The Blues were scoreless through two periods Monday, and they needed a spark. As has often happened when the attack appears listless, it was the fourth line breaking through.
Kyle Brodziak put the finish to a third-period flurry to tie the game at 1-1. It was the kind of sequence you see and think ‘if they don’t score there, they deserve to lose.’
Though the Blues eventually did just that, falling 2-1 to the Panthers at home Monday night, don’t blame the fourth line. St. Louis being denied points for the second game in a row following a six game win streak had less to do with Kyle Brodziak and Co. than anybody else on the team not named Jake Allen. When nobody managed to generate scoring–the Blues had no goals on 15 shots through two periods–the gritty engine that could found a way.
After Colton Parayko slapped a puck on goal, Ryan Reaves collected the rebound and fired away. A second rebound landed on Scottie Upshall’s skate. He corralled it with perfect timing to a cutting Brodziak for the goal. Textbook.
“We tried to get the guys going,” Upshall said. “Tried to just create a lot of energy. It was a big shift. I feel like after that, we gained the momentum and we brought it to them.”
That momentum didn’t carry over to a critical defensive stretch in the final moments, but it earned the fourth line more ice time down the stretch of the game. Mike Yeo was ready to reward the guys who provided value.
"The message was just pretty simple going into the third period: the lines will sort themselves out," Yeo said. "The guys that wanna play and wanna make the difference, they’ll be the guys that get the chance to do that."
Last became first, as Yeo felt the fourth line was the group that best fit that description, giving them ice time in the game’s waning minutes.
“Yeah, there were times where I think he just felt whoever’s creating energy and getting pucks deep is gonna go out and play,” Upshall said. “No matter what line’s out there, we’re all out there to do a job. Chip in, sacrifice, make hard plays. It’s just a tough game.”
None wore the pain of the loss more than Jake Allen, who was sullen in the locker room after the game. He gave his team every opportunity to get a point(s). He stopped 28 of 30 shots, and was screened on the fatal goal with 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation. He never saw the shot, never moved, and was rightfully disappointed.
“You gotta battle. You gotta get pucks out, pucks in,” Allen said. “We had 30 seconds left to salvage a point in a game that we played… not good. Those are huge points right now. It could have ended up in two points, and it slipped away.
As demoralizing as the finish was for the Blues–failing to grind through a lengthy sequence in the defensive zone to clear the puck and save a point–their performance in the first 40 minutes got under the skin of Mike Yeo. After noting a burst of energy to open the game, Yeo felt the Blues fell flat after Florida scored its first goal–his most passionately articulated concern of the night.
“The first few shifts out of the gate, I thought we were going,” Yeo said. “It looked like a good sign. We made a mistake, they scored a goal, and we just got pushed out of the game.
“For me, that’s on our preparation. Little bit concerned about whether it’s focus coming into the break, whether it’s the opponent–not having the hatred or the emotion going into the game that we needed to have. You have to make sure that you find a way to prepare, and when that happens, you don’t get pushed out. So when the other team scores or something bad happens, you continue to go out there and you continue to do the things you need to do. And that’s how you climb back in the game.”
The Blues will now have five days to stew in their disappointment, something Yeo hopes will weigh on the players even in their time away from the ice.
“Hopefully,” Yeo said. “We put ourselves in the position where we should have a bad taste in our mouths for a couple days.”
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