Conference heavyweights battle down to wire; St. Louis off to 3-0 start
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues left wing Alexander Steen has been touted numerous times by his teammates and coaches as having the hardest shot on the team.
The Blues certainly had the right guy, at the right place in the right time unload a game-winner in the waning seconds against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Steen's slap shot with 21.1 seconds remaining gave the Blues a 3-2 victory over the stunned Blackhawks at Scottrade Center on Wednesday night Rivalry Night in a game that featured these Central Division heavyweights.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' Alexander Steen (left) is being pursued by Chicago defenseman
Johnny Oduya Wednesday night. Steen scored the game-winning goal with
21.1 seconds left of a 3-2 St. Louis victory.
With a very important baseball game being played a mile down the road, the Blackhawks and Blues certainly entertained the people who were left out of Busch Stadium.
And just when it appeared each team would earn a point and battle in overtime and possibly a shootout for the extra point, the Blues stripped the defending Cup champs of a point.
The Blues (3-0-0) came out on an odd-man rush and Steen was able to power a shot through Corey Crawford after Alex Pietrangelo was able to spring his teammate loose that turned into a 3-on-1 with T.J. Oshie and David Backes. With Brent Seabrook on his tail, Steen unloaded from just inside the left circle with Duncan Keith defending and slammed it through Crawford for the winner, Steen's third goal in as many games.
"I don't know if I got all of it," Steen said. "That's usually the good feeling you have. When you let it go, you kind of pick your spot and you kind of feel like this one has a chance. It's not so much how hard it is, it's where you put it. ... Once you let it go, you can kind of see this one has a chance.
"I had to look around at first and I heard from the bench we had a rush, but I wanted to know how much time and space we had. Once I get in over the blue line, the 'D' kind of pushed over to Osh and it was a shot."
The Blackhawks had rushed the Blues' net prior to the breakout but Jaroslav Halak had made a save and Pietrangelo was able to catch both Seabrook and Keith pinching deep that sprung the Blues loose.
"We know their 'D' like to come down and pinch on the puck, so as soon as I got it, I knew I had to get it up," Pietrangelo said. "Steener gets the puck and he's full steam ahead. He had a similar shot earlier in the game, so I guess he put it in a different spot."
Crawford made a terrific glove save on Steen with 5 minutes, 23 seconds remaining. He couldn't come up with the last one.
"It's a tough way to lose a game," Crawford said. "As a goalie, you want to come up with the save. It's probably one I stop a bunch of times if that's replayed.
"I'm definitely frustrated with that. I just have to be better."
Vladimir Tarasenko and Backes also scored for the Blues. Halak stopped 26 shots in the game that definitely had a playoff feel to it.
"We knew it was going to be a big game for our guys," said Halak, who stopped Patrick Sharp on a breakaway earlier in the game and Keith's big slap shot with just over two minutes to play. "Playing Chicago is always a big game. I think our guys came up big today and played for 60 minutes. That was the key tonight, stick to the game plan and not to give up."
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each scored a goal and assisted on another, Sharp had two assists and Crawford stopped 30 shots for the Blackhawks (1-1-1), but the defending champs could only lament the final sequence. Coupled with losing a two-goal lead in their previous game left the Hawks steaming.
"Brutal loss," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Look back the last (two games), three points left on the table. We gotta get that game to overtime. I don’t know what we were thinking about. We’ll take one, maybe two (points). Getting none is unacceptable.
"Not a lot of mistakes. We played a good game. But you can’t make a mistake like that. we played well last game, too, and got nothing at the end of the day. We got one point, it was something, but tonight getting nothing, it’s a huge four-point swing."
Added Toews: "It's frustrating. That’s two games in a row. Tonight we got robbed of two points. Last game we got robbed of one point. ... We have to finish stronger regardless of the score. We got caught a few times tonight, and they scored two goals off it. We won't get frustrated, but definitely feel we have some work to do."
The Blues got on the board first on Tarasenko's snap shot, which beat Crawford stick side with 4:16 remaining in the first. The goal came after Patrik Berglund intercepted a Marian Hossa pass in the neutral zone to set up a 2-on-1 break.
"I just wanted to try to fake a shot and make a pass ... but the 'D' stayed in the middle and the coach tells me all the time, 'Just shoot,'" Tarasenko said. "I've been practicing my shot with my father for a long time."
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko reacts after opening the scoring of
Wednesday's 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago would get the equalizer when Kane converted a fanned Sharp one-timer on the power play. Kane was on the back side in the perfect spot to slip a shot past Halak seven seconds into a Chicago power play with 2:59 left in the opening period.
Kane's goal snapped the Blues' penalty-kill streak of 21-for-21 dating back to last season, 11 of those coming to start the 2013-14 season. The goal also snapped Halak's shutout streak at 111:52.
Each team scored a power-play goal in the second period, with the Blues regaining the lead on Backes' tip-in of Alex Pietrangelo's shot from the point at 8:37. The captain's goal gave St. Louis a 2-1 lead.
But just as quickly as the Blues' first lead disappeared, so did their second, as Toews knocked home a rebound 15 seconds after the Blackhawks' power play started and 34 seconds after Backes' goal to make it 2-2.
It set up the final-minute thrilling finish that left the Blues, who outshot the Blackhawks 33-28, feeling good about themselves.
"You just knew the way the game was going to go, somebody was going to get an odd-man rush because both teams gave up a few today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They had a breakaway and three 2-on-1's and we had two 2-on-1's and three or four 3-on-2's or 4-on-2's. The game was so revved up, you got caught in no-man's land a few times.
"We got a lot out of this game, a lot of information moving forward, stuff that's a learning curve of how to play against really good teams like Chicago. Hopefully this helps us moving forward."