Sunday, April 20, 2014

Seabrook suspended three games for hit on Backes

Reaves called hit, ensuing taunting "gutless";
Hitchcock also concerned about knee on knee hit to Sobotka

By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The verdict is in, and the NHL's Department of Player Safety has suspended Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook for the hit on Blues captain David Backes during Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round series Saturday.

Here is video explanation from the league: http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=60&id=606797&lang=en.

Seabrook was given a major penalty for charging and a game-misconduct with 4:51 remaining in the game and the Blackhawks holding a 3-2 lead. The Blues would go on and tie the game on Vladimir Tarasenko's power play goal with 6.4 seconds left and won it in overtime on Barret Jackman's game-winner to stake the Blues to a 2-0 series lead.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues captain David Backes was the recipient of a vicious check from
Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook, who was suspended three games.
Seabrook delivered a shoulder hit to Backes' head, and Backes would eventually leave the game and not return after trying to get to his feet and take exception to the culprit. Backes was wobbly as he departed the ice and needed help from team trainers.

If Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round series was played Sunday, one thing is for certain: Backes would not have been a player.

"All I know is he's upright and that's about it right now," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after an optional skate Sunday. "We don't have any further information and probably won't have until late tomorrow."

Backes missed time earlier this season with concussion-like symptoms. The Blues didn't disclose the official extent of the injury, and Hitchcock would not rule Backes out for Game 3 on Monday in Chicago.

"I have no idea. I have no idea right now," Hitchcock said. "I know one thing, he couldn't play today."

Enforcer Ryan Reaves reacted to the hit Sunday.

"It's a player kind of targeting one of our best players, our captain," he said before the suspension was handed down. "I'm sure the league will deal with it. Hopefully they deal with it properly. We'll take it from there. We'll wait and see how 'Backs' is, but to me, it looked a little gutless from where I was standing and the replays I've seen."

To make matters worse from the play, video from the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of the game can pick up audio of a Blackhawks player (allegedly defenseman Duncan Keith) taunting a dazed Backes with "wakey wakey Backes ... wakey wakey!" (related video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFCiYri04Oo#t=45).

"I didn't know what they were saying," Reaves said. "I saw them talking to him. It makes it a little more gutless. I don't think there's any need for that when a hit like that happens. You don't need to be going after him when he doesn't know where he is. I think if they want to start getting into that battle, we can play the same way. We'll see where it takes us.

"I'm not happy about that. I don't think anybody in this organization's happy about it. It's a guy that's hurt. During the regular season, the guy's hurt, you don't go after him like that. Usually you slam your sticks up against the boards. To see that happen is just embarrassing in that organization for that to happen."

Hitchcock was an assistant coach on Canada's Olympic team. He didn't want to jump into the who-deserves-what punishment.

"That's something, again, the league can deal with," Hitchcock said. "Duncan's comments, his mannerisms or whatever, they can deal with that. I'm sure there will be somebody saying something to him."

The Blues may have avoided a scare when center Vladimir Sobotka was not seriously injured after taking a knee-on-knee collision with Blackhawks wing Bryan Bickell.

Bickell was assessed a minor penalty on the play, but Hitchcock described Sobotka, who assisted on Barret Jackman's game-winning goal in overtime, as, "average right now."

As much as the Backes play was upsetting to the Blues, the kneeing penalty was just as upsetting to Hitchcock, who said Bickell attempted something similar to defenseman Alex Pietrangelo earlier in the game.

The NHL apparently will not issue any disciplinary action as a result.

"That's lucky. That is usually end-of-the-season, career-ending," Hitchcock said. "Sometimes ACL for sure. That's concerning.

"For me, do what you want. I'm just looking from a safety standpoint from a player, it would be the same thing if we did that same thing to Patrick Kane or we did that to Jonathan Toews, it would be the same thing. Everybody should be concerned about that because it's got no place.

"We'll have our moments, too. It's about doing it at the right time. I think this is a series you have to play whistle to whistle. It's a very hard thing to do. Backes' hit is one thing. That's described by the league. The hit on Sobotka is a whole other thing. The hit on Sobotka, there was a similar hit on 'Petro' in the first period that was really concerning by the same player. The hit on Sobotka was there also. When you're leg-whipping people, it's a concern because that's career-ending. That's ACL career-ending. That's something you don't want to see on either side. That's a big concern for me, the safety of the players. That part bothers me more ... the hit on David is a hit that went awry, but the hit on Sobotka was a continuation of what happened to 'Petro' in the first period."

Hitchcock said heading into Chicago, retaliation is not what the series is all about.

"It's not retaliation. We want to win, they want to win," he said. "The game's full of emotion. It's about playing you best to win the hockey game. Whatever you have to do, you have to do. It's a nasty, physical, intense series. That's what playoff hockey is about. I'm sure they've got video of our guys taking runs at their guys, we've got video of their guys taking runs at us. It's the price you pay to win at this time of the year, especially when you've got two really good teams going at it with lots at stake. This is what happens.

"We're going to have to be better if we expect to win a game in Chicago. Our best games are still in front of us. Hopefully we're going to get better and better, but we know we've got to play better than we have in the first two games if we expect to win the next game."

Reaves agreed.

"You cant start running around taking guys' heads off," he said. "We've got a job to do and I think the ultimate revenge is knocking them out and going on trying to win the Stanley Cup while they're packing up their golf clubs. I think that's going to be our first goal, but we're going to come at them."

