ST. LOUIS -- Some things this night were a surprise.
Winger James Neal returning earlier to the Penguins lineup than expected from an injury dating to opening night and picking up an assist, for instance. Or the Penguins managing only 20 shots.
Other things might have been predicted going into what became a 2-1 Penguins loss against the St. Louis Blues Saturday night at Scottrade Center.
These teams don't play often. Once or twice a season, and sometimes -- as with last season when there was no interconference play after a lockout -- not at all.
But in recent years their meetings have been close -- the previous three had gone beyond regulation -- and this was not much different.
Kevin Shattenkirk was credited with the winning goal in the third period, but it appeared that Vladimir Tarasenko deflected it in for a 2-1 lead.
"It's a good matchup," St. Louis forward David Backes said. "They play hard. We play hard.
"When you're playing those tight games, any little mistake can be magnified.
"It's a playoff type of intensity."
It was a game between teams that some prognosticators have picked to meet in the Stanley Cup final in the spring.
The Penguins lost for the second game in a row and have just two goals over those two games. They failed to keep pace with Tampa Bay atop the Eastern Conference.
The Blues started the game with 22 points, putting them in a tie for seventh in the Western Division.
The other eight teams that were above or even with them had played from one to four more games, though.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said St. Louis was "probably not the top team in the West just because they haven't played as many games."
The first period of this one was highlighted by a couple of events that did not directly impact the outcome.
Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland and St. Louis winger Ryan Reaves engaged in a long fight at the drop the puck on the opening faceoff.
In the final minute of the first period, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin got called for the first penalty of the game, boarding. The victim was Tarasenko.
Tarasenko is a fellow Russian who stands a chance of making the Russian Olympic team with Malkin for the Sochi Games in February. He told St. Louis reporters that he idolizes Malkin.
Also in the first, Penguins center Sidney Crosby missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring. With about four minutes left, he stole the puck from Blues center T.J. Oshie in the Penguins end and, with Oshie in pursuit, drove toward the other end.
St. Louis goaltender Jaroslav Halak deflected Crosby's wrist shot wide of the net.
Crosby never has scored against St. Louis in seven career games. The only other teams he has no goals against -- all in the Western Conference -- are Edmonton (five games), San Jose (four games) and Chicago (two games).
Crosby, who entered the night leading the NHL with 23 points, has gone two games in a row with no points for the first time this season.
The Blues took a 1-0 lead at 2:52 of the second when Reaves, from between the hash marks, steered a pass from Maxim Lapierre past Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who was screened.
Alex Steen also got an assist, extending his points streak to 10 games.
The Penguins tied it, 1-1, with a power-play goal at 8:06 of the second. Jussi Jokinen, from the top left corner of the crease, steered a pass from Malkin past Halak.
Malkin extended his points streak to four games with the assist, although his stretch of games without a goal reached 10. Neal's assist was his first point this season.
At 10:52 of the third, Shattenkirk took a shot from the right point and was credited with a go-ahead goal for the Blues, although it appeared that Tarasenko tipped the puck, which took a downward trajectory and handcuffed Fleury.
Fleury helped keep his team's chances alive when he made a stellar glove save on Steen -- who leads the NHL with 13 goals -- off a two-on-one break with 5:12 left in regulation.
The Penguins played without defenseman Paul Martin, who played 26 minutes, 25 seconds Wednesday in a 5-1 loss against the Rangers in New York but has not been on the ice with the team since. The Penguins have not specified the nature of his problem, initially listing Martin as being out with "maintenance days."
In addition to Neal's return, the Penguins got winger Beau Bennett back. He had missed the previous 11 games because of an injury.
In another lineup maneuver, coach Dan Bylsma dressed winger Matt D'Agostini, a former St. Louis Blues player.
He missed the first 10 games because of a training-camp injury, played in two games, then had been a healthy scratch the past four games.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published November 9, 2013 10:45 PM