ST. LOUIS Having already clinched the Central Division title and at least the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Western Conference playoffs, the St. Louis Blues just want to enter the postseason on a high note.
They've got two games left to get it going.
Leading the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 with just over six minutes left Wednesday night, the Blues gave up two late goals and lost in a shootout, suffering a tough blow to their hopes of finishing in the conference's top spot.
"We got a little too comfortable," said defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. "That's very uncharacteristic of us. Usually when we get a goal or a couple goal lead, we finish the job. It's just a tough one to swallow. We have to learn from it."
The Blues have been nearly unbeatable at home this season. And when they responded to a questionable five-minute major that went against them by scoring two quick goals, they looked to have a franchise record 31st home win in the bag.
But in a three-minute span that the Blues can only hope eventually turns into a positive, the Red Wings responded with two quick goals to tie the game. Had it not been for a great pad save from goalie Brian Elliott a minute later, the Blues could have lost the game in regulation.
So a game the Blues should have won went to a shootout, where they suffered their seventh 1-0 loss in 10 shootout losses. They dropped to 4-10 overall in the shootouts, a stat that thankfully won't matter come playoff time.
But the missed opportunities could still haunt the Blues come playoff time. If they don't finish above Vancouver for the top spot in the West, the Blues would have to play the extra game on the road should the two meet in the Western Conference Finals.
The Blues currently trail the Canucks by two points with two games to play, but do hold the tiebreaker. With how well the Blues play at home, passing them and finishing atop the conference would be a big bonus going forward.
And they could have had a big extra point Wednesday had they not suffered the late collapse, something the Blues hope to use as a learning tool as they prepare for the playoffs.
"We've got to sharpen up and make sure to play a 60-minute game," said forward T.J. Oshie. "Our number one concern is playing our best hockey going into the playoffs.
"We have to stay on it. There's going to be games like this. That was as close to a playoff atmosphere as we've had and we have to learn to play a full game without any hiccups."
Blues goalie Brian Elliott did all he could, falling just six minutes shy of his fourth consecutive shutout. The scoreless streak officially ended at 241:33 after he went more than 11 periods in a row without allowing a goal.
Owners of the best home record in the league, the Blues have now lost back-to-back games at Scottrade Center for the first time this season. They have just one home game left, a Friday night tilt with Phoenix.
After taking over the league's top spot by winning nine of ten games in late February and early March, the Blues now have just three regulation wins in their last ten games. They are 3-3-4 during the stretch.
Looking for their first playoff win since 2004, the Blues hope to enter the postseason with a positive vibe. So with just two regular season games left, coach Ken Hitchcock decided to take the blame for Wednesday's loss himself.
Wanting to keep his players thinking as positively as possible, Hitchcock took the blame for a bad line change that led to the game-tying goal. He then put a positive spin on what looked like a devastating loss instead of ripping into his players and making things worse.
"We played very, very well and did a lot of good things," Hitchcock said. "We have to be happy with it. I'm disappointed more in myself. I don't make that mistake that late in the game very often, but I made the mistake, so I'm more disappointed in myself than anything.
"We did a lot of good things. We played exactly the way we have to play to win hockey games, but made a couple of defensive errors, we didn't protect the puck at the right time, but overall there's a lot of good things to build on."
The Blues have aspirations of their first Stanley Cup. And they've got two games left to get things back into gear.