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues trainer Ray Barile (middle) attends to Vladimir Sobotka (17) after
he was injured on a knee-to-knee hit in the third period Saturday.
On another note, center Patrik Berglund, who missed the final regular season game and Games 1 and 2 with an upper-body injury, skated for the second time in three days. With Backes possibly having to miss time, Berglund's insertion into the lineup would be come at an opportune time and be a boost for the Blues.

"It gets better and better. It feels better and better too," Berglund said. "Hopefully I'll be back soon."

Berglund would not say if Game 3 was a possibility for a return, and with the Blues holding a 2-0 series lead, there was question if it would make sense to rest him more.

"That doesn't matter," Berglund said. "When I feel good, I'm ready to play. We'll see when that is.

"I told the boys yesterday I can't take this anymore. Hopefully I will heal fast and be able to help them out on the ice. It's easier that way."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Blues use Backes hit as rallying cry

Team responds with late goal, winner in 
OT to take 2-0 series lead against Blackhawks

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- David Backes is known as the heart and soul of the Blues. He wears the 'C' on his sleeve.

And when their captain was sent flying into the right corner from a vicious check by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round series, the question that remained was in what fashion would the Blues respond.

Seabrook, who was given a five-minute charging penalty and a game misconduct, would put his team, already down 1-0 in the series, in a precarious position.

The Blues used the late hit as a rallying cry. They tied the game in the waning seconds on a Vladimir Tarasenko goal, then got Barret Jackman's overtime goal in a 4-3 victory and a 2-0 series lead.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues trainer Ray Barile holds up Blues captain David Backes (42) after 
he was hit by Chicago's Brent Seabrook. Backes left the game and did 
not return. The Blues came back to defeat the Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime.

Were the Blues upset about the Backes hit? Of course. But instead of taking shots the remainder of the game at the Hawks, best players, they figured the best course of action would be to counter-attack on the scoreboard.

Mission accomplished.

"We were kind of getting caught up a little bit in the second and the third, me especially, with kind of the antics after the whistle," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "That’s not going to win us hockey games, being undisciplined. 

"We see them break a little bit there with the hit on David and I think rather than go out there and try to do the same to them, we rallied and really tried to score a goal for him. Because we don't want him to take that hit and not see a result for it, so it's important we do it for him."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who said Backes was "not good," was equally as concerned about a kneeing penalty Vladimir Sobotka took from Bryan Bickell with just over six minutes remaining.

"I have no thoughts on the (Backes) hit," Hitchcock said. "That's up to the league. ... As concerned as I am about Backes hit, I'm really concerned about the hit on Sobe. That was a break of a lifetime to see him still be able to play and skate. Hopefully he's OK tomorrow and he's able to skate. That's the one that concerns me as much as David's."

None of the Blues wanted to publicly comment on if Seabrook deserves a suspension or not. They instead spoke of using the hit as a rallying cry.

"'Backs' is our captain," said center Maxim Lapierre, who screened Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford on the winning goal. "When you see a guy playing every game for us, blocks shots and he hits hard ... he does everything for this team so we owe this one to him.

"I won't comment on (a possible suspension). It's playoffs ... I won't comment."

The Blues were on the power play for the remainder of regulation, and used a dramatic finish on Tarasenko's equalizer.

"At that point it is, yeah," Pietrangelo said. "Once we knew the trainers got a hold of (Backes) there, our mind switched to how we were going to take advantage of the power play."

"At some points this year, we might have gotten too emotional and maybe would have let that kind of hinder our thought process," Jackman said. "We knew it was a five-minute major and we were down by a goal and there's no time for retaliation. 'Backs' is a big boy and he's a big part of this team. You have to move forward and the power play came up big.

"Great character guys in this room, a lot of simple plays. Use our speed, use our puck possession, use our smarts to continue to go. Tonight we showed a lot of character and we battled to the end."

Blues rally after losing Backes, go up 2-0 in series against Blackhawks

Captain recipient of Seabrook hit; Tarasenko ties it late, Jackman wins it in OT

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- It was a blow to the head that the Blues hope doesn't knock their captain out of perhaps the playoffs that was delivered by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.

The Blues didn't respond with any sort of aggression. They responded with the proper punch in the gut -- on the scoreboard.

The Blues took command of Game 2 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Blackhawks early, saw the defending Cup champs regroup and get a lead, but after seeing their captain wobbly from a crunching hit from Seabrook that earned him a five-minute major for charging and game misconduct -- as well as likely a call from the NHL Department of Player Safety with a possible suspension looming -- the Blues will head to Chicago with a 2-0 series lead.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Alex Pietrangelo embraces teammate Barret Jackman (5) after Jackman 
scored the winning goal in Game 2 Saturday against the Blackhawks.

Vladimir Tarasenko's tying goal with 6.4 seconds sent the game into overtime, and Barret Jackman's overtime goal 5 minutes, 50 seconds in gave the Blues a come-from-behind 4-3 victory against the Blackhawks on Saturday at Scottrade Center.

Jackman let the eruption of 19,639 paint the picture for him. The only responsibility the Blues defenseman had was firing the puck towards the goal.

When the puck squirted through the pads of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, it put the defending Stanley Cup champions on the ropes. 

Jackman's shot from the top of the left circle found its way through Crawford pads with Maxim Lapierre in front setting a screen. 

Game 3 set for Chicago's United Center on Monday night. Game 4 is Wednesday night.

