Blues goalie Jake Allen was more than willing to take the blame for the turning point in the Blues’ 5-2 loss to Montreal on Saturday afternoon at Enterprise Center.
Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher was dumping the puck in from just inside the blueline. The puck hit Allen’s stick and went into the net to put the visitors up 2-1 just six seconds into the second period.
“I think it took a lot of wind out of our sails,” Allen said. “That’s on me for losing that momentum for the boys.”
Blues coach Craig Berube cast a much wider net.
“Everybody’s got to be better,” he said. “That’s goalies, everybody. Everybody’s got to be better. . . . It’s not a buy-in right now, not enough of a buy-in to team play.”
After losing to the Canadiens 6-3 last week in Montreal, the Blues served up an encore Saturday. A first period with some positives turned into a second period of disaster, with all the things the Blues have been doing poorly wrapped up into one untidy 20-minute stretch.
The loss was the second in regulation for the Blues this season, both coming to Montreal — which the team mercifully is done playing for the season. The Blues are winless in their past four games, with two regulation losses, an overtime loss and a shootout loss. As bad as the start of last season was, the Blues never went four games without a win.
How this game might have played out had Allen stopped Gallagher’s shot is something that never will be known. But from that point on, a recovery seemed unlikely.
The whole thing is, strangely enough, a throwback to a year ago when events like this were routine in the early season. That’s back when the Blues played as if under the sword of Damocles, and as soon as something went wrong, everything went wrong.
Getting over that in the second half of last season, shrugging off problems and continuing to play their game, was what got them the Stanley Cup. They showed that resolve in the early games this season, but of late it’s been a retro Blues team — even before they break out their retro jerseys.
“It definitely happens,” Berube said. “But we can’t allow . . . our team, veteran team . . . we’ve got to be better than that to let that affect us that much. We’ve got to be mentally tougher than that.”
Blues forward David Perron agreed.
“They scored that goal, it’s definitely a difference,” he said. “But at the same time, we have to pick each other up in here. That’s what we’re doing. Even last year, we won the Cup (in) a Game 7, the first period, probably the first 10 minutes wasn’t great until (Ryan) O’Reilly scored.
“There’s going to be minutes that we have to pick each other up, and I think we have to have a little bit better mentality.”
“We’ve got to play better throughout our entire lineup,” captain Alex Pietrangelo added. “Consistently, right? When we’re on our game, when everyone’s playing the same way and thinking the same way, doing the same thing, it almost becomes robotic at times because everyone’s thinking the same. Right now, we’re just making it look complicated, almost doing too much. When we’re playing a little more easier it seems like we’re more successful.”
Berube didn’t like any of Montreal’s goals, especially the first four. (The last one was an empty-netter.) The first came on a Montreal power play, with Tomas Tatar threading a cross-ice pass through a sea of Blues to Max Domi, who got the puck to Jordan Weal in front and he got it past Allen.
On the second goal O’Reilly won a faceoff, but Sammy Blais gave the puck away. After Gallagher got possession, Colton Parayko backed off him, giving Gallagher a chance to shoot. The puck was going wide and Allen appeared to be trying to swat it into the corner, but instead it hit the bottom of his blade, then his shaft, and went into the net. (“I’ve been joking around,” Gallagher said, “it’s tough to score from there.”)
On the third goal, also on a power play, another cross-ice pass found Jonathan Drouin for a one-timer into an open side of the net. On the fourth, Parayko played 25 seconds without a stick after losing it along the boards. The Blues got the puck out of their zone, but Ivan Barbashev turned it over at center ice before Parayko, playing on the far side, could get to the bench. When Montreal finally got the puck to Nick Suzuki in the slot, a stickless Parayko had limited options to defend him and Suzuki made it 4-1.
The Blues’ penalty killers had stopped 16 of 17 going into the game and had been ranked second in the league. Then Montreal converted two of its five man-advantage situations.
“We made a couple mistakes in the PK that shouldn’t happen,” Berube said. “The bottom line is they’re all self-inflicted goals. That’s just how we look at it.”
The Blues still have gotten points in six out of eight games this season, and, as last year proved, NHL seasons can turn quickly. Who knows?
“Everyone’s got to get on the same page,” Pietrangelo said. “I think everybody is trying to do so much, trying to be a difference-maker. We’ve just got to keep things easy and simple and be able to read off each other a little bit easier.”
“We’ve played some good hockey, some bad hockey and mediocre hockey, all over the place a little bit,” Allen said. “We have to find that consistency again. There’s a lot of things you can say. It doesn’t matter. You need results, and we need to find a way to pull some consistent hockey together, and if we do that and play the right way, wins will come. Points will come.
“It’s no secret the way we play works. We’ll get back to it. We really need to take a deep breath here and move forward.”