Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Toews OT goal helps Hawks down Blues 4-3

Controversial Chicago goal leaves St. Louis incensed at official ruling

CHICAGO -- The Blues' season will end Saturday night. That's already been determined. But the Chicago Blackhawks? Well, that's another story.

The Hawks had plenty of incentive to earn two points against the Blues Wednesday night, fighting for their playoff lives as they came in sitting in eighth place in the Western Conference.

When a lengthy delay trying to determine if Marian Hossa's goal should count for Chicago, not only a game but a team's season was waiting in the balance.

The call, much to the chagrin of the Blues, went against them, the Blackhawks gained momentum and in the end, Jonathan Toews' overtime goal helped the Hawks earn two crucial points in a 4-3 victory over the Blues before 21,435 at United Center.

The Blues (37-33-11) held a 2-0 lead at the time on goals by David Backes and T.J. Oshie when video replay shows Hossa kicking a puck then swiping at it with his stick. The puck hit the right post, caroms to the opposite post and slowly dies, not appearing to be completely over the goal line when Blues netminder Ty Conklin swiped the puck away. Officials Dan O'Halloran and Brad Watson were on the ice and ruled it a goal. The call went to review and took roughly 10 minutes for the league office in Toronto to make a decision.

When it was finally determined that the goal was good, Chicago had momentum, they felt the energy of the home crowd and eventually took a lead heading into the third period.

The Blues, who are 5-1-2 in their last eight games, were none too happy with what took place.

"It didn't go in. It was kicked too," said Conklin, who stopped 35 shots playing for Jaroslav Halak. "They called it a goal on the ice, which is fine. That's understandable. But the reason we have video replay is to get the right call."

Conklin didn't stop there, suggesting the league wants to see the Blackhawks make it into the playoffs.

"They're probably going to make it in the playoffs anyway," Conklin said. "Do we really just have to make it that obvious? They're going to get in anyway."

The Blues needed to regroup but had trouble containing Chicago's momentum gained, as they were outshot 20-6 in the middle period and trailed 3-2 after Tomas Kopecky tied it and Nick Leddy gave Chicago a lead with a goal late in the second.

"I don't see how they do call it a goal, but it's not the back-breaker," Blues winger Alex Steen said. "They get one goal like that, it doesn't change everything.

"It looks to me like it's a kicking motion when they showed it on the screen when you look at it again. But it's one goal; it's not the game. ... We were a little sloppy there in the second. We bounced back a little better there in the third. That's not enough to beat the Blackhawks ... in Chicago."

Added Blues coach Davis Payne, who received an explanation from O'Halloran after the ruling, "The explanation was that although there was a kicking motion, it touched his stick and that the puck was in the net. From the angles I saw, I never saw it go completely in the net and I never saw it hit his stick. I don't like the ruling on that goal obviously.

"At that point, we had a lot of the control of the play. It seemed like we were controlling the game positionally and territorially. That really got them started. From where I looked, it's tough for me and I understand where we are, but there's a couple other teams watching that probably feel the same way we do."

Payne was speaking of Dallas and Calgary, who were looking to keep pace with the Hawks and Anaheim Ducks with no such luck.

"It was a close play, but the puck never crossed the line," Conklin continued. "I was sitting there watching it. I knew it wasn't over, and then everybody in here had the benefit of watching replay. They're saying it wasn't in. The guys commentating on the game said it wasn't in.

"We know what their situation is. I don't think we're trying to knock them out any more than somebody else would. We just tried to come in here and play good hockey."

The Blues began the game by getting a Backes goal -- tying his career-best 31st if the season -- 17 seconds into the game. They weathered a Chicago blitzkrieg when the Hawks had a two-man advantage for 1 minute, 44 seconds in the first period, and the Blues managed to get through unscathed.

"It was a huge kill for us," Payne said. "You look at what's necessary, what's on the ice, you look at one of our guys breaking a stick. It's really five against two-and-a-half really. Conks was outstanding. We did enough to take away shot lanes and put their plays to the outside. A big, big lift for us to get through that and to get on the board first, I thought was a real key moment for us."

Alex Pietrangelo broke his stick during the sequence, and got another twig from Oshie.

"I tried to tale away (Duncan) Keith," Oshie said. "He's obviously a great player, good goal-scorer. I was just trying to take away his options. ... They're going to get their chances. You do your best to contain them and take away as much as you can."

Oshie gave the Blues a 2-0 lead when he took Pietrangelo's stretch pass and snapped a shot past Corey Crawford 1:06 into the second period.

It's the third time this season the Blues held a 2-0 lead against Chicago at some point but lost each time.

But to their defense, this time it was tough to overcome after the Hossa controversy.

"They definitely fed off that. The crowd got into it," Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "We score to make it 2-0 and it's completely quiet. They're searching for answers. They're trying to find their game. They start throwing everything at us and every sort of desperation.

"If that goal doesn't count, maybe it adds to their frustration. We carry the momentum our way a little more. Instead, they get the call and the break. The crowd gets into it, it rolls over and unfortunately, they go into the third period with the lead."

But the Blues didn't roll over and wilt, as Chris Stewart's tremendous individual effort tied the game, when the Blues' power forward outraced Keith and Leddy by splitting between the Hawks' pair and lifted a shot over a surprised Crawford 9:44 into the third period, matching Stewart's career-best 28th goal of the season.

"Great play," Oshie said of the goal. "For a bigger guy, he can really move when he wants to. ... he got the big goal for us, and after that, I thought it was going to be all ours."

But it was not meant to be, as Keith found Toews on a stretch pass along the left side and Toews wristed a shot past Conklin five-hole 3:19 into overtime.

"I don't know if I just didn't move over enough," Conklin said. "It went under my pad."

Colaiacovo and Pietrangelo seemed to get crossed up on the play.

"We mis-communicated there," Colaiacovo said. "I wanted to make a switch so we can stay on our strong side. I couldn't get his attention and as soon as I took my eye off the play ... kind of one I wished I had back. I still got back. He just made a good shot."

Added Pietrangelo, "It was a good play by Toews to stretch out there. I think we were trying to get a switch and it's a good play by him and a good read by their d-man. Good players make good plays."

As hard as both teams played, the Blues just couldn't let go of the goal that started it all for Chicago (43-28-9).

"It changed the complexion of the game," Conklin said. "They weren't generating a whole lot. We were playing well and I thought we were carrying the play the whole time. A call like that, a play like that ... changed a lot of things. It gets the crowd into it, because the crowd wasn't into it at that time."

Added Colaiacovo, "... It changed momentum in their favor. It's tough. Those are the breaks we've been getting all year, which is unfortunate."

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