"I think I still had my eyes closed by the time I got mobbed," said Jackman, who also scored a game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings last season. "The eruption of the building said it all. It's a pretty neat feeling.

"I was just kind of focused on getting it by ... I think it was (Blackhawks defenseman Niklas) Hjalmarsson and one of their forwards were kind of coming at me. I just wanted to get it past their shin pads and just happened to squeak through."

Crawford said: "It was a little bit of a screen but it went straight through. I had my pads together but there was a little space there and it just kind of squeezed through."

Lapierre's presence may have affected Crawford.

"I just tried to screen the goalie to be honest," Lapierre said. "I don't know what happened, but it's a big win. 

"I think we showed character. We heard a lot of bad things after losing six in a row in the regular season, l but we got a big win in the last minute last game and we did it again. It's unreal and this is great for our team."

Tarasenko's wrister from just inside the top of the right circle zipped through a screen and past Crawford. It came with the Blues skating 6-on-4 after pulling goaltender Ryan Miller with 1:46 remaining and with Seabrook ejected with 4:41 remaining.

Backes did not return to the game

"How do you think he is? Not great," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We'll let the league deal with it."

The Blues were determined to answer the play on the ice.

"We got a five-minute power play and 5-on-3," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. "It certainly changed momentum the last five minutes of the game. 

"You never want to see Dave go down like that, he's an important player the way he works on and off the ice. We thought the best revenge at that point would be to get the puck and score. That's what we did."

Added left wing Chris Porter, who scored his second career playoff goal: "As soon as that hit happened, we're like, 'We're winning this for him.' In these five minutes, we're going to score, we're going to win it whether it's in regulation or in overtime."

Seabrook, who scored in the third period to tie the game 2-2, said: "I was just trying to make a play on Backes. I thought the puck was there, I was on (Alexander) Steen, I was just coming down the wall and I just tried to finish my hit."

The Blues, who were 1-for-8 on the power play, converted when Pietrangelo found Tarasenko, who slapped into a wrister and dropped to his knees after scoring his second career playoff goal and in as many games.

"I didn't know how many seconds left," Tarasenko said. "I just tried to be open for 'Petro.' I know I will wrist it as quick as I can, probably low glove shot. Our whole team work all game. If you work hard and trust your team, trust your coaches, you will come back.

"Just pick a spot. Kind of a hard shot for a goalie, but again, it's not about me. It's all about our partners. Petro gave it too me, (Jaden) Schwartz made a nice screen ... guys dig in all shift, so it's a great team win. We can't lose in our mind. Series is not over, the hardest game is coming. So we'll be ready for Chicago."

Pietrangelo said it was hard not to spot his teammate.

"I heard him scream. I didn't know if it was English or Russian or what it was," Pietrangelo joked. "I knew he wanted the puck. 

"Kid can shoot the puck. He's an offensive player ... it's good to see him back."

The Blues got first-period goals from Porter and Kevin Shattenkirk, who also had two assists. Miller stopped 25 shots. 

Seabrook and fellow defenseman Michal Rozsival scored third-period goals, Duncan Keith also scored for the Blackhawks, who have gotten five of six goals in the series from their defensemen. Crawford finished with 27 saves. 

Chicago trailed 2-0 before Keith's goal at 17:25 of the second period. Seabrook tied the game 4:53 into the third period when his one-timer from the top of the right circle caromed off Porter's stick and beat Miller high to the short side. 

Rozsival gave Chicago its first lead 1:45 later when his shot from the right point deflected off Backes and past Miller.

At that point, the Blackhawks were feeling like they can get the series back to home ice tied 1-1. It was not meant to be.

"The other game was tough; it was tough losing with a buck and change," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said in reference to the Blues tying Game 1 with 1:45 remaining. "But tonight was brutal.

"Did a great job killing, outstanding job, and you’re right there, six seconds away."  

Chicago finally took advantage and snapped Miller's shutout streak going back to Game 1 at 119:27 on Keith's point shot that got through a screen with 2:35 left in the second to cut the Blues' lead to 2-1. After Miller allowed three goals on the first seven shots faced in Game 1, he stopped 53 straight shots until Keith finally solved him. 
  
The Blues were buzzing in the first period, even though the Blackhawks had three opportunities on the power play but failed to convert on any of them. 

The Blues' fourth line struck first in Game 2, just as it did in the series opener. Porter, who had just stepped onto the ice for a shift, picked up Jordan Leopold's shot, which was blocked by Seabrook. He stepped into a slap shot and beat Crawford high to the short side 7:08 into the first period for a 1-0 lead. Porter was a ninth-round pick of the Blackhawks in the 2003 NHL Draft.

"Yeah, it was a big goal at that time of the game," Porter said. "It felt nice to get the money off my back. 

"I feel I've had some good chances as of late, but I'm just glad to find the back of the net and contribute any way I can."

Chicago's power play was given ample opportunities to cash in, but the Blues' penalty kill, after allowing a power-play goal on the first attempt in the series, clamped down on all three first-period attempts. 

At the end of the first, the Blues were buzzing around Chicago's goal, and Shattenkirk's blast from inside the blue line beat Crawford with 1.8 seconds left after a scramble in front in which the Chicago goalie made a great glove save on Jaden Schwartz with 6.2 seconds left. But Schwartz regained the puck below the goal line after being stopped and got it back to the point. With time running out, Shattenkirk wound up and beat Crawford, who was scrambling to get back in position. 
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues teammates (from left) Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo and T.J.
Oshie react to Vladimir Tarasenko's tying goal with 6.4 seconds left in the 
third period. The Blues won 4-3 in overtime.

