ST. LOUIS — The Olympic break can’t seem to get here fast enough for the St. Louis Blues, who are certainly making these last few games interesting, if not ulcer-inducing.
Thursday night marked the third straight game that the Blues coughed up a two-goal lead in the third period and their third straight overtime game. But the Blues escaped with a 3-2 overtime win against the visiting Boston Bruins at Scottrade Center, earning their fifth point in those three contests with one game left before the break.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said he doesn’t look at it as losing another two-goal lead. Instead, he just sees his team making the same mistakes over and over and over again.
"It’s not the two-goal lead for me," he said. "It’s the same mistakes. Mistakes that end up in the back of our net. They’re the same mistakes they were three games ago, four games ago. They are the same mistakes. … You just have to keep working on it and getting better at it."
This is a talented St. Louis squad that, despite its 38-12-6 record and 82 points in 56 games, still shows us on an all-too-regular basis that there’s so much more they need to learn in the next two months.
The veteran coach wants to see his team compete, collectively, at a higher level and communicate better.
Being quiet on the ice, Hitchcock said, means the players aren’t helping each other. Then they look slow at times. He wants his guys talking and playing faster and going hard after every puck.
Their goal, he said, is to try to get to that level.
"I think we’ve got a big learning curve still going on," Hitchcock said. "I think we’re in the middle of a learning curve. Quite frankly, we’re in the middle of an evaluation curve, too. I think this gives you great evaluation."
The Atlantic Division-leading Bruins pushed the Blues to the brink and the Blues pushed back. Hitch called playing Boston a great evaluator and a fun evaluator.
Anyone who started popping Tums in the third period may disagree.
The Blues, as expected, showed a sense of relief after T.J. Oshie’s winner in overtime. They’ll happily take two more points.
Especially when things got hectic late and goalie Jaroslav Halak needed every one of his season-high 36 saves to keep St. Louis in it.
"I thought we played really well in the first two periods," said Alexander Steen, who scored his 28th goal in the first period. "We came out of our zone clean, the neutral zone was clean, we were playing quick, hard and then the third period we got off of it and they made us pay and came at us. Obviously Boston’s a really good team. With a two-goal lead, you shouldn’t be giving it up."
The Blues should know better by now. Maybe they’ll learn soon. Maybe not.
Winnipeg, which has won nine of its last 12 games, comes to town Saturday afternoon in the final tilt before the break.
"It seems like teams are just capitalizing on a couple mistakes," Oshie said. "I think our third period was maybe our best period as far as everybody working together and getting pucks deep, and it just seems like they’ve been capitalizing on a couple shots. Obviously, Jaro made a couple big saves, too. But we don’t want to get into a habit of this. We work hard to get the lead and we’ve got to hold it, especially in our home barn."
The win wasn’t pretty, but the Blues will take it.
Oshie, Steen and Alex Pietrangelo all pointed to the positives over the game’s 49 minutes and 29 seconds. There were some, after all, even if it didn’t always feel like it after surrendering the two late goals.
And the coach will have plenty to talk to his team about at practice on Friday.
"We’re happy we won," Hitchcock said. "We took four points from them in this series. We’re really happy about that, but it also gives us a chance to know what we need to get better at. I think that’s what we’re looking for as coaches, gleaning something from this game where we know what we have to get better at."
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.