Thursday, April 4, 2013

Blues finally get win in Chicago on Shattenkirk shootout winner

Team overcomes third-period deficit;
Cracknell, Porter, Elliott instrumental in victory

CHICAGO -- Points are at a premium for the Blues these days. Trying to get them in a building that's been more than unkind in recent memory was a daunting task.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. The Blues had a push in the third period, then got the clincher for a critical second point in the shootout.

Kevin Shattenkirk scored in the sixth round of the shootout, the fourth Blues shooter to score off Corey Crawford, and the Blues rallied from down a goal in the third period to pull out a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night at United Center.

(St. Louis Blues)
Adam Cracknell celebrates one of his two goals Thursday.
The win for the Blues (19-14-2) was their first here since winning 3-2 on Feb. 3, 2010 and moved them back into the eighth spot in the Western Conference with 13 games remaining. They're 4-10-1 when trailing after two periods.

Shattenkirk was able to get Crawford down and raise a forehand top shelf to win it for the Blues, who had been 0-4-4 in their last eight games here.

"We practice it quite a bit," said Shattenkirk, who is now 2-for-6 in his career in shootouts with both being game-winners. "We got a lot of chances to try different things in practice, especially when our goalies kind of know our moves all the time. I've done that move before. I think just having the confidence to stick with it and not try to change it up is important."

The Blues got huge contributions from their fourth line of Adam Cracknell, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves, as well as stellar goaltending from Brian Elliott.

Cracknell scored his first two goals of the season, Porter assisted on both of his goals and Elliott backstopped 33 shots and made critical saves on Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad and former Blue Michal Handzus in the shootout.

"It was exactly what we needed from that line," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of his fourth line. "They were the ones that took the game back for us. Really proud of those guys. Elliott was great in goal, and the addition of (Jay) Bouwmeester and (Jordan) Leopold really helped give us the composure that we needed.

"All in all, especially from the goaltender and the fourth line and those two additions, it was great for us."

Cracknell gave the Blues a 1-0 lead on a terrific shift by the fourth line. Porter sprung Cracknell loose in the middle of the ice and his shot from the high slot beat Crawford high glove side with 3:57 left in the opening period.

The goal came at the end of the shift, and it was Porter who had a glorious chance off a Reaves feed into the crease that Crawford made a point-blank stop on just 25 seconds before Cracknell's goal.

Four of the Blues' seven first-period shots came from their fourth line, with Porter getting three of them.

Chicago struck quickly for two goals, as Jonathan Toews and Saad struck for goals 2:27 apart in the second period.

Toews converted on the doorstep, banging home a Brent Seabrook shot from the left circle at 3:18. Then the Blues got caught scrambling around in the zone, and Toews found an open Saad in the slot and he hammered a one-timer past Elliott at 5:45.

Cracknell energized his team once again when he converted a breakaway pass from Porter to tie it 2-2 just 3:30 into the final period. After Michal Rozsival fanned on a shot from right point, Porter released Cracknell, who patiently out-waited Crawford and slid a shot in from a right angle.

"Sometimes I don't have the patience, but I just got lucky," Cracknell said. "I just waited him out an extra second and he lifted his foot and slid it under. That was a big goal for us and a big goal for myself.

"It was exciting getting the call a couple days ago knowing we were going to Chicago but not knowing whether we were going to be in or not. It's exciting playing in this barn and the atmosphere. It was nice to contribute a couple goals. Our line played well tonight, and we just played our game. We all played together before and it was just easy chemistry for us."

The Blues kept coming, with Backes netting his first in 15 games after Bouwmeester threw a puck towards the goal from the right point, and Backes collected the rebound and knocked it past Crawford from the crease at 7:06. Bouwmeester collected his first point in his first game as a Blue.

"I had to double-check with the refs and everyone else on the ice that there were no whistles blown or anyone waving it off," Backes joked. "It's good to get one, especially when it really meant something to give us a lead there in the third. The guys really poured a lot into it to get two points tonight."

But Chicago would not go away, and Viktor Stalberg, who got grounded by Roman Polak after Polak felt Stalberg checked partner Barret Jackman awkwardly into the boards towards the end of the second period, collected a loose puck in the slot, whirled and fired through a maze of bodies to tie the game 3-3 with 4:31 remaining.

But the Blues stuck with it, got it to overtime, got a critical point before getting a second one.

"I think we did a great job after they got that third goal," Shattenkirk said. "First half of the year, I think we would have let that affect us a little more. I think we've done a great job recently of bouncing back from goals."

Elliott held the fort the majority of the night, making huge stop after huge stop and never letting emotions get away from him when Chicago kept coming in waves.

"They came early and often," Elliott said of the Blackhawks. "Sometimes that's the best way to get in the game. With a couple new d-men, it's a lot about communication out there. Obviously pretty smooth skating out there.

"It was good to see Cracks get a couple goals for us. I think everybody kind of just shared the load. We did a good job of just staying focused and level-headed in coming back in that game."

Perhaps Elliott's best stop looked harmless but it stopped the play in overtime when the Blues' Alex Pietrangelo, Polak, Jaden Schwartz and Patrik Berglund were out of gas after getting hemmed in the zone. He gobbled up Marian Hossa's shot from the right circle to get a stop in play.

"Sometimes 4-on-4, it just gets wheeling and you can't get the puck under control," Elliott said. "We did a good job of softening that attack. Guys came up huge in the shootout for me."

Added Backes: "We had that determination that we were going to make a difference, and each guy was out there pouring it in every shift. No passengers there, and that's the kind of game we play when we don't have any passengers. It's in-your-face and taking away all the time the opponent has. They did that to us for a long period in the second. We had to turn the tide there in the third or else it would have been another ugly night here."

Then when it got to a shootout, the Blackhawks got goals from Toews and Kane to open, but the Blues' Chris Stewart and Andy McDonald responded each time.

When Shaw's shot was stopped, David Perron had the chance to end it, but his backhand seemed to fall off his stick and he never got a good attempt at Crawford.

Hossa gave Chicago the lead in the fourth round, but Alexander Steen kept it alive for the Blues with a slick goal.

Elliott extended his right pad on Saad, but Vladimir Tarasenko was then denied by Crawford with the chance to win it.
(St. Louis Blues)
Brian Elliott (1) makes a save on Chicago's Jonathan Toews (19)
with teammates Adam Cracknell (79) and Alex Pietrangelo defending.

That set up another save by Elliott on Handzus and Shattenkirk ended it on a move he used with some advice from Stewart.

"One of the more entertaining shootouts you'll ever see," Backes said.

The Blues had no time to rest, as they headed home to face the Columbus Blue Jackets, who won 3-1 at Nashville Thursday night. The Jackets trail the Blues by a point in the standings.

"They're huge," Cracknell said of the two points Thursday. "We know with 13 games or whatever's left, it's huge. You're playing Chicago and you're trying to move up in the standings. We've got a big one tomorrow."

Added Shattenkirk: "Every game down the stretch is going to be important. Any time we can get two points instead of one is great.

"You've got to take your hat off to Brian Elliott. I think he played a great game tonight. That was great to see."

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