Earlier in the period, Shattenkirk rang a shot off the post. Alexander Steen in the second period was given a breakaway and fired a shot off the crossbar with 14:20 left. 

"I remember as the puck went into the corner, I saw 10 seconds (left)," Shattenkirk said. "I remember when the pass came out to Vladi and kind of went through him, I just remember seeing Crawford'snumber and his name and he was facing the corner. He was way out of position and I knew  that I just had to get the puck to the net. I just settled it and tried to rip it as hard as I could. I knew where I had to put it and I just have it all I had. Luckily it beats the buzzer."

The Blues had their turns on the power play early in the second period, including a 27-second stretch of 5-on-3. They also failed to convert on three power plays in the period.

But after their captain left the game, the Blues remained composed and go to Chicago in good shape.

"I think calm down and start to play again," Hitchcock said. "I thought we played our best hockey in the first period and then we played great in the overtime. I thought the overtime we were outstanding. we needed to just calm down and start playing again."

(4-19-14) Blackhawks-Blues Game 2 Gameday Lineup

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will look to go up two games on the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks today (2 p.m. on NBC, KMOX 1120-AM).

And as far as a lineup change for the Blues today, coach Ken Hitchcock would not disclose whether T.J. Oshie would be in the lineup for Game 2.

"No," Hitchcock said when asked if he would tell the media. "We'll see.

"They're all going to get in by Game 4 hopefully."

But Oshie took the ice before pregame warmups and will be in the lineup today after missing the past three games with an upper-body injury. He will take the place of Brenden Morrow in the lineup. Morrow was not on the ice. He is out of the lineup and likely related to the foot injury he recently sustained.

With a healthy Oshie, the Blues add another two-way dynamic to their lineup.

But Hitchcock said to expect a lot today, especially early.

"I would say the order of the day would be chaos," he said. "We'll just prepare to play in the chaos. Both teams know what's at stake. They play a certain way that has a lot of success, we play a certain way that has success. For us to be effective, we've go to create our own offense, our own way, which we did. And they create in a different manner and they created a lot, too. For a 4-3 game, there was a ton of scoring chances. I'm sure they're looking at what we did to negate it, and we certainly are looking at what they did in trying to stop some of the stuff. We need to be less surprised by numbers behind us. If we can do that, then we can negate some of the easy ones we gave up because they're such a good team at 50-50's where if you think you're on offense, next thing you know, there's a guy standing behind you on a breakaway."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is wary of the Blues as a whole.

"I think they've got a few guys up front that they definitely have some skill," Quenneville said. "We've got to be aware of who's on the ice."

The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Sobotka-Vladimir Tarasenko


Steve Ott-Derek Roy-Ryan Reaves


Chris Porter-Maxim Lapierre-Adam Cracknell


Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk


Jordan Leopold-Roman Polak


Ryan Miller will start in goal; Brian Elliott will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian Cole and Magnus Paajarvi. Patrik Berglund (upper body) is out with injury as is Brenden Morrow (foot).

- - -

The Blackhawks' probable lineup:

Kris Versteeg-Jonathan Toews-Brandon Saad

Patrick Sharp-Michal Handzus-Marian Hossa

Bryan Bickell-Andrew Shaw-Patrick Kane

Brandon Bollig-Marcus Kruger-Ben Smith

Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy-Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford will start in goal; Antti Raanta will bethe backup.

Healthy scratches include Jeremy MorinPeter ReginSheldon Brookbank,Joakim NordstromDavid Rundblad and Mac Carruth. The Blackhawks report no injuries.

Friday, April 18, 2014

(4-19-14) BLUES NOTEBOOK

Fourth line spark; quick turnaround for 
Blues, Blackhawks; Tarasenko, Leopold shine

By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It may not have been the 'CPR Line' that opened the playoffs for the Blues on Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, but 2/3 of them on one line wasn't a bad combination either.

All three (Adam Cracknell, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves) were in the lineup during the Blues' 4-3 triple-overtime victory against the Blackhawks in Game 1, and although Reaves made his presence felt with some crunching checks during the game, it was Porter and Cracknell -- along with Maxim Lapierre -- that made the buzz early in the game. Cracknell, who hadn't scored a goal in 19 regular season games, scored his first playoff goal 4 minutes, 40 seconds into the game for a 1-0 Blues lead. 

Porter, along with Vladimir Tarasenko, led the Blues with seven shots on goal, and Lapierre saved what would have been an overtime goal by Kris Versteeg when he covered up a portion of the goal for a scrambling Ryan Miller, as Versteeg's one-timer caromed off Lapierre's knee and away from the goal.

Lapierre (22:51), Porter (19:01) and Cracknell (17:59) all logged in important minutes, and when the Blues' fourth line plays an important role, chances are the Blues are exiting the ice at the end of the night victorious.

"It was huge," Cracknell said. "We talked as a line before the game that we have to create energy. To win the Stanley Cup and go far in the playoffs, you need your third and fourth lines to be deep and to help out offensively and defensively. We got rewarded last night and it was a lot of excitement for our line and our hockey club. To get that win it was definitely huge."

