Ineffective PK Leads to Third Straight Loss for Blues
In front of an announced "crowd" of 9,412 in the Arizona desert, the Blues dropped their third straight contest in a close one. While they fought back time and time again, outshooting the Coyotes 38-27, their ultimate demise resulted from inopportune penalties and the inability to kill them off. A hat-trick from former Canes' sniper, Ray Whitney, and stellar goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov certainly didn't help either. At the end of the night, the once red-hot Blues lost 5-3, are now staring directly in the face of a three-game losing streak and sit two points back of the division leading Detroit Red Wings.
The Blues came in to this game without T.J. Oshie and decided to rest their star goalie, Jaroslav Halak. Leaving Halak on the bench in favor of Ty Conklin was a curious decision by coach Davis Payne, considering that the Blues hadn't played since Thursday and have tomorrow off, but the season is long and Halak will get more than his fair share of starts. Anyway, Conklin's play certainly didn't tip the balance of this tilt in the Coyotes' favor.
The Coyotes jumped to an early lead, with Radim Vrbata scoring the all-important first goal. The Blues quickly tied it up with Andy McDonald's slick backhand in close. McDonald made a tremendous move to split the two Coyotes' defensemen, putting his quick feet and solid hands on display.
The 'Yotes regained the lead when Ray Whitney scored his first goal of the year off of a quirky play. Conklin made the save and rookie Center Nicholas Drazenovic tried to clear the puck into the corner. Instead, the puck hit Whitney in the Coyotes' crest as he was cruising through the crease. The puck dropped to Whitney's feet and he tapped in a gimme. The Blues, who have been having trouble scoring goals of late, faced an uphill battle once again.
On a positive note, the Blues were able to tie the game at two on the power play. Snapping a recent 0 for 25 on the man advantage, Blues' forward David Backes was in the right place at the right time, coming out the winner of a massive scrum in the crease. To be honest, I never did see how the puck made its way over the line or why Backes was credited for the goal, but he was. The Coyotes probably felt the whistle should have blown on the play as the puck was lost underneath Bryzgalov. However, referee Auger did not blow the whistle and eventually pointed emphatically that the puck was in the net. After a lengthy review, the call on the ice stood. I think Auger made the right call (which basically never happens), and I give him credit for letting the play work itself out. All too often, refs are too quick to blow the whistle with the puck still loose. Hopefully, the Blues power play units can build off of the goal, as getting off the schneid is certainly a positive to take away from this game.
Unfortunately for the Blues, they soon found themselves at a five on three disadvantage. Conklin was guilty of tripping up Lee Stempniak on an attempted poke-check, leading to a lengthy two man advantage in the Coyotes favor. The call was weak as Conklin got the puck first and Stempniak dove like an Olympian, doing his best to sell the call. Regardless, the call was made and despite clearing the puck off the goal line moments before, the Blues were unable to kill the penalties as Whitney scored his second of the night with a one timer from the left dot. The puck hit the post and bounced in off Conklin.
Up 3-2, the Coyotes seized momentum, scoring their third power play goal of the night as Conklin was victimized by another deflection. The Blues went into the second intermission down 4-2.
Despite a valiant effort in the third, the Blues came up short. Bryzgalov was definitely the Coyotes best player in the last frame, making save after save. The Blues power play unit was unable to take advantage of a Scottie Upshall retaliation penalty in the middle of the period and they hit another post late in the period. The game looked out of reach until Brad Boyes finally scored a goal (his first since the first game of the season) at the 18:12 mark. Credit for the goal goes to Alex Pietrangelo, who made a smooth move in the neutral zone allowing him to gain entry into the Coyotes' zone, and Andy McDonald who deked Bryzgalov out of the crease, creating a wide open tap in for Boyes. Boyes deserved the goal, though, as he played an inspired third period and got to the right area to capitalize on his teammates' hard work.
Boyes' goal was all the scoring for the Blues there would be though, as Whitney finally got his hat trick, scoring into the empty net after an unselfish play by Radim Vrbata.
The Blues now have a day to lick their wounds. Their next game is on Monday on the road against the Avalanche. (That game will be televised nationwide on Versus).
Blues player of the game: Andy McDonald, who had one goal and two assists.
Looking forward to: seeing whether Boyes can build off his first goal in a long time. With Oshie out for three months, the Blues need guys like Boyes to put the puck in the net. Additionally, injuries on defense are taking their toll. The Blues have now given up sixteen goals in their last three games after having only given up eighteen goals in the previous twelve games. Should be interesting to see if the Blues can tighten up in their own zone against an Avs team that has scored 53 goals on the season.
Finally, I really enjoyed the fight between Cam Janssen and @BizNasty2point0, though I'm usually not a big fan of fights. Paul Bissonnette entered the lineup tonight and the scrap was a good one. I give the Coyote Twitter-phenom the win in that one.
While I don't typically tweet about the Blues, please follow me on Twitter: @wilsonecho91