ST. LOUIS--The beat goes on -- in Chicago and St. Louis.
In a game set up to be the Blues' chance to end Chicago's streak of 19 games without a regulation loss, a patched-up lineup was no match in a 3-0 loss to the Blackhawks.
Jonathan Toews scored twice, including 12 seconds into the game, and the goalie combination of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery teamed up for Chicago's shared shutout, running its streak to an NHL-record 20 games (17-0-3).
"I don't think we've ever felt outmatched against anyone," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I know we lost two guys this week, but we certainly didn't come into it worrying about that. That didn't creep into it at all."
But the puck didn't creep into the net either, as the Blues were blanked for the second time in their last three games. The search party continues to hunt for the team's offense after the club snoozed on 21 shots Thursday and has now scored just three goals in its last four games.
The Blues will host the Edmonton Oilers Friday night at Scottrade Center before embarking on a season-long five-game road trip.
The Blues had to be thrilled to be down after the first period only 1-0, a goal that came just a dozen seconds after the puck dropped.
On an extremely difficult night for the Blues' left side defense, particularly Ian Cole and Kris Russell, the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa sent a rink-wide pass through a wide-open lane to teammate Brandon Saad.
Saad fed a pass through the top of the crease, eluding the stick of Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo as Toews finished for the first of his two goals.
"It's a terrible start on our line's part," Blues captain David Backes said. "We've got to be better setting the tone for our team. I don't know if there's a worse way to do it 12 seconds in, giving up a goal."
Afterward, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock described the breakdown as "a lack of communication. We didn't backcheck on the left defenseman."
Despite the early deficit, the Blues were physical Thursday. Backes had seven of the team's 34 hits, but was the victim of a big collision with Saad, sending Backes to the dressing room in the second period. He passed the NHL's concussion protocol and later returned.
Already undermanned without the injured Andy McDonald, Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, the Blues now were missing their captain.
Nonetheless, the Blues kept battling. On the power play, Shattenkirk put a point shot on net that, perhaps tipped on the way in, caused the goal horn to go off. But the puck hit the post, failing to tie the score.
"You heard the horn, so I thought it was in," Shattenkirk said. "But just a tough break. It seems to be the way it's going right now."
Less than a minute later, Chris Stewart found himself on the Blackhawks' doorstep with the puck on his stick. But goaltender Emery, who replaced Crawford (lower-body injury) at the start of the second period, made a terrific save on Stewart.
With 1:35 left in the second period, Emery received some help from defenseman Brent Seabrook, who denied a wrap-around attempt from the Blues' Scott Nichol.
The game went to the third period with Chicago clinging to its one-goal lead.
"The game was right there for us at 1-0," Hitchcock said.
The Blackhawks came into the night having not suffered a regulation loss in their first 19 games, but they had not blown out teams either, playing 13 one-goal games (10-0-3).
As it turned out, the Blackhawks didn't need more offense to put their 17th victory to bed, but they scored two anyhow.
Just 2:11 into the third period, Russell fumbled around for the puck behind his own net, allowing Bryan Bickell to come out with it and feed Andrew Shaw in the high slot. He snapped a one-timer past goalie Jaroslav Halak.
Down 2-0, the Blues went on their fourth power play. But a unit that is still ranked No. 1 in the NHL failed to convert and is now scoreless in its last 13 chances, covering five games.
For good measure, Chicago made it 3-0 with 13:04 remaining as Toews netted his second goal, pumping in a rebound after a point shot from Nick Leddy.
"We made too many mistakes in critical areas offensively and defensively to be effective," Hitchcock said. "I don't think we went at the net hard enough and I think we got beat at our net a few times, and that was the difference in the hockey game."?
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