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Blues disappointed at failing to clinch

by Louie Korac
CHICAGO -- The celebration of a division title was put on hold for the St. Louis Blues.

With a chance to clinch their first Central Division title since winning the Presidents' Trophy in 1999-2000, the Blues had an opportunity to knock another goal off their things-to-do list Thursday night.

The Chicago Blackhawks had other ideas.


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The Blues needed two points -- in either regulation or overtime -- but they got only one after salvaging a point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Blackhawks.

The Blues (48-20-10) can wrap up the division Saturday night with a win against Columbus. The outcome of the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings game Friday night will help create the scenario. The Red Wings trail the Blues by nine points with five games remaining; Nashville trails 10 with five games left. The Blues have four games left, but talk of a division title was furthest from their minds after dropping their seventh straight game in this building (0-3-4).

"I thought it was a very mediocre game on our part," said forward Alex Steen, who had a goal but also had a chance to win it in the third round of the shootout before being stopped by Corey Crawford. "Second to loose pucks, just felt like a step behind. Chicago played very hard and we just didn't match their work ethic tonight.

"It was one of those games tonight where we were slow. We tried talking on the bench, in the room and getting everybody going and it seemed slow for us. Jaro (Halak) stood on his head, gave us a chance to win anyway. We came up short in the end."

The Blues did jump back into first place overall in the NHL, one point ahead of the New York Rangers, but the Rangers have a game in hand.

"If we want to be a team there in June, these kind of games can't happen," said defenseman Kris Russell, who had a pair of assists, including one on David Perron's game-tying goal with 1:32 remaining in regulation. "We've got to do better."

For a team looking for a division title, the Blues didn't act like it for much of the game. They were outshot 40-20 and trailed 3-1 in the third period before mounting a comeback to gain a point. When it went to overtime, the Blues had to win it in the overtime period to wrap up the division. Once it went to a shootout, it still left the door open ever-so-slightly for the Predators and Red Wings.

"I'm surprised because it was everybody," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of his team's play. "We weren't good right throughout the lineup. We weren't very competitive.

"We got a point, but it's disappointing. It's one of those games where you get a point but you're disappointed in the effort. We looked like a team that needs some good hard practices right now."

Added captain David Backes: "We were way too sloppy with the puck. Our puck touches were abysmal at best. Tape-to-tape, just executing on a lateral pass to moving the puck forward, we were having troubles executing that. They were pressuring us to create some of that lack of execution.

"We just need to be better for the whole 60 minutes. We ended up getting one point out of it, but it's really the consolation prize and it's not satisfying at all."
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