Cracknell's goal came as a result of determination from the Blues in the Blackhawks' zone. After Porter got a hold of Alex Pietrangelo's sprawling backhand pass, Porter quickly threw a backhand in the goal mouth in front of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. Like all forwards crashing the net should do, Cracknell was able to tap in a loose puck and for a moment, gave the team life and helped the standing room only crowd of 19,423 erupt.

"It’s nice to have the confidence of the head coach," Porter said. "I think last night we helped contribute to the energy and the physicality of the team.

"There’s nothing flashy about our game. We get pucks deep and we create havoc in the offensive zone and try to limit our time playing in the defensive zone as much as possible."

"They were good with the puck," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the trio. "They protected the puck, they created scoring chances, they followed the script and they really played well as a line together. Plus, 'Lappy' made a helluva save, a good road hockey save there. 

"They did the things we needed them to do. We needed them to draw even. They did more than draw even. It was a good sign."

With the potential of a return to the lineup from injured forwards T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund (both upper-body injuries), a winning lineup is tough to break up.

Oshie appears closer to a return than Berglund, and when that happens, Hitchcock said it's not a tough choice. It likely means Cracknell and/or Porter are the most likely candidates to vacate the lineup.

"I haven't really thought like that, but when a guy like Berglund or Oshie says he's ready to play, then somebody's going out," Hitchcock said. "We'll figure it out. You get players like that back into your lineup, it's going to do nothing but help. Somebody's going to have to go out. I haven't really thought that far. We kind of know every morning on gameday who's in. Today was a good day for the guys that were out. Another good day and we'll see how they feel tomorrow and we'll see when they get in." 

* Quenneville apologizes, fined by league -- Former Blues coach and current Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville drew attention during the second overtime of Game 1 Thursday night.

With the Blackhawks already on the power play following a Ryan Reaves delay of game penalty, the Blackhawks contended that the Blues' Kevin Shattenkirk popped the puck over the boards from behind his own net with 37 seconds left in the original penalty. It would have given Chicago a two-man advantage.

But after all four officials (referees Marc Joannette and Kevin Pollack and linesmen Shane Heyer and Matt MacPherson) conferred, they concluded that the puck deflected off a Blackhawks stick.

Quenneville obviously disagreed and offered a gesture to the officials by grabbing his crotch. 

The NHL fined Quenneville $25,000 for what it said was "inappropriate conduct." He apologized while speaking to media members at the team hotel earlier Friday.

"I was definitely excited," Quenneville said. "Disappointed with the call, but I apologize for my behavior. It wasn't very appropriate at all. It was a bush-league move on my part."

The money will go to the NHL Foundation.

"I saw the highlight of it. I was on the ice when it happened," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "Joel's a passionate coach and he's intense on the bench. We could certainly feel that as players and I think sometimes he wants to get his skates on and go out there and play with us. He's got fire behind the bench that really filters through the team and makes us play that much better."

Hitchcock was asked about it Friday.

"Yes I saw what Joel did," Hitchcock said. "I'm not commenting on what Joel did (laughing). I saw it, but I'm not commenting. It would be inappropriate."

* Tired but happy -- The Blues held an optional skate Friday, and only 10 players were on the ice. Most were healthy scratches Thursday to go along with Oshie and Berglund as well as all three goaltenders. However, Ryan Miller left after about 15 minutes of an on-ice workout.

And with a 2 p.m. start for Game 2 on Saturday, players will be on the ice in competition again just 38.5 hours after finishing Game 1.

"Because you're not traveling as much, because you're playing the same opponent, there's a familiarity to it that I think you're able to get comfortable," Hitchcock said. "But this is why guys play. They play for this time of year. This is why you play. This is what everyone dreamed of, getting the chance to play in these type of series. 

"This looks like it has longevity in the series right now from just the game standpoint. If you talk to anybody on both teams, it feels like they've already played two hockey games. For us to keep things going, we've just got to keep it in perspective, get some more guys back in the lineup here in the next game or two and see if we can keep pushing Chicago."

"That's a quick turnaround," Pietrangelo said. "We were laughing about that yesterday. Three overtimes and then you've got to play a day game. But that's part of our job and we'll go with it. Got some good rest today."

Blues captain David Backes said the fatigue factor, if it plays a role, will affect both teams.

"I think with the depth of both teams - four lines playing for the most part - fatigue, if it's a factor, it's probably going to be pretty evenly displaced through the both lineups," Backes said. "I don't think it will be something that either team can rest on or think that they're going to have an advantage of. It starts at 0-0 again and we've got to build another great game. I think the coaching staffs on both teams have been in situations like this before and they'll be pretty smart about it and spread out the work load. You realize that your first two lines, if they're really tired, they're not as productive as the fresh third or fourth line guy and you start to distribute minutes that way. Again, it's whatever it takes to win and we feel like we've got 20 guys that are bought into our game plan and how we need to win."

That's why the Blues have already put Game 1 in the rear view mirror.

"The level is only going to go up," Pietrangelo said. "They're going to be hungry to get back against us and steal a win from us in our barn. We're going to have to find some energy and so are they. It's going to be a quick game ... it's going to get elevated. Both teams are going to be hungrier. We're just worried about taking care of our home ice and I'm sure they're going to want to try and steal one here. We're just taking it one game at a time. I don't think you can look too far ahead right now, especially against this team."

* Backes workhorse -- Just nine days after leaving a game after blocking a shot with his foot, Backes logged 33:33 ice time and 57 shifts. He had a team-high seven of the Blues' 42 hits and won 14 of 27 faceoffs.

