ST. LOUIS -- Forget the Stanley Cup. What the Blues need now is a cup of coffee. Caffeinated.
The club was caught sleep-skating again in the first period Saturday night against the Anaheim Ducks, who absorbed a third-period surge from the Blues and held on for a 5-2 victory at Scottrade Center.
The crowd of 17,646, however, was all too familiar with the desperation act. That routine and a few bucks will get you a cup of coffee. Well, on second thought ...
"I think it's the same for every game," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "When you don't have a mindset of checking, then that affects your competitive level ... when your mindset is something other than checking to start with, that affects everything. It's been the same."
The Blues have been outscored 9-1 in the first period of its last four games. On a recent road trip, they fell behind San Jose 4-0 in a 6-3 loss and Los Angeles 3-0 in a 3-2 defeat, and the pattern continued Saturday as the Blues spotted Anaheim a 4-0 advantage.
The club wasn't spotted again Saturday until the third period, when Patrik Berglund and Jaden Schwartz teased fans with two goals before the Ducks added an empty-netter.
The Blues lost in regulation for the third time in four games after dropping only three games in regulation through 24 games. It marked just the second time this season that the Blues have lost in regulation at Scottrade Center and snapped their 10-game point-streak at home.
The Blues will attempt to bounce back on the road, traveling to play Winnipeg Tuesday. The recent trend will have to change if the Blues expect a different result.
"It's the third time that happened to us against a good team," Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka said. "We won against the Islanders. They don't have the high expectations. We're losing against good teams. We have to figure out how to play against them."
The Blues' slow starts could actually include Thursday's 5-1 win over the Islanders. The club held a 1-0 lead over the Isles, but had just nine shots on goal through 27 minutes before busting the game open.
The Blues pocketed the win and began preparing for the Ducks, whose schedule had them visiting St. Louis on the second night of back-to-back games. They were in Chicago Friday, going the distance for a 3-2 shootout victory over the 'Hawks.
But the Blues couldn't capitalize on a tired opponent because, although rested, they looked to be the fatigued squad.
Just 1 minute 10 seconds into the game, a shot by Anaheim's Andrew Cogliano went off the skate of defenseman Barret Jackman and slipped past goaltender Jaroslav Halak for a 1-0 Ducks' advantage.
Moments later, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo flipped the puck into the stands, earning a delay-of-game penalty, and Anaheim converted on the power play. Corey Perry was credited with his 18th goal of the season when a shot by teammate Ryan Getzlaf brushed off him and beat Halak. The Ducks had a 2-0 lead just 5:36 into the game.
A turnover by David Backes led to Anaheim's third goal. Backes was passing the puck across the ice from the defensive zone, and Getzlaf knocked it out of mid-air, leading to a breakaway attempt. Getzlaf pulled up for a 40-foot shot and beat Halak for a 3-0 lead just 7:29 into the affair.
Halak was chased from the game after surrendering three goals on eight shots.
Brian Elliott who started the game in San Jose before being replaced by Halak, returned the favor and replaced Halak the rest of the way, stopping 13 of 14 shots.
But the name of the Blues' netminder mattered little, considering the offense couldn't generate many scoring chances against Anaheim backup goalie Frederik Andersen, despite having two four-minute power plays in the game.
The first came with 4:26 left in the first period when Ducks forward and St. Louis native Pat Maroon cut Sobotka with a high-stick. The Blues' power-play unit registered five shots on net, but failed to break the crease.
Early in the second period, Anaheim generously gave the Blues another four-minute power-play when defenseman Sami Vatanen was whistled for a double-minor high-sticking violation. Again, Sobotka was the victim.
But four minutes later, the Blues had no more shots on goal than they had when the man-advantage began (12), and they still trailed by three goals.
The Blues outshot the Ducks 20-16 through two periods, but after Nick Bonino's goal with 2:44 left in the middle frame, the team had its work cut out.
As seen in previous games against San Jose and LA, the Blues did mount a comeback.
Schwartz netted his seventh goal of the season, burying a shot after a wraparound play by T.J. Oshie, giving his team-leading 21st assist of the year. The goal pulled the club to within 4-1 just 1:18 into the third period.
Berglund then trimmed the Blues' deficit to 4-2 with his second goal of the season. He found himself on a breakaway and beat Andersen to end a 22-game scoreless drought.
"We had some time, but right after, we take a penalty and they're right back on the power play," Berglund said. "It's killing us.
"We have some soul-searching to do. These starts against these good teams are just not acceptable."
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