Saturday, November 14, 2015

Chicago doubles up Blues 4-2 in battle of division rivals

Blackhawks score twice late in second, hold off 
St. Louis push in third despite two Tarasenko goals

ST. LOUIS -- Big crowd: check. Terrific atmosphere: check. Emotions running high: check.

Of course, it had to be the Chicago Blackhawks in town on a Saturday night in St. Louis. It was another test of intestinal fortitude for the Blues, even minus some key players from their lineup.

But when push came to shove again, it was the Blackhawks that stood the test of time.

The Blackhawks used a timely Patrick Kane power-play goal late in the second period that extended his point streak to 12 games, and Chicago ended a five-game road losing streak with a 4-2 victory against the Blues at Scottrade Center on Saturday. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Magnus Paajarvi (56) goes for a loose puck in front of Chicago goalie
Corey Crawford (50) Saturday night at Scottrade Center.

Trevor van Riemsdyk and Kane scored goals 3:38 apart late in the second to erase a 2-1 deficit. 

Kane has nine goals and 11 assists during his 12-game point streak, the longest in the NHL this season.

The game was lying in the balance. The Blues (11-5-1) had control and were knocking for more leading 2-1 late in the second period.

But a turnover behind the Blues' goal, a late penalty and a lost puck along the wall led to two Chicago goals by Trevor van Riemsdyk and Kane, and suddenly a 2-1 lead turned into a 3-2 deficit.

And like the championship-caliber team they are, the Blackhawks (9-7-1) closed the door down in the third period protecting a one-goal lead and absorbing everything the Blues threw at them.

But in the end, it was another loss that coach Ken Hitchcock thought was winnable for the home side.

"We were really playing well and we made some critical errors," Hitchcock said. "We didn't get a clear once, we took a penalty on the backcheck and then we made a couple mistakes on the penalty kill, didn't get to a loose puck and then we jumped into a pile ... disappointing.

"If we expect to win, we're going to have to make big plays at the right time. That's what that team's done we played today. They make big plays at the right time. That's why they win championships. If we want a piece of the pie in this division, in this conference, we're going to have to have more people make big plays at the right time."

The game featured emotional hits from David Backes, who fought Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews after Backes delivered a big hit on Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson behind the Hawks' goal 3 minutes, 21 seconds into the second period. This happened on the heels of Toews hitting Backes late in the first that sent the Blues' captain the locker room. He did not immediately return at the start of the second but eventually came back.

But in light of all the fisticuffs that go with a bruising Central Division battle, the final result is what matters, and the Blues came out on the short end of the stick once again.

"No, I don't know that that's over-emotional," Hitchcock said. "I just think that's ... eventually you've got to take the other step. You've got to make the right play. You've got to know when to live to fight another day. 

"We turned the puck over in our own zone on three of their goals -- twice on the boards, once behind our net and that's a death knell."

Andrew Shaw and Artem Anisimov scored for the Blackhawks, who got defensemen Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival back in the lineup following knee and ankle injuries, respectively.

Keith made an immediate impact for Chicago offensively. The Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead 4:10 into the game after Teuvo Teravainen picked off a Ryan Reaves defensive zone pass and got the puck to Keith, whose shot from the left point went in off Allen's glove after Shaw's tip in front.

Reaves tried to make a pass in the defensive zone through the middle of the ice that got picked off my Teravainen, and moments later, the puck is in the Blues' net past Jake Allen. 

Chicago had been outscored 19-8 in losing five in a row away from the United Center but got a gritty victory in a tough Central Division matchup that featured big hits and plenty of emotion from both sides.

"We needed a win on the road," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We know that we want to be known as a team that plays the same way everywhere we play. We didn't want to change how we play. We saw some other lines score for the first time all year so I think that was the most positive thing we've seen."

Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice for the Blues (11-5-1), who have lost two in a row in regulation for the first time this season. Allen made 23 saves, including a highlight-reel stop of what looked like a sure goal by Marko Dano with 1:43 left in the second period.

The Blues felt they were in control of the game leading 2-1, but saw the the Blackhawks get seven of the final eight shots of the second period that turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 deficit.

Tarasenko went to work for the Blues in the second period. He tied the game 6:32 into the period by following up his own rebound after getting a feed from Alexander Steen. 

Tarasenko gave the Blues a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal, the first of the season for the Blues on home ice on their 24th chance. Tarasenko used teammate Troy Brouwer as a screen and beat Crawford from the left circle at 8:16. 

But van Riemsdyk tied the game 2-2 with 4:43 left in the second by stepping into a slap shot from the slot, and Kane walked in alone on Allen on Chicago's fourth power play and beat the Blues' goalie five-hole with 1:05 remaining to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead. 

Chicago took seven of the final eight shots in the second after being outshot 11-6.

"That's not a team that you're just going to push over and they're going to it down," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "They answered. They came back and they were able to just start making simpler plays. They put pucks in our zone, they didn't try to do anything fancy. They just got back to a simple game and I think from that hard work and playing the right way, they got a turnover there and then the penalty kill, it's a tough one; it's hard to leave that guy with that time and space in front of the net." 

Allen's save came off a virtual 2-on-0 after Alex Pietrangelo gave up the puck behind the net, and the puck eventually wound up on Dano's stick, but Allen came up with the glove save. The play went to a video review and it was determined that the puck didn't cross the goal line. 

"The puck squirted out and they had a 2-on-0 in front of the net," Allen said. "Another desperation (save and) a little bit of luck."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) skates with the puck past 
Blackhawks' Tanner Kero (67).

Anisimov scored an empty-net goal with 47 seconds remaining after the Blues outshot the Blackhawks 10-3 before the goal.

Chicago seemed content to protect a one-goal lead and absorbed the Blues' best chances; many of them came from a formed line of Magnus Paajarvi, Scott Gomez and Robby Fabbri.

"They played smart first; they didn't worry about scoring a goal," Shattenkirk said of the Blackhawks. "I think the second period was a little more open what they would have liked; they were down by a goal, but they were able to take away some scoring chances and just focus on defense."

"It was a helluva hockey game," Hitchcock said. "I want to win those games. I'm sure the players do too. I just don't want to be the team making the big mistakes when the game's on the line. We made big mistakes when we were really moving the game along at a great pace, were really starting to take control and doing the things we wanted to do, we made big errors." 

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