Though the St. Louis Blues are off to a strong start, coach Ken Hitchcock was alarmed by what he saw in their last outing.
He’ll be looking for a considerably better performance when the visiting Blues try to bounce back from a loss in a matchup with the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
St. Louis (8-2-2) had a three-game winning streak snapped Saturday in a 4-2 defeat to Tampa Bay, as the club failed to complete a two-game road sweep of the Florida teams. The Blues, who will be completing a three-game trip in Montreal, gave up two goals in the third period and didn’t score in the final 20 minutes despite outshooting the Lightning 14-10.
Though Tampa Bay is off to a 10-4-0 start and St. Louis was playing for the second time in as many nights, Hitchcock wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort.
“We need to reset the dial and get more participants,” he said. “This is a real good evaluation, because we’ve had opponents where we’ve played kind of average and won, and now we had to play really good and we were still just above average.”
The Blues allowed an even-strength goal for the first time in 225 minutes, 55 seconds. Jaroslav Halak gave up a season high-tying four goals on 25 shots.
“We cannot find any excuses,” Halak said. “They just outplayed us.”
St. Louis got goals from Alex Pietrangelo and Jaden Schwartz, but Alex Steen had his six-game goal streak snapped. Steen did pick up an assist and leads the NHL with 12 goals.
The Blues will try to rebound against a Canadiens team that’s also coming off a road loss to one of the top teams in the NHL. Montreal, playing on back-to-back nights as well, completed an 0-2-0 trip with a 4-1 defeat to Colorado on Saturday.
The Canadiens (8-7-0) gave up three unanswered goals in the third period to break a tie, one night after allowing two goals in the final 20 minutes of a 4-3 loss to Minnesota.
“You can’t afford to make (defensive) mistakes as a team like that,” right wing Brendan Gallagher told the team’s official website. “I think we’re hurting ourselves right now. It’s easy to fix. Nobody is losing any confidence whatsoever in this group. But, it’s something that we need to correct and I have no doubt that we’re going to do it.”
Montreal’s play in its own end should be tested by a St. Louis team that’s second in the NHL with 3.58 goals per game. The Blues scored 13 times during a three-game win streak that preceded the loss to Tampa Bay.
Pietrangelo scored for the fourth game in a row while fellow defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk recorded an assist for the fifth straight contest giving him six in that span. Center David Backes has five assists in the past four contests.
Gallagher has scored in two straight games for Montreal, while defenseman P.K. Subban has a goal and two assists in the past two after a four-game pointless streak.
This matchup will feature two of the top power-play teams in the league, with the Blues ranked first at 26.1 percent and the Canadiens third at 24.1. Each team has also had success at stopping the opposition’s power play, with St. Louis killing 20 of 22 penalties in its last seven games and Montreal stopping 16 of 17 in its last seven.
St. Louis has taken the last three meetings with the Canadiens and is 4-0-1 in the past five. The Blues have won three in a row and five of six at the Bell Centre.