 lead to wrap up the game.

“It’s not pretty,” Blues forward David Perron said. “We can’t win scoring one goal. We got six wins, but how many goals did we score in the six wins? We’ve just got to find a way to make those little plays that are going to create room for the other guys. We’re not doing that. We’re getting a lot of shots on net. But we’re not generating a lot from those shots.”

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Jeremy Rutherford is the lead Blues beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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