Two teams looking to break bad trends clashed Thursday night at Scottrade Center. Something had to give. It was the Red Wings who put a halt to a two-game slide, getting first goals of the season from Daniel Cleary, Jakub Kindl and Cory Emmerton in a 5-1 victory.
Petr Mrazek, recalled earlier in the week from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, picked up his first win in his NHL debut by stopping 26 shots. Damien Brunner and Valtteri Filppula also scored for Detroit, with assists from Drew Miller and Jordin Tootoo, their first points of the season as well.
Cleary, Emmerton, Miller and Tootoo are part of the Red Wings' third and fourth lines, respectively. For one night, the Wings' foot soldiers took the headlines away from stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
"I thought that was positive there," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "To me, Emmerton's line has been pretty good. Tootoo's been doing his thing and [Miller] was the best he's been all year here tonight. He was skating real good and protecting the puck, so that gives us a good line.
"You need it. You can't just keep going back to the well. I thought we got good minutes out of all our guys tonight."
The Red Wings sure made it an easy night for Mrazek, who made quite the debut after going 16-7-1 with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage to earn a berth on the AHL Western Conference All-Star team.
"He never really panicked whatsoever," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said of the 20-year-old Mrazek, who gave Jimmy Howard his first night off of the season. "I thought he was just square to the puck all night. He kept control of the rebounds and looked really good."
"I thought he played well," Babcock said of Mrazek. "He really handles the puck well. It makes it easy for the D so you play in your zone less because he’s so good at it.
"The thing I liked about the kid was that he didn’t generate second chances for them, the puck wasn’t coming off. He was soft and under control. Good for the kid. It’s not an easy league to play in and St. Louis is a real good team. I thought our guys played hard and battled hard and in the end got a real big win."
Mrazek said the guys in front of him made it an easy and memorable NHL debut.
"I was real excited for my first game, tried to stop what I could," Mrazek said. "I’m never nervous. I enjoyed every minute on the ice. Guys were outstanding today, blocked lots of shots that helped me so much.
"Unbelievable ... like a dream. When you’re a kid, you're always thinking about the NHL. Now it happened so I am so happy. Got the puck ... I will keep it forever."
The Blues, who have lost consecutive regulation home games for the first time since Feb. 22-March 1, 2011, have lost three straight regulation games for the first time under coach Ken Hitchcock, who was forthcoming with his team's recent shortcomings.
"We're cheating all over the ice," he said. "We're cheating to get on the offense, we're cheating to score, our puck support is poor, our team game's not good right now ... because we're cheating the game.
"We're cheating each other and we're cheating the game and we're paying the price for it. You hope that sooner or later, players have had enough and they're willing to make the changes necessary, but right now, we're cheating the game."
Blues' forward Alex Steen agreed.
"We're cheating on the details ... small things out there and that's what's costing us," Steen said. "It's turnovers and individual mistakes. They're in the back of our net. We've got to get back to Square One, regroup do what we do well, and it starts with hard work. It's the only way to get out of this."
Alex Pietrangelo had his second goal in as many games and has accounted for all of the Blues' scoring in the past 135:30. Brian Elliott stopped 24 shots in the loss, which came three days after the Blues were smoked 6-1 by Nashville.
Cleary scored his first of the season, and the first goal by a Red Wings third- or fourth-line player this season, when he followed up his own miss, got around defenseman Kris Russell and popped home a rebound 5:14 into the game for a 1-0 lead.
Kindl got his first goal and point of the season when his seemingly harmless wrister near the blue line got through a maze of bodies and past Elliott, who had no clue where the puck was, at 11:50.
Pietrangelo fired into an empty side off a feed from Steen at 15:45 of the second period to cut Detroit's lead to 2-1. But the Red Wings got goals late in the period from Emmerton at 17:33 and Brunner with 56 seconds left to go up 4-1.
"It's tough to give one back right away and then give one up at the end of the period, that's even harder coming in here down 4-1 as opposed to 2-1," Pietrangelo said. "It got away from us, and we can't be getting behind teams."
Emmerton collected Miller's shot-pass into the slot and curled it around Elliott off a rebound. Brunner took a puck into the slot after Jonathan Ericsson's shot hit a Blues body.
Filppula's breakaway goal on a 4-on-4 sequence came after Johan Franzen was booted from the game for spearing David Perron. Franzen got a five-minute major and a game misconduct; Perron received two minutes for initially boarding Franzen, who retaliated.
In the ensuing sequence, with both teams down a player, the Blues lost the puck in the Red Wings zone and Filppula was off to the races, beating Elliott with 6:25 to play.
As they skated off the ice, the Blues, who have been nearly unbeatable on home ice since the start of the 2011-12 season, were booed by whatever fans were left in the building.
"You lose 6-1 at home, 5-1 at home ... that's got to be the reason for it and we've got to find a way to answer that," Pietrangelo said.