Slumping Blues once again fall short in 3-2 loss to Sharks

Season-high fourth straight loss continues slide; team clinging to playoff position as trade deadline nears

ST. LOUIS -- The frustration was finally on the face of Blues coach Mike Yeo, and that frustration resonated in his words.

If only the players would follow suit at some point here, but they better not wait too long.

Not with just 21 games left in the regular season.

More spurts of decent play was overshadowed by a lackluster second period, one in which the San Jose Sharks scored three times, and the Blues were left to ponder another lost game without points in a 3-2 loss before 17,297 at Scottrade Center.

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The Blues' fourth straight loss, a season-high, leaves them still tied for third place in the Central Division with the Dallas Stars -- who have two games in hand -- at 72 points, but now those screws on the wildcard spot continue to squeeze tighter.

The Blues (34-23-4) are one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild, who have two games in hand, and Los Angeles and Calgary, both with 69 points, are just three points back, and the Kings have two games in hand and the Flames have one. Not to mention Colorado, which is four points back with two games in hand.

While the opponents continue to climb up the standings, the Blues keep falling down that slippery slope, and if they don't catch themselves soon, they could be in an unfamiliar position of falling out of the top eight and be on the outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs looking in for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

"Desperation time was a while ago, so yeah, this is where pride has to come in," Yeo said. "We have to make sure that we obviously stop the bleeding. We have to start building confidence in the game that we're playing and have a feeling that showing up to the rink (and) that everybody's going to be ready to go.

"We talked about it after the Dallas game that we played a good game, sometimes that happens, but we didn't win the game (2-1). We can't just accept that we're playing good and not winning hockey games. That's not good enough. We need points, we need wins and we need to start doing it now."

So to recap after an impressive win at Winnipeg on Feb. 9, the Blues were tied 1-1 with the Pittsburgh Penguins with 20 minutes to play before losing 4-1. OK, one game, playing the third in three and a half days is excusable. But then blowing that 3-0 third-period lead at Nashville and "salvaging" one point in a 4-3 loss was a shocking result but one of those "learning lessons." Then the Blues outplayed the Stars but can't finish in a 2-1 loss before coming out with little fire in the first, turn pucks over in the second and leave defensemen out to dry and succumb to three goals before making a third-period push but fall short again? The excuses are getting old and stale.

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And for a change, Yeo called out those he relies on most from game to game.

"I'm up here upset tonight because I felt some guys that we really needed to count on tonight weren't good enough in the game," Yeo said. "That's where we need more from individuals. Obviously you can have a team game, you can have a system and all that stuff, but it's the individual play of the players, what they bring to the table and then doing it together as a team, that's when you're dangerous and that's where I thought that we had it in the third period but it was too little, too late."

It was a scoreless first period, one in which the Blues were outshot 12-8, but not enough of setting the tone in a game which the Blues needed as much as the Sharks (33-19-8) did.

"Yeah, it's obviously frustrating. You want to win games," said Blues goalie Carter Hutton, who made 20 saves. "... I think the time for moral victories has come and gone. We've got to win hockey games and get points."

And then, there were the lapses, the mistakes, the carelessness with pucks, and the Sharks made the Blues pay in the second period.

Logan Couture gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 6:35 when he lifted a rebound over Hutton after an initial shot from the slot by Mikkel Boedker. Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and Colton Parayko were caught on the same side of the ice after Parayko lost his stick initially, and Jaden Schwartz moved into the high slot and vacated the area in which Couture was in.

Ivan Barbashev tied the game 1-1 at 8:23 on a wrist shot from the right face-off circle that beat Jones high on the short side after a pass from Kyle Brodziak.

But then the Sharks scored consecutive goals off 3-on-2's, and on both occasions, Blues forwards hung defensemen Vince Dunn and Chris Butler and Hutton out to dry.

Joonas Donskoi put the Sharks ahead 2-1 at 12:05 on a quick snap shot from the left face-off circle. It came after Patrik Berglund tried to intercept a pass to Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the neutral zone and got caught, Paul Stastny was flat-footed along the boards.

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Boedker made it 3-1 at 15:54 on a shot from close range, his fifth goal in four games, after Schwartz lost handle of the puck at the Sharks blue line and all three Blues forwards (Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko) were caught up ice. And in the end, Schenn was late getting back to tie up Boedker after Chris Tierney's pass through the slot caromed off Butler's skate.

"They came hard in the second period. We weren't executing all the little things," Parayko said.

"I thought they were just better than us in the second period," Yeo said. "I thought we were sloppy, I thought we were drifting all over the place. That allowed them some easy plays. We gave them too many odd-man rushes and not enough urgency in the little things in the game, not enough execution.

"... I didn't think we played well tonight. We had a good third period. We only had two scoring chances in the first period, so I didn't think we were especially strong there and obviously I thought that they were a lot better than us in the second period. Playing one period doesn't qualify as a good game."

Tarasenko's power-play goal with 23.7 seconds remaining made it 3-2 off a rebound of Dunn's shot from the slot and gave the Blues momentum and life, something they obviously tried to use in the final 20 minutes.

The Blues outshot the Sharks 13-5 in the third period and had a push for the tying goal but fell short, including a puck off Scottie Upshall that hit the post and was cleared off the line by Sharks defenseman Brent Burns.

"You can say all you want, but at this point in the year you've got to get points and you got to get results," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We had chances, we just didn't score. I mean, the second period we weren't aggressive enough, but we had a lot of chances. We've got to find a way to put the puck in the back of the net."

The Blues don't play again until Friday when they host the Jets. They could be on the outside looking in by then.

"Obviously a frustrating time right now," Parayko said. "It's one of those things where we're only putting together certain parts of the game. We've got to play a full 60, especially at this time of the year. These games are tough to come by. If you look at the standings, it's all close. Teams are laying everything out there to get points, and these are the hard ones to win. So we need to play a full 60 if we want to win games."

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But it begs the question of if there's any pride inside that locker room to try and grab this playoff race and immerse yourselves in it. Can the Blues do that and is there any pride in there?

"I know that we have pride," Yeo said. "I know that there's pride and I know that there's character in the room. Now we have a chance to show it."

Does Yeo think there's someone inside that room that can grab this and say, 'Enough is enough?'

"Yeah, I do," Yeo said. "I think that we were in a tough position last year and found a way to play our best hockey when the season was on the line and now we're putting ourselves in a position where we have to do it again."

* NOTES -- Blues right wing Sammy Blais, recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Monday, left the game with 1:39 remaining in the first period and did not return because of an upper-body injury.

Blais was checked hard by Jannik Hansen with 1:51 to play in the period and Blais initially was on the bench but left and did not return.

"I'll give you guys an update on him tomorrow, but definitely an upper-body injury," Yeo said.