The Blues, missing Jay Bouwmeester for the second straight game, returned from a four-game Canadian road trip (New England might as well be Canada) tonight to take on the Ottawa Senators for the second time in three games. Despite the real world events occurring less than a half hour away, everyone was hoping for a few hours of distraction, and in that sense the night was successful.
As for the Blues mission of a win and two points...well, about that...
The Sens came out strong and bossed things around in the first period, as the Blues couldn't even get a shot off for the first 2:44, then couldn't get a second for another 3 minutes. Then about seven and a half minutes in, Patrick Wiercioch took an interference penalty to set up the Blues first power play and their first good scoring chance...
...which would be called off.
To be fair, Jori Lehtera did clearly make contact with Robin Lehner, and although he looks to put an effort into selling it, it did impede him from making the save. It's not very much contact, but enough for it to be the right call.
The Sens however had a pretty decent gripe, as later on the same Blues power play they had a goal called off merely for a premature whistle while the puck was still loose under Brian Elliott.
The Blues would break free later on in the first, when Maxim Lapierre chased down a dump in behind the Ottawa net. He took the puck, then fed it up the boards to Ryan Reaves. Reaver then made a pretty niffty pass to Ian Cole at the blueline. Cole fired a shot that tipped off of Bobby Ryan's stick and fluttered past everyone like a Tim Wakefield pitch put the Blues up 1-0 an give Cole his first point of the year.
The second period saw the play get very chippy. Ottawa gave the Blues three power plays in the middle third, and Alexander Steen was able to capitalize on one of them at 12:05. Steener was able to stelthily sneak into the zone all alone on the far boards, and once Paul Stastny found him with a cross-ice pass, Alex had all day to snipe home his 5th of the year for the 2-goal lead.
Almost 14 minutes into the period, a skirmish around the Blues net saw Chris Butler and Erik Condra both fall over Elliott's right knee. Ells would try to give it a go to stay in the game, but had to head to the locker room. Jake Allen would come on in relief, and as of this writing there's no further news on Elliott's injury. We hope for the best, but by the looks of it, ligament damage could very well be an issue.
In the third period, the Blues for whatever reason decided to give an extra hand to natural score effects by treating the whole period like a 5-on-5 penalty kill. St. Louis had long stretches where they couldn't even get out of their own zone, much less mount any offensive pressure themselves. Eric Gryba took a shot from the point that Erik Condra put a mighty fine tip onto to go top shelf past Allen to pull the Sens within 2-1 at 7:55.
While the Blues had issues exiting their zone, they did hold up surprising well defensively in their zone, blocking 10 shots in the third period - 25(!) for the game. But then in the final minute with Lehner pulled, Clarke MacArthur stole the puck along the boards from Steen, who was unable to clear the zone. MacArthur passed to Mike Hoffman, whose shot from the point was initially stopped by Allen. But Jake couldn't keep the puck from leaking behind him, giving Alex Chiasson the chance to tie the game with just under 41 seconds in regulation, forcing overtime.
In the overtime period, both teams generated excellent chances off the rush. One instant even saw the Senators force a turnover near the blueline, leading to a 3-on-1 with Barret Jackman defending. Jax dived to block the pass, leading to a Blues odd man rush the other way. An exciting 5 minutes of hockey to be sure, but neither team could pull ahead, and thus a shootout.
Oshie got a little too cute, even for him, and Allen couldn't stop Bobby Ryan, so the Blues' punishment for blowing a 2-goal lead in the third was a loss of a point. Combined with the Predators' shootout win against the Kings, and St. Louis and Nashville are now tied at the top of Conference III with 30 points each.
I'm going to post BOTH the team Fenwick and Corsi charts, because in this case, I don't feel either one tells enough of the story of the game on its own. The 25 shots the Blues blocked means the Fenwick percentages - usually a pretty fair judgement of how a game played out, all things considered - were a lot closer than the actual play on the ice.
- During the last big home stand, Brad wrote in the paper that the Blues spent a couple of games just suffocating the opposition's attack, entirely by their control. While I disagreed with that characterization in a couple of those games, that's what I felt I saw for the first 2 periods tonight. They got the offense they needed, and although they conceded possession a little more than you'd like, they were frustrating Ottawa's attack, and that really played out in how chippy - dare I say, dirty? - the Senators were getting the latter half of the second period.
- Of course, that all went out the window in the 3rd. Credit to the Sens' forecheck, but the Blues couldn't clear the defensive zone to save their lives. The Senators almost tripled the Blues in corsi events in the 3rd, 31-11. Shit, Ottawa had more shots on goal (15) than the Blues were even allowed to attempt. But the bottom line, beyond all else, is that when you have a multiple goal lead in the third period, you must win that game.
- 1/6 on the power play. The Senators kept giving you chances by playing stupid and reckless. You've got to make them pay. Ottawa mostly controlled this game at even strength, but they won the game on the penalty kill.
- He didn't record a point and his possession numbers weren't even overly impressive, but whoever decided Erik Karlsson was the official first star of the game was paying attention. He played 32:12, and he was the best player on the ice every second. Damn he's good.
- Ian Cole was by no means perfect but props to him, he had himself a damn solid night. Or at least a lot better than I've come to expect form him. To go with his goal, he got 5 shots on net, blocked 4 Ottawa shots, and was one of only 2 Blues to finish the night with a positive corsi rating.
- Alex Pietrangelo has not been himself defensively this year, but he was a major factor in the attack tonight especially in the overtime period. Still, let's hope Jay Bouw doesn't miss too much more time.
- Speaking of missing time, if Ells has to go down for an extended period, could the Blues turn to Mr. I'm-My-Own-Ex-Brother-In-Law, Martin Brodeur? Let's...just hope Elliott is alright.
- You might disagree, but I thought David Backes was very good defensively tonight. He was strong on the forecheck, aggressive on the penalty kill, and had two very big blocked shots, both of which I believe were on Karlsson.
- I mentioned this on Twitter, but it bears repeating: there was a guy in the lower bowl - only 2 rows from the glass - wearing a Jeff Woywitka jersey. Which presumably, he or a loved one actually spent money on. American money. Which could have been exchanged for goods and/or services.