In a season that has made little sense, there was one thing the Blues could count on: They came into their game Monday night against Los Angeles 4-0 in home openers of a series.
But the Blues are so banged up now, and so out of sorts on the ice, that it shouldn’t be a surprise that they can't even count on that any more. Their four goals on Saturday against San Jose, a brief sign of optimism for their struggling offense, proved to be ephemeral. The Blues were blanked for the second time in four games, losing to the Kings 3-0 at Enterprise Center.
It was the second loss in a row for the Blues and if not for Brayden Schenn’s goal with 40 seconds to go on Thursday that got them to overtime, and eventually a win over San Jose, it would be a four-game losing streak. The Kings have won five in a row. The teams will give it another go on Wednesday before the Blues head off on a six-game trip. Considering the Blues are 4-5-2 at home and 6-2 on the road, that’s their best chance to get well.
The team is also 0-2 in their red reverse retro uniforms, which aren’t going to be worn again this season.
The Blues lost veteran defenseman Carl Gunnarsson midway through the second period and it did not look good. On a Kings power play, Gabriel Vilardi made contact with Gunnarsson on the end boards and Gunnarsson's ankle may have been severely twisted. He fell to the ice and stayed there a long time, finally getting helped off the ice with Jacob de la Rose under one arm and Robert Bortuzzo under the other before being handed off to two trainers who helped him to the training room. All the time, Gunnarsson had no weight on his right leg.
Gunnarsson is one of the senior members of the Blues, both in age — only Tyler Bozak is older — and tenure with the team — only Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz have been with the team longer in terms of consecutive service. Gunnarsson has been out of the lineup as much as he’s been in this season — 12 games, seven healthy scratches — and has been a dependable, but not flashy, player on the blueline. His overtime goal in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final with Boston was a pivotal moment in that series, sending the Blues home from Boston 1-1.
Gunnarsson joins a long list of injured Blues that includes, at the moment, Bozak, Robert Thomas, Ivan Barbashev, Colton Parayk, Schwartz and Tarasenko. The Blues have already seen their depth at forward tested, and now their defensive depth figures to be tested as well. Niko Mikkola and Jake Walman will be pressed into service. The Blues did get Sammy Blais back after two days on the COVID list because of a false positive test.
The Blues fell behind with 2:30 to go in the first period as they allowed their first power-play goal in six games. Robert Bortuzzo went off for tripping, though he was scrambling back to recover after the Kings’ Alex Athanasiou had blown past defenseman Vince Dunn. Midway through the penalty kill, The Kings got the puck to the net and had three or four whacks at it in the crease before Vilardi, falling down, managed to give it a knock into the net, with goalie Jordan Binnington getting his glove on it just after it crossed the goal line.
The Blues had kept the Kings from getting much at the start of the period, holding them without a goal for the first 8½ minutes, but once they got going, they took over, with 12 of the last 15 shots in the period.
Another late goal in the second period deepened the hole. Zach Sanford blocked a shot high in the Blues zone but then played the puck directly to Dustin Brown of the Kings, the second time in as many games he’s turned the puck over in his own end and it led directly to a goal. Brown took the puck, came in front of the crease and while lunging had the puck go in off the Blues Torey Krug.
The Blues didn’t have a lot of good scoring chances in the second and the best came from the fourth line, with Mackenzie MacEachern just failing to get his stick on a rebound in front of the goal that would have tied it.
The fourth line, of MacEachern, de la Rose and Kyle Clifford — who with the team’s red reverse retro uniforms could be considered, on this occasion at least, Clifford, the Big Red Forward — have produced some of the best chances for theBlues over the past two games, which is not how it’s supposed to work out.
That unit also earned the Blues a power play in the second period, but the Blues were never able to get set up in the Kings zone.
The Blues brought some pressure in the third period but couldn't score and Brown closed the game with an empty-net goal with 1:03 to play, his second goal.©2021 STLtoday.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.