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Blues fall in shootout to Arizona, 4-3

By Tom Timmermann
St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS

ST. LOUIS, MO - Because the opponent wasn’t changing, Blues coach Craig Berube figured his people were going to have to change if his team was going to break through against the Coyotes. That was after his team got off to slow starts in the first three games of what might soon turn into a seven-game series between the teams.

In the widest rejiggering of his personnel so far - familiar faces in new places for the most part - Berube got more production and while the goals are still coming grudgingly, the chances seemed to be better. The Blues came a fraction of a second away from getting a win as Arizona tied the game with 0.7 seconds left in regulation, and then lost in a shootout 4-3 on Monday night at Enterprise Center.

Ryan O’Reilly was the biggest benefactor of the moves, scoring twice to give him 200 in his NHL career. But the Blues lost their third game in a row, though they did claim a point. Arizona leads the series 3-1, though the points are 6-3 in their favor but these teams aren’t done. Two more games are coming up in Arizona starting Saturday, and a seventh game could be added between now and then as the teams will practically finish their season series in two weeks.

In the shootout, David Perron scored for the Blues on the first shot, but Arizona got a goal from Conor Garland and then a top shelf backhand winner from Christian Dvorak to end it.

The Blues were oh-so-close to having a happy ending after their roughest stretch of the young season, but missed by 0.7 seconds. The Blues had gotten a power play with 2:25 to go on a holding call on St. Louisan Clayton Keller, which looked like it would allow them to close out the game. But with 1:29 to go, Jaden Schwartz was called for high sticking, evening the sides and allowing Arizona to pull goalie Darcy Kuemper.

With 25 seconds left, Keller was out of the box and Arizona had a two-man advantage with its goalie pulled. With time running out and bodies scattered around the ice, Dvorak backhanded a pass to Keller who one-timed it over a sprawled Binnington just ahead of the horn. It was the latest game-tying goal in the NHL so far this season.

The Blues recent struggles had sent Berube searching for answers. The biggest lineup surprise was the movement of Ivan Barbashev, who hasn’t shown much on the fourth line so far, being promoted to one of the top lines alongside O’Reilly and Perron. Berube acknowledged that Barbashev hasn’t played very well - “I think that he’s kind of looked a little uninspired out there at times,” Berube said and even Barbashev admitted he was surprised. But Berube’s hope was that while Barbashev hasn’t done much offensively this season - he had no goals and two assists coming into the night - he could be counted on on the forecheck to get the puck for his linemates.

That, and the injury to Robert Thomas, set in motion a cascade of moves, with Mike Hoffman going back to the third line, which was now centered by Oskar Sundqvist and also featured Zach Sanford.

“If you look at the lines,” Berube said, “we’ve got a heavy guy on every line.”

That was also amplified on the defensive side by Robert Bortuzzo returning to action for the first time since the second game of the season.

O’Reilly put the Blues up 3-2 with 16:16 to go in the third. He’d joined Mackenzie MacEachern, who wasn’t going to be in the lineup until a late injury to Sammy Blais forced a change after the morning skate, and Kyle Clifford on that shift and MacEachern did a great job of keeping the puck alive in the Coyotes zone. Eventually the puck got to O’Reilly, who worked his way toward the net, deked goalie Darcy Kuemper out of position, reached back from behind the blueline in front of the goal and put the puck in front of the net, where Arizona’s Tyler Pitlick knocked it in, though O’Reilly’s attempt may have gone in anyway given another fraction of a second. It gave O’Reilly his fifth goal of the season and MacEachern his first point in only his second game.

Ten minutes in to the game though, the changes hadn’t produced much. The Blues didn’t have a shot on goal and only two shot attempts. But Berube’s other big change, a complete overhaul of his power-play units, got the team on the board. O’Reilly and Perron were joined on one unit by Sundqvist, Hoffman and Justin Faulk, while the other had Brayden Schenn, Schwartz, Jordan Kyrou, Torey Krug and Vince Dunn. The groupings were more evenly matched but perhaps more importantly, after three games with no goals on the power play, they were different.

Twenty-eight seconds into the first power play of the evening for the Blues, there were results. Perron took a shot from the right, the rebound went between Sundqvist’s legs in front but O’Reilly was behind him and he put it to put the Blues up 1-0 for the first time in these four games.

The Blues lost the lead early in the second on a three-on-two break that ended with Garland tipping the puck in after the Blues had nearly scored on the other end.

Perron got the Blues back in the lead. After whiffing on a shot as he came in on goal, he got the puck back, drew Kuemper out of the net then went below the goal line and back above to slide the puck practically across the face of the goal before it went in for his fifth goal of the season.

But the Blues couldn’t hold that lead either. Dunn was called for hooking and 11 seconds into the power play, Dvorak put in a rebound to tie the game.