ST. LOUIS -- The Blues' preparation for their third matchup of the season against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night was brief.
"Our meetings when we play this team now are short," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said before the game. "Just get ready. It's all about your competitive level."
That level was not nearly up to par in a 4-1 loss to LA in front of a sellout crowd of 19,374 at Scottrade Center and Hitchcock was visibly disappointed after the game.
The score was tied 1-1 heading into the third period but a misplay by goaltender Jaroslav Halak led to a shorthanded goal that gave the Kings a two-goal cushion and they added an empty-netter to snap the Blues' five-game, home-winning streak.
The club's only offense came on a penalty shot by T.J. Oshie, his 11th goal and 40th point of the season.
"This had nothing to do with (LA's) shorthanded goal," Hitchcock said. "Their best players came and played big. Their best players were the best players on the ice. They came up big. It was a big game. It was a game that meant quite a bit. They rose to the occasion and we didn't.
"They set the tone early. They were much better than us. It depends on what we do with it. But I'm kind of getting sick of watching it. If we're going to figure this out, we're going to have to get more people coming up a lot bigger. Otherwise we're going to be in the same boat against the same type of team. Probably be in that boat Saturday night (against Anaheim), unless we get a change of attitude."
The Blues had a chance to flag down Chicago for first place in the Central Division, which would have catapulted them into second place in the Western Conference behind Saturday's opponent, the Ducks.
So the potential matchup between Nos. 1-2 Saturday at Scottrade Center wound up dissipating, but that was an after-thought.
The Blues' rubber-game against LA, tied 1-1 after the second intermission, dissipated in the third period.
The Kings began the final frame on the power play after Ryan Reaves was whistled for roughing after the buzzer had sounded.
The man-advantage didn't cost the Blues, per se, but four seconds after the penalty expired, LA went ahead 2-1. A pass from the corner by Trevor Lewis went in off the skate of Jaden Schwartz.
"I just tried taking the guy to the net," Schwartz said. "Off (Halak's) pads and off my skate. It's a pretty (bad) bounce. I didn't even see the puck until it hit me. It was bad timing. It's a 1-1 game. Tough bounce. Stuff like that happens and you've got to try and respond in the right way."
Down by a goal, the Blues were awarded a power play approximately two minutes later when Jeff Carter was called for hooking.
The NHL's No. 1 unit went to work, but it started without the puck as captain David Backes lost a face-off to the Kings' Jarret Stoll.
The puck was cleared into the Blues' zone, where Halak went to play it. The puck skipped over Halak's stick and into the restricted area for goalies.
Lewis outraced the team's power-play unit to the puck, and despite Halak diving back toward the crease, the Kings' forward buried the shorthanded goal into an empty net for a 3-1 lead with 15:39 left in regulation.
"Unfortunately for me the puck stayed on the boards and I just couldn't pick it off the board," Halak said. "You know, the trapezoid, I didn't want to play the puck. I think I should have, I guess. I made a mistake at the worst possible time, when the game was on the line for us. I'll take the blame for this one. It's unacceptable to make a mistake like that, especially in the third period.
"We lost because of me."
LA goalie Jonathan Quick made 16 of his 28 saves in the third period and Carter added an empty-netter with less than a minute to play for the final score.
Not even a fight 1:19 into the game -- the Blues' first in 14 games -- could ignite the club early on Thursday.
Barret Jackman, who was involved in the Blues' last bout on Dec. 16 in Ottawa, dropped the gloves with Robyn Regehr.
Less than two minutes later, LA defenseman Jake Muzzin scored on a wrist shot to put LA ahead 1-0. The goal came from the right circle and got over the glove of Halak.
The Blues trailed 1-0 and had only nine shots on goal when Oshie found himself on a breakaway six minutes into the second period. Oshie was yanked down by Muzzin and awarded a penalty shot.
Known to drive the net and deke goaltenders in the shootout, Oshie may have surprised Quick by pulling up and ripping a wrist shot between the legs of the netminder.
"I was hoping he was expecting me to do another deke or something fancy and fortunately I squeaked it between his legs," Oshie said.
The Blues had the Kings tied 1-1, but that's all Quick would allow, stifling the team in the third period.
"We started trying to make too many plays, which we've been doing a little too much of lately," Oshie said. "They took advantage of it."
Late in the game, Muzzin administered a head shot on Vladimir Sobotka, to which teammate Vladimir Tarasenko responded. Unfortunately for the Blues, it was about the only response they had Thursday.
(c)2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services