Backes said he never would have envisioned such ice time before the game if someone would have asked him.

"I might have slapped them in the face and said, 'You're reaching a little bit there,'" Backes joked. "I told someone before the game that whatever this game holds ... I think I said 14 overtimes ... so thankfully it didn't go to that because I think we would have all been in the ER after that. 

"It was a little exaggerated with that number, but I figured the way these two teams have played each other, the added excitement and adrenaline from the Stanley Cup playoffs, it was going to be a close game. I'd imagine the next six games, if that's what it's going to take, are going to be close games."

* Bouwmeester OK -- Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who left the game Thursday seven minutes into the first overtime and didn't return until the start of the third extra session, was at the practice facility Friday and Hitchcock ruled Bouwmeester good to go Sunday.

The Blues' coach said Bouwmeester was "dehydrated," and challenged a notion that he has bounced back.

"I wouldn't call it bounce, but he's here and he's upright," Hitchcock said of Bouwmeester, who logged 29:16. "I'm sure they've got a few guys that are dehydrated, too. He'll play tomorrow."

* More effective PK -- Despite killing five of six Blackhawks power plays, Hitchcock was succinct when asked if he liked his team's power play.

"No ... nope ... nope," Hitchcock said tongue-in-cheek. "We'll be better there."

The Blues, who allowed the Brent Seabrook power play goal, spent too much time in the zone, much to Hitchcock's disliking.

* Tarasenko shines -- Despite missing 15 games with a thumb injury, Vladimir Tarasenko picked up right where he left off Thursday night, and what's more impressive about Tarasenko's 23:52 time on ice in which he scored a goal, was his ability take the game over despite returning to the lineup at least two weeks less than expected.

"For me, what was impressive with Vlad was he was able to do a lot of things conditioning-wise that helped him a lot," Hitchcock said. "From a first playoff game standpoint, he looked like what he did in the regular season, which for us is a good sign. I more looked at it from is he going to have jitters. It's the first time he gets to play, but he's a really confident guy. I thought his confidence really came through in the end last night."

The Blues' numbers are pretty staggering when Tarasenko is in and when he's out. With Tarasenko, the Blues averaged 3.38 goals per game and were 44-13-7. Without him, they were 8-10-0 and averaged 1.78 goals per game.

Tarasenko nearly scored a second goal Thursday, but he was robbed by Corey Crawford's sprawling save in the second period.

"He's been out for 15 games, but he's been trying to get back in the lineup for 15 games with whatever it's taken to beg, borrow and steal to get back into the lineup," Backes said of Tarasenko. "So he loves the game, he's passionate about it, he lays everything on the line. First shift, he's blocking a shot (from Duncan Keith), making plays, out-skating guys and it's great to see from him."

* Leopold impresses -- Another player impressed by Hitchcock was defenseman Jordan Leopold, who played 27:27 and was a plus-1 in the game. Expect the left-handed defenseman to stay in the lineup Saturday.

"He was very solid, very competitive," Hitchcock said. "As the game went on, he got more and more composed when things were chaotic. He was able to settle things down. Very impressed."

Game 1 victory proves Blues didn't forget how to win

Oshie questionable, Berglund doubtful as 
Blues look to go up 2-0 in series vs. Blackhawks

By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The lingering question hanging over the Blues since they ended the regular season is how can the Blues recapture the winning ways that led to a franchise-best 52 wins.

Even with a rash of injuries late and goal-scoring down nearly a goal-and-a-half the second half of the season, six straight losses to end the regular season was something that needed to be overcome quickly with the defending Stanley Cup champions coming to town.

The Blues' 4-3 triple-overtime win against the Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round series was just a subtle reminder that the Blues haven't forgotten how to win. Injuries played a role down the stretch and the Blues knew reinforcements were on the way, and as veteran forward Brenden Morrow calmly said earlier in the week, "the cavalry's coming."
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues center Derek Roy (12) assisted on Jaden Schwartz's tying goal late
in the third period Thursday vs. Blackhawks and Niklas Hjalmarsson (4).

The Blues got back five of their injured players back and after an exhausting marathon that took more than 100 minutes to complete, victory tasted sweet in a series destined to be lengthy.

Game 2 is Saturday (2 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM) before the series shifts to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.

"We scored a lot of goals, won 52 games ... we didn't forget what the feeling is," said Alex Pietrangelo, who played a career-high 44:08 Thursday night. "It was a little bit of a bump in the road, but it's a good learning lesson to get that one [Thursday night] under our belt. I think it's good for the confidence. We feel pretty good right now. We believe what we have in the room, whether there's negativity coming from the outside or not. We believe in this team, we have all year, and that's why we've been so successful."

The Blues held an optional skate Friday afternoon at their practice facility inside St. Louis Outlet Mall. Ten skaters took the ice, and two of them were injured forwards T.J. Oshie (upper body) and Patrik Berglund (upper body). 

For Oshie, it was another day on the ice gearing himself up for a return to the lineup. He's questionable for Saturday. Berglund skated with teammates for the first time Friday. He's more inclined to miss the game Saturday. Both missed Game 1.

"I didn't see them," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Until someone taps me on the shoulder and says he's a game player, he's out. Our lineup's going to be fluid every day. Every day it's going to be fluid. I told you guys before, we're going to have everybody playing in this series at some period of time, so that obviously means by Game 5, we expect everybody to be ready to go and hopefully nobody gets injured. Touch wood, but that's our expectations."

Blues captain David Backes said a healthy Oshie is good for the team at any point. 

"He's a horse for us, an Energizer bunny that never stops," Backes said. "You talk about fatigue, he's a guy that would have a few days of rest (going) into a series which has a lot guys that have played some big minutes in the last 36 hours. So it'll be hopefully a jolt to the arm if he's in. If not, we've proven that we can win if he's not in the lineup. We'll have to have the same sort of performance again."

The Blues' preparation was simplistic Friday: come in for meetings, hydrate and go home and rest.

"Food, hydration, sleep ... I feel pretty good today," Pietrangelo said. "I think most of us do. It was tough to sleep [Thursday night] by the time you get home, eat and relax and the brain winds down. 

"I feel fine today. Trainers have done a great job giving us the proper information and how to deal with it."

Even the coaching staff had trouble sleeping after 100 minutes, 26 seconds of hockey.

"You're back at it so early this morning, all of us are going to get out of here right away as soon as we're finished talking to you all and get some rest," Hitchcock said earlier in the day Friday. "Big game comes up early tomorrow. We're going to have to be ready. The players, we brought them in, especially late today so that they were hydrated again and ready to go for tomorrow."

It's a greater feeling for the Blues, who will carry a 1-0 series lead into Game 2. Calming the game down was a gradual process Thursday.

"I just think we got better and better as the game went on," Hitchcock said. "I think our best period was our third period. We took a couple penalties unfortunately [in overtime], but I thought our best period was our third period. We were good early, and then they gave us a real push, went up 3-2, caught us kind of napping defensively and then they had a big start to the third period. That's where we needed Ryan [Miller]. First four minutes of the third period, they were all over us and then we started to really play after that. The last 35 minutes of the game, we were good and then the overtime, who knows what happens. Either team could have won it in overtime a million times. I would have been disappointed not taking it into overtime the way we played the third period and the chances we generated. It was good for our team."
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Ryan Miller (left) stopped the final 35 shots against Thursday night vs.
the Blackhawks after allowing three goals on seven shots.

The Blues know winning Saturday only means they will hold serve. They expect a greater push-back from the Blackhawks.

"Yeah, we've taken lessons from the past experiences in playoffs and know that it's one game at a time," Backes said. "It's not all going to be roses. 

"Whatever happens in the next game, we put it behind us and worry about the next one. If it gets outside of that, we're kidding ourselves and we're going to be in trouble. This group in here knows that it's one game at a time and the next one is tomorrow afternoon and we've got to take care of business."

Steen scores another playoff OT goal in 4-3 win against Blackhawks

Tarasenko scores in return, Cracknell, Schwartz also net first career 
playoff goals, Miller rebounds after slow start to give Blues 1-0 series lead

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- April 30, 2013 was the date. Alexander Steen was the hero in a 2-1 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Kings.

Thursday night, it was a feeling of deja vu. But this time, the result was just as dramatic, but a marathon was needed for the same result.

Steen's goal 26 seconds into triple overtime, set up by Steve Ott's flip pass to the slot, helped the Blues rally past the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in Game 1 of a Western Conference First Round matchup at Scottrade Center in the longest game in Blues franchise history (40:26 of overtime).

The Blues lead the best-of-7 series 1-0. Game 2 is Saturday at 2 p.m.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues teammates David Backes (second from left), Steve Ott (29) and Alex
Pietrangelo (27) celebrate with Alexander Steen (left) after Steen scored
in triple overtime to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 Thursday.

David Backes got the puck to Ott, whose flip pass to Steen in the slot gave the Blues' right wing a chance to snap a shot over the right shoulder of Corey Crawford and send the Scottrade Center crowd into delirium.

"He kind of had a peek right before I came in," Steen said of Ott. "I felt like he knew I was coming. Both 'Backs' and him, great plays on that goal.

"Obviously it's a good feeling. I'm happy to get the first win. Big plays by 'Backs' and 'Otter.'"

It capped a night in which the Blackhawks, who scored all three goals in the first period on their first seven shots, were stymied the rest of the way by Ryan Miller, who grew better as the game moved along. He stopped 39 shots.

Adam Cracknell, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz all scored their first career playoff goals. They helped the Blues erase a season-ending six-game losing streak. Chicago got goals from Johnny Oduya, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Kane.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said, "Steener is not going to miss it from the ladies tee there. He's not going to miss that." 

But Hitchcock, who spoke earlier on Thursday of the necessity of putting Ott on the line with Backes and Steen because, "I think from our standpoint, he's a player that allows us to use Steen and Backes in a more offensive role than maybe even they have all year." Well, Ott had his moments, but when a necessary play was needed, he provided it at an ample time.

"He played well all night," Hitchcock said. "He gave a big boost to us. 

"That's the first time we moved him up, through necessity, but he helped us a lot tonight. He played the way we thought he could play. He adds a lot of elements to us. When he plays at that tempo, that type of energy, with that type of focus, he's a good player.

"For a 3-3 hockey game, man there were a lot of scoring chances, or it felt like there were a lot of scoring chances. Because both coaches played four lines so much I thought both teams group of forwards, as the game went on really started to control the tempo of the game. They seemed to have the breakaways and we seemed to have a lot of 3-on-2s just because there was so much being put into the game by both sides. I think both teams realized that the knockout punch was going to be needed and both teams put a lot into this game."

The Blues started rough, waded through the second period and rode some key and timely saves by their netminder, then poured a lot into the third period before getting the equalizer.

A five-goal first period saw the teams settle into the game until the third period, when the Blues attacked and finally got the equalizer down a goal.

Oduya tried to throw a backhand around the boards from behind his net to defensive linemate Niklas Hjalmarsson, but Schwartz pinched and poked the puck loose, got it back from Derek Roy and beat Crawford with a backhand five-hole past Oduya with 1:45 remaining.

"We never stopped working," Schwartz said of the Blues, who outshot the Blackhawks 14-6 in the third. "We never stopped believing. We kept rolling the lines. We had chances. There was never a doubt. It was a big goal. To stand here and say I knew I was going to score, I'd be lying, but I wanted to do everything I could and it was definitely nice.

"I just tried to create havoc on (Hjalmarsson) as much as I could. I knew the middle forward was open, but I took my chance going down the wall and it ended up working out."

The Blues had the first great crack at winning in overtime, when Chris Porter had a couple whacks at the puck to the right of Crawford, and then when the puck squirted through the crease, Tarasenko whiffed on a bouncing puck that would have ended it.

Kris Versteeg had a chance late in overtime to win it for the Blackhawks, but Maxim Lapierre was in the right place at the right time on the one-timer, as the shot beat Miller but Lapierre was behind his goalie to make the stop with his body.

"We talked about it, but like I've got to work on my rebounds a little bit," Lapierre joked. "It went right back into the slot, but that's playoffs. Guys like me take pride in blocking shots and doing the little details. I think the two guys I played with tonight were unreal. They just work really hard and we keep it simple and we had success."

Miller, who stopped the final 35 shots he saw, robbed Patrick Sharp on a breakaway attempt, making a sliding save with 2:41 remaining in the second overtime. 

"I didn't think he had it set up to go backhand," Miller said of Sharp. "He's quick with that little chip glove, so I just tried to stay close to him  and he didn't get it up. Fortunately for me."

Both teams had power play attempts in the second overtime (Chicago also had one in the first overtime, both delay of game penalties on the Blues), and Alex Pietrangelo had the best chance to score for the Blues but missed a bouncing puck in the slot.

A wild first period saw the Blues go ahead, fall behind, tie it, then fall behind late.

Cracknell's first career playoff goal put the Blues ahead 1-0 as the fourth line generated zone time. Pietrangelo, who played a career-high 44:08, kept the play alive with a diving pass to Porter, whose backhand to the net saw Cracknell crash the crease and knock home the first goal of the series 4:40 into the game.

Chicago tied it 1-1 when Johnny Oduya's shot from the left circle after a cross-ice pass from Brandon Saad beat Miller off the pad. The Blues got caught with too many men on one side of the ice that allowed the pass, and Oduya tied it at 11:14.

Seabrook'spower play goal, a one-timer from the right circle after Versteeg found him from behind the net, gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead at 14:39.

Tarasenko, playing his first game since March 15, tied the game 2-2 when Kevin Shattenkirk fed him with a cross-ice pass into the left circle. He snapped a puck into the open side at 15:52.

"Oh he was huge," Hitchcock said of Tarasenko. "I mean, now all of a sudden we look like we're dangerous off the rush again. We've been struggling with that since he's gone out and a couple of other guys, but we look dangerous off the rush again."

But the Hawks reclaimed the lead moments after Derek Roy snapped a shot from the slot off the cross bar, and Patrick Kane, playing in his first game since March 19, got a stretch pass from Jonathan Toews, also playing his first game since March 30. Kane beat Miller five-hole on a breakaway with 1:36 left in the period, Chicago's third goal on only seven shots.

After an average first, Miller kept the Blues at bay with some key saves early in the second when Chicago applied pressure.

"I had to enter the battle sometime," said Miller, who went the final 82:02 without allowing a goal after giving up three in a span of 7:10. "They had a couple nice shots there in the first. I didn't set up the breakaway on Kane very well, as you might have seen. I thought I could get him in a situation where I could give myself an advantage that totally backfired.

"I had to come out and battle. Luckily I got a hold of a few of them. I feel good overall. The first was, I was just going to try and shrug it off and keep going and know it wasn't about one period. It was about a culmination of four (wins) in seven games. I try not to change my approach for any one period. Nice to come out on the right side."

Crawford, who only saw three shots on goal in the second, needed to be up to the challenge on two of them. He stopped Tarasenko with a sprawling stop roughly seven minutes into the period, then was able to corral Ott's one-timer from the left circle after a feed from Steen.

In the end, the Blues accomplished something they hadn't done in two weeks: win a game.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' Chris Porter (32) checks the Blackhawks' Nick Leddy during play
in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round series Thursday. 

"We get such great support here and from our standpoint we needed to at least get the game into overtime," Hitchcock said. "By doing that I think it engaged us, I think it engaged our fans in believing that we're a good team because of everything that's happened. I think sometimes people don't look at who is in and out of the lineup, they look at the crest on the sweater. I think the players really put a lot into this because they don't want this season to just wilt away. They're going to put up a fight here. Whatever happens happens, that's a great team over there, but we're going to put up a fight, hopefully."

The Blues, who played without forwards T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund (upper-body injuries) lost defenseman Jay Bouwmeester for most of the first overtime and all of the second overtime with what Hitchcock termed "dehydration." But he returned for the third overtime and Hitchcock said he was fine.