ST. LOUIS — Dallas coach Lindy Ruff was talking with a small group of reporters in a hallway outside the locker room following the Stars’ Saturday morning skate when Ken Hitchcock walked by.
Huff noticed the St. Louis Blues’ coach, who was his roommate at the Olympics when the pair were assistants for gold medalist Team Canada, and said maybe Hitch should answer a question posed by a reporter.
"I’m not speaking to you, Lindy," Hitchcock said, as he continued walking down the hallway. "You snore too much."
Everyone laughed. Partly because of Hitch’s uncanny comedic timing, and partly because some of us thought he said "score" instead of "snore."
But the Stars’ coach heard his friend loud and clear.
"There’s some truth to that, Hitch," Ruff replied.
The Dallas Stars and their snoring coach got the last laugh Saturday night at Scottrade Center with a 4-2 victory over the Blues in front of a standing room-only crowd — keeping their playoff hopes alive.
Hitch? Well, he wasn’t in the mood for jokes afterward when he met with the media and rattled off a grocery list of issues with his team’s performance. Or lack thereof as it turned out.
"I think we were just sloppy," he said. "We were sloppy. I think where we were not very competitive our out of sync was our own zone. We gave away the first goal twice. We ran around on their third goal. Went chasing hits on their third goal. Fourth goal we jumped right by it twice. That’s sloppy."
That fourth goal. Yeah, that was the killer for the Blues.
St. Louis (50-17-7) scored just 49 seconds into the third period — Alexander Steen’s second tally of the night and 33rd on the year — to cut the Stars’ lead to 3-2.
The Blues were back in business at that point.
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But it didn’t last.
Dallas got a breakaway goal from Antoine Roussel a few minutes later that took the wind out of the St. Louis’ sails and took the air out of the packed building.
"They scored on their chances," Hitchcock said. "We had a lot of chances today but we didn’t score. They compete. They’re in desperaton stage. They’re competing hard. They compete."
The word "desperate" has been tossed around a lot by the Blues lately. By Hitchcock. By some of his players. They are well aware that several of their opponents during this stretch run are fighting for playoff spots or playoff positions. Dallas certainly fits the bill.
But even though the Blues had just won three straight games, including two on the road, this was the kind of game that points out the blemishes. Maybe even raises some new concerns.
The Blues talked Thursday about wanting to make a statement during this five-game homestand and stretch run and they did just that with a 5-1 win against Minnesota. But then this loss leaves you scratching your head a little bit.
"Yeah, it alarms you, but you have to just get back to work," Hitchock said. "What we really needed today was for other people to step up. We didn’t get it. That’s what we needed. We’ve counted on one line for a good portion of the time now. We needed other people to step up today. We didn’t get it. That’s what worries me. We need other people to grab the rope. The (David) Backes line isn’t going to be perfect every night. This was a real opportunity for other guys to really step forward and really help us. That’s what we needed."
Goalie Ryan Miller, who allowed four goals on 27 shots on goal, was not immune from criticism either. What did Hitch think of his goaltender?
"He was like our team," the coach answered. "Really average."
Hitchcock shot down a question about the Blues being ready for the playoffs. It’s too far away, the coach said, but he still took the opportunity to point out another aspect of his team’s loss.
"I thought we were casual and I thought we paid for it," he said.
Hitch said that the team will be off Sunday and then have a good hockey practice Monday. They will get back to work.
"We had a really average outing today and paid for it," Hitchcock said. "We’ve won games like that before. Getting all those scoring chances. Twice we mount comebacks. Things like that."
He pointed out how, in the previous game, visiting Minnesota came out strong but the Wild could not capitalize on their early scoring chances.
"We have to get engaged a lot quicker, start dictating from a work standpoint," Hitchcock said. "We’re playing at times like we’re just throwing our sticks on the ice a little bit. We’ll get that fixed."
Hitchcock still wasn’t done.
He spoke like a coach who was more disappointed than angry, but also determined to correct whatever problems his Western Conference-leading squad is dealing with now.
"What we are right now is too inconsistent," Hitchcock said. "We’ve got too many players who are having good games and then following up with poor games. Right now we can’t afford to do that. So I have to send a few messages here in the next couple of days and see if we can get everybody